Steve Wozniak Opens Proforma’s Annual Kick-Off Meeting At PPAI Expo

Steve Wozniak’s legendary status as co-founder of Apple is well known; a lesser-known fact is his life-long love of promotional products. Wozniak was the guest speaker at Proforma’s packed-house, invitation-only event, An Evening With Steve Wozniak, Sunday night at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center during The PPAI Expo.

Following the presentation portion of the program, he was presented with an honorary Master Advertising Specialist (MAS) designation by PPAI President and CEO Paul Bellantone, CAE.

“I’m not a formal collector of branded products; I just like to collect them because they are often small but useful items. Many we keep at home and use. I also keep many as memorabilia of events I attended or ‘gifts’ that I’ve gotten,” Wozniak told PPB Newslink, adding that he is also an amateur collector of Hard Rock Cafe items. “I have countless shirts, fanny packs, backpacks, mugs, hurricane glasses, shot glasses, bottle openers and pins. My unofficial collection of such items is out of an entertainment interest, not for the sake of collecting, but I note cleverness in the branding and designs.”

His interest in branded products is also a way to savor positive experiences. “I also collect items such as brochures and place settings with my name, as well as my badges, from all the events I speak at. I even save my airplane tickets. So, there’s little true method to my madness.”

In last night’s onstage conversation with Proforma CTO Brian Carothers, the Woz talked excitedly for nearly an hour about his early interest in electronics—even as a kid he knew he wanted to be an engineer. He built ham radio transmitters in elementary school and designed mini-computers in high school. “There were no books on computers and nothing in school, but I found a journal about ones and zeros and how to add and subtract them, and how to make logic diagrams and I did it on paper. I just loved it; I knew this would be my passion for the rest of my life. I got good at it, but I had no one to talk to about my digital stuff—not parents or teachers or any other students in school. I just did it on my own just for my love of it. I knew that these little tiny logic things that were like light switches—if you put 10 in a row, you could actually add binary numbers—that was a thrill to me.”

He searched for and devoured every manual he could find that described the insides of computers. “I’d spend weekends with a pencil and paper drawing the logic, the chips and the wires that would make that computer. I could never afford a single chip to build one, so I just did it on paper and played a game. I’d go to bed dreaming, “Is there a way I could do it with one less chip, two less chips?”

Always one to enjoy pranking others, as a kid he used his knowledge of electronics to play hilarious tricks on his friends such as building a TV jammer that scrambled the picture to fool friends into thinking that their movements were somehow were causing the static on the screen.

While in college, working a summer job designing calculators at Hewlett-Packard, he was introduced to his future Apple co-founder Steve Jobs through a mutual friend. The pair went to the same high school, but not at the same time, and shared interests in Bob Dylan’s music, designing computers and playing pranks. Five years before they launched their first Apple computer, they worked together in a business venture to build and sell a device—called a blue box—that allowed callers to make free calls anywhere in the world.

While the brilliant Wozniak would clearly be a success in business, he says he wanted to measure success differently. Early on he decided that whatever he did in life, that he would keep a fun side. “I decided that my life was not going to be all about accomplishments or earnings but about how many times I smiled. The raw emotion, the feeling of laughter—and you feel that when you do pranks. Happiness is what life is about—not achievements. My happiness level is smiles minus frowns—smiles are good for you; frowns are bad for you. Don’t blame anyone and don’t argue with anyone. They have their views; I have my views. They have a logical mind and that’s good; I have a logical mind—and that’s good. You don’t have to agree. I’ve gotten through life really well [by remembering that] happiness is smiles minus frowns.”

Putting fun first was always Wozniak’s motivation, even when he typed term papers for friends while in college. He charged his standard rate—five cents per paper. It was his standard rate because he loved to type. Likewise, he built computers because it was fun. His development of the Apple I computer in 1975 and later the Apple II microcomputer went on to change the world.

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