Wozniak’s memories of memory

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Steve WozniakSteve Wozniak, who this month turned 60, recently spoke at the Flash Media Summit in Santa Clara, California, in his role as chief scientist of solid-state drive company Fusion-io. In his closing keynote speech, entitled “Driving Innovation with Solid-State Technologies“, Wozniak reflected that hardware memory has played a pivotal role in all his designs, from the earliest to the latest. The IDG News Service reports:

“The biggest decision I made in most of the projects of my life was what memory to use that’s the exact right, smallest, simplest, and more importantly, the cheapest there is,” Wozniak told the audience in a packed auditorium.

Even the first major commercial product he designed with co-founder Steve Jobs, the Apple II, was defined largely by memory. Facing the problem of how to refresh the characters on the screen fast enough to keep up with a microprocessor that could do a million operations per second, he came up with the idea of devoting some of the computer’s dynamic memory to the display, he said.

You know what my favorite part of that passage is? Not the technical details, or the acknowledgement of the Apple II, or even the genius of Woz. It’s the “packed auditorium”. Twenty-five years after he left the company he founded, Steve Wozniak is still a superstar. It’s not just his appearance on Dancing with the Stars that has put him in the spotlight. Engineers, programmers, designers, and geeks across the globe recognize the brilliance and courage that has continuously allowed Woz to work magic.

Although he was no longer with Apple Computer Inc. by the time the “Think Different” campaign was unveiled, Woz is nonetheless the embodiment of that advertisement.

“When you’re in school, you’re always taught that the right answer is the same answer everyone else has,” Wozniak said. It’s a lesson he’s learned several times in years of engineering. “Clear out your mind of the way the world is today,” he said.