We woz with WOZ: Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak visits FDU

Self described geek and cult icon Steve Wozniak — the technology and engineering pioneer who co-founded Apple Computer — speaks at FDU's Metropolitan Campus. Below, University President Sheldon Drucker introduces the Woz. (Photos by Dan Landau)
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By Kenna Caprio

Apple Computer co-founder Steve Wozniak flew to New Jersey for a Fairleigh Dickinson University double-header on Thursday, Nov. 20. Before a crowd of more than 700 students, faculty, staff and media in the Rothman Center on the Metropolitan Campus, the technology engineer and pioneer discussed artificial intelligence, science fairs, Apple's origins and much more at a rapid-fire pace. Later in the evening, he took the stage at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, the third speaker in the inaugural season of the New Jersey Speaker Series, presented by FDU.

“We are tremendously proud to be hosting Steve Wozniak, not once but twice today. He has led the research and development of an incredible array of products that have truly changed the way we work, the way we interact and in some ways, the way we think,” said University President Sheldon Drucker as he introduced the self-proclaimed geek and cult icon.

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Above, junior and international relations major Ruby Karki asks Wozniak if the creation of the personal computer was inevitable. Below, Wozniak poses for selfies with fans after the event.
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On campus, Wozniak opened with brief remarks, referencing the beauty of being young and enthusiastic about making the world a better place, before immediately jumping into the question and answer session. He fielded questions on stage from Judy DeAngelis, WFDU (89.1-FM) staff member and recently retired 1010 WINS morning news anchor, and answered audience questions from a select group of students and faculty.

“My father was an engineer. I admire what he did. I loved watching him work,” Wozniak said. “I wanted my own computer on my desk. I told my dad when I was in high school, someday I was going to own my own computer. And he said, ‘That costs as much as a house.’ And I was stymied, and I said, ‘I’ll live in an apartment.’”

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The audience received T-shirts proclaiming, "I woz with WOZ! 11/22/2014."
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So instead, imagining that he could do it better and simpler, he built them. “Ideas don’t matter, it’s really, actually those that can build and make things,” he said. “The best students always do a bit little more than was asked. If you ever get an assignment and you complete it, think ‘Is there something I could do that makes it stand out a little more?’”

FDU students asked for career advice, about the future of technology, and poignantly, what he would say to his former collaborator, the late Steve Jobs. His answer, “You were the greatest at everything you did and I never could’ve done it without you,” elicited a spontaneous round of applause from the crowd.

Following the event, Wozniak took cellphone photo “selfies” with students, shook hands with fans and signed books for attendees.

Freshman Elayne Blancas of New York City, currently majoring in business administration, said she might change her major now, after listening to Wozniak reaffirm so much of what she said she knows to be true about innovation and passion. “I kind of had an epiphany. All of those inspiring words he said are life changing. I’m an entrepreneur at heart. Maybe I’ll study engineering and then get my MBA!”

“Don’t worry. The ideas that you have for things you want to do in your own personal life, they may not have any money value … every time you work on something for yourself, you work to make it so well, you learn a little technique. So the next time you make something similar, you’ll make it a little better. You’ll have a better idea the next time. You’re improving your intelligence and you’ll know when you’re on to a home run,” said Wozniak.

A Silicon Valley icon and philanthropist for more than 30 years, Wozniak has helped shape the computing industry with his design of Apple’s first line of products, the Apple I and II, and influenced the popular Macintosh computer line. With Steve Jobs, he founded Apple Computer, leading its research and development. For his achievements at Apple, Wozniak was awarded the National Medal of Technology, the highest honor bestowed on America’s leading innovators.

A member of the Inventors Hall of Fame, he was awarded the prestigious Heinz Award for Technology, the Economy and Employment for single-handedly designing the first personal computer and then redirecting his lifelong passion for mathematics and electronics toward inspiring grade-school students and their teachers. Through the years, Wozniak has been involved in various business and philanthropic ventures, focusing primarily on computer capabilities in schools. He serves as chief scientist for Fusion-IO and is author of The New York Times bestseller, iWoz: From Computer Geek to Cult Icon.

The New Jersey Speakers Series continues at NJPAC with former U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe on January 8, 2015; former Presidential advisor and current CNN political commentator David Gergen on February 19, 2015; Pulitzer Prize winning author David McCullough on March 19, 2015; and former CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather on April 23, 2015.

The series is sold by subscription only. For tickets or information, visit www.NJSpeakersSeries.org, or call 1-888-696-5722.