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Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak talks innovation, Steve Jobs and happiness in Pittsburgh

Aaron Aupperlee
| Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017, 10:51 p.m.
Steve Wozniak answers questions for an audience inside of Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland on Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017.
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
Steve Wozniak answers questions for an audience inside of Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland on Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017.
Steve Wozniak answers questions for an audience inside of Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland on Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017.
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
Steve Wozniak answers questions for an audience inside of Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland on Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017.

New technologies are sometimes a selfish endeavor, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak told a crowded Carnegie Music Hall in Pittsburgh on Tuesday.

He built the Apple II, the computer that made Apple a household name , because he wanted color in arcade games.

He started working on a universal remote because the five remotes he had to control his television, VCR, LaserDisc player, hi-fi stereo and satellite system were too much.

Elon Musk ignored conventional wisdom to make electric cars small because he had five children he needed to cart around, Wozniak said. And Tesla's first Supercharging stations were on the roads between Musk's house and his factory.

Even the iPhone was designed with one person in mind.

“Steve made the iPhone, not for you and me. He made it for himself,” Wozniak said of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. “It had to be elegant and simple, which were design flaws.”

But even when you are designing or building a product for yourself, you should always include an engineer, Wozniak told the crowd, which cheered, likely because many in the audience were engineers.

Wozniak was the keynote speaker of this year's American Middle East Institute annual conference. The conference's theme was transformational technologies, of which Wozniak has designed a few.

Wozniak started Apple in 1976 with Jobs and Ronald Wayne. Jobs was the most visible of the trio. He died in 2011.

Wozniak didn't hold back on criticisms of Jobs. He said a 2015 movie about Jobs nailed the man's personality. He put blame for the failures of the Apple III, the Lisa and other products on Jobs.

He said Jobs would instantly fire people and say nasty things about them, comparing him to President Trump in that regard.

Wozniak said when Jobs learned that he was making a universal remote he smashed a design prototype. Jobs also cheated him out of money for an Atari game, Breakout, which Wozniak designed.

“How could a human being do those sort of things?” Wozniak said. “I wouldn't raise a child to be that way.”

Wozniak did say that Jobs did wonderful things at Apple.

Wozniak said he tries to minimize confrontation and keep people happy. His equation for happiness is smiles minus frowns.

And Wozniak isn't sweating the future anymore. He was once fearful of technology taking control and replacing humans. Now he sees technology as providing ways to make us happier. People love advancements in technology, he said, mimicking a person using a smartphone.

“We're just building technology that's helping us as humans,” Wozniak said.

And when Wozniak thought a little about that, his dystopia wasn't a Terminator scenario.

“If we're building all this technology to make life easy, maybe someday, we'll be like the family dog. I got my food. I got my house. I got my friends. I get to go on my walks. I've got everything,” Wozniak said. “So once I started thinking that we could be someday be pets to all the robots, I decided to start feeding my dog filet steak.”

But even that future is decades, likely centuries away, he said.

Aaron Aupperlee is a Tribune-Review staff writer.

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