Day 2 of FutureStack15 kicked off with a bang—and we’re not just talking about the sound of the champagne popping for our “Nerd of the Dog” mimosas. We had none other than Mr. Steve Wozniak himself make an appearance as one of the Friday morning keynote speakers. His fireside chat with CNET Editor in Chief Connie Guglielmo was chock-full of laughs, fun facts, and entertaining stories. (Pretty much everything you’d expect in a conversation with The Woz, including a standing ovation!)
Here are 10 fun facts we learned about Steve Wozniak during his keynote appearance at FutureStack15:
- He started tinkering with electronics when he was 9 years old. “There are stories that say I was actually 6 years old, but I’m not sure,” he said. He would spend hundreds of hours holed up in his room working on science fair projects, which eventually got him wondering if he could design a computer.
- He was a known prankster. In fact, it was a joint interest in pranking that sparked a friendship between Wozniak and Steve Jobs when they were teenagers. “I pulled pranks on Steve that he didn’t know about until 12 years later,” said Wozniak.
- He’s never used an illicit substance in his life. “I had a great brain in high school and didn’t want to risk it at all,” he said. But that doesn’t mean he’s against other people using certain illicit substances. Pot smokers rejoice: Wozniak is a supporter of legalizing marijuana.
- Defender is one of his favorite video games. But he was also really good at Tetris. So good, in fact, that Nintendo Power magazine told him that they were going to bump him out of the top score slot to give other readers a chance to make the list. So what’d he do? “I spelled my name backwards and said I was from Saratoga,” he said. When the next issue of the magazine arrived and he saw a strange new name appearing in the top slot, however, he freaked out. “I thought, ‘How could someone have finally caught me?’ I forgot that that person was me.”
- His favorite iPhone model is the iPhone 5c. Wozniak owns five or six iPhones (in addition to some Android phones) that he likes to compare and contrast, and experiment with on different carriers. Even with the iPhone 6s model Tim Cook recently sent him, his favorite phone ever is still the iPhone 5c: “I love the design,” he said.
- He was a big fan of Siri before Apple bought the app. Back when Siri was still a third-party app, he thought it was amazing to be able to ask Siri questions like “What are the five largest lakes in California?” or “What are the prime numbers above 87?” and get the answers back in real time. But that was before Apple bought it. “Now the answers you’d likely get back are lists of lakefront real estate and restaurants to get prime rib,” he joked.
- After leaving Apple, he was a teacher for eight years. When Wozniak was in sixth grade, his father asked him what he wanted to be in life. His answer: an electrical engineer and a 5th grade teacher. That interest in teaching followed him throughout his life, so when he left Apple he decided to try his hand at teaching. He worked with students and teachers after school (sometimes seven days a week) teaching them how to use computers in all of their classes and activities. “I had so much fun,” he said.
- He doesn’t believe in pushing one’s agenda on other people. As a parent, he said, “I have a ‘light touch’ approach. I think you should sense what your kids are interested in, and help them go in that direction.” He applies this thinking in all of his personal interactions. “Don’t push your values on other people,” he said.
- He’s a fan of the latest “Steve Jobs” movie. From the acting to the cinematography to Alan Sorkin’s screenplay, Wozniak thought it all added up to good, quality filmmaking, even if not all the events actually happened the way they’re portrayed. “And I’m so glad they picked a cool guy to play me,” he said. “Seth Rogen and I have become friends.”
- He follows a simple formula in life: Happiness = f cubed. The three “f”s stand for “food, fun, and friends.” Although, Wozniak joked, perhaps he’s missing a fourth f: “You know … family.”
Steve Wozniak photo credit: Michael Bulbenko