Sunday, September 16, 2007

Idea Festival - Steve Wozniak Speech

My volunteer experience at the Idea Festival was helping out with the keynote speech event at Kentucky International Convention Center. I enjoyed Steve Wozniak's speech as he shared his engineering and development experiences. His talked about making circuits and the influence of the Silicon Valley around him. His engineer father and engineer friends, availability of technology companies and his school giving access to advanced classes were the reasons he gave in part to his success in electronics. Steve talked about building digital counters and trying to reduce chip count which reminded me of digital logic design class in my college studies. He also talked about building prototypes and programming using punch cards at the University of Colorado. His attraction to the school was seeing snow there. I think if he had to drive in snow that love would have worn off quick.

He shared a number of Steve Jobs stories: how they met, selling to Atari a breakout game, selling a color video terminal, and the early days of Apple corporation. The stories about working long hours on issues and designs tells of the engineering problem solving life.

Steve is now 57 years old and does not appear to do computer development any more. He told a Google audience he might code scripts or use C programming language from time to time. He said once he reached a certain age, family considerations and other interests kept him from developing. Also he pointed out that he was quite a shy person and product development helped with a feeling of empowerment. It was good to see that he now gives public speeches despite being shy.

At the end of the speech, he was given a personalized bottle of Woodford Reserve to mark his visit to the area. He thanked the presenter but said something about having trouble getting it on the airplane and also that he did not drink.

I watched the last part of the speech from the hallway through the open doors going into the exhibit hall next to the stage. Out in the hallway, it was amazing to see the number of people coming out to talk on cell phones. There was also quite a number of people going to the bathroom. All this movement did not seem affect the speech though. I had an interesting angle to view the speech from, see picture below.

Attendance was very good and I hope the festival did not lose money on the event. The number of tables for the dinner seated maybe 864 people. It appeared that maybe 3-4 tables might have had open seats at the back of the room.

I had heard Steve talk about technology on This Week in Tech podcast. He talks quite quickly and ran a little over time on his speech. I did not get to hear the whole speech or the question/answer time afterwards. We were handing out Woz posters at the end to attendees of the event.

This speech got me to look for more info on Steve Wozniak and his speaking engagements. It looks like he charges $30000-50000 for a speech. At the speakers website, they provide a sample video which appears to be a speech given to Sharp printer sales people. There is also a Charlie Rose interview on the web where he is promoting the iWoz book.
Here is a link ( to his speech to Google employees with a book signing. It is very similar to the speech he gave to us. He does customize his speech to the audience somewhat but his core stories about development can be found in most of the speeches.

NOTE: I did not use a flash on my still frame pictures and thus got blurring pictures. Sort of knowing this would happen, I took Quicktime movies with the camera in low light conditions to get some better images. The pictures I am posting were frame grabs of these movies.
Afterwards, Steve sat at the Borders books table and signed iWoz copies. I was able to take this picture from the floor above were he was. It was interesting in that the picture of him signing a book for the guy in the suit. After signing the book, the guy gave him the poster to sign as well, which at first seemed to surprise Steve. Maybe he did not know there was a poster but we had quite a few left after the dinner. The signing line was long with maybe 100 people or how ever many people it takes to stretch down the hallway to the exit. From what I observed, he seemed very friendly and easy going.

You can learn more about Steve Wozniak at his web site ( I found the letter section to be educational as he responds to questions and stories from the general public. It is always good to see public figures do that on their websites. Unfortunately, he appears to have stop posting after 2006. Maybe because he was writing his book and then promoting it after September 2006.

One last note, another volunteer had to quickly prepare a menu to be placed on the 108 tables. I was asked to help him prepare them using the computers at the Geek Squad exhibit and print them with the Lexmark printers. We eventually got it done and delivered but we had some help printing them from a visiting Lexmark engineer. I did not get his name but he was very friendly and helpful. He was some sort of sales engineer for the inkjet printer group. He said their popular product was the wireless inkjets that just need to be plugged in and people can start printing with them.

This picture shows the view from the audio/video control area that was off to the side of the room.

No comments: