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May 30, 2006

Book Preview: iWoz

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Gina Smith, the co-author of the upcoming autobiography called iWoz, provided me with a copy so that I could read it and provide a blurb. The book is slated for shipping in November, 2006, but there’s nothing wrong with a little pre-release publicity. After all, it will probably be out BV (Before Vista), and everyone has heard of Vista already.

First, here’s the blurb that I provided Gina:

Every engineer—and certainly every engineering student—should read this book. It is about the thrill of invention, the process of making the world a better place, and the purity of entrepreneurship. I, Woz is the personal computer generation’s version of The Soul of a New Machine. It is, in a nutshell, the engineer’s manifesto. I hope that the so-called “innovation experts” and MBAs choke when they read it.

I didn’t work directly with Woz in my tours of duty at Apple, so much of the material was new—and fascinating—to me. I loved the book because it isn’t the typical theoretical tome written by an expert or consultant (i.e., someone who can’t do but can write).

Instead, the book takes you inside the mind of someone who was truly instrumental in one of the great revolutions of our time. After reading it, I was even more proud of having worked for Apple. Also, I swear that Woz doesn’t use the word “strategic” once in the book—how many business books can you say that about?

In particular, if you’re an entrepreneur, the first time some expert tells you that you need to conduct market research, run your design past focus groups, and set up offshore development to India or Russia, you should give him this book. For your enjoyment, here’s a list of the top ten things that I learned by reading I, Woz.

  1. Woz is now, and always has been, an Apple employee.
  2. In the sixth grade Woz scammed gubernatorial candidate Richard Nixon with a certificate from the school’s ham radio club. The certificate was made with crayons just before the ceremony, and Woz was the only “member” of the club.
  3. The Apple IPO made the most millionaires in one single day in history up to that point in time.
  4. Woz and Jobs worked as Alice in Wonderland characters at shopping mall in San Jose.
  5. Woz didn’t return to the University of Colorado after his first year because he ran up too much computer timesharing costs.
  6. Woz tried to call the Pope by impersonating Dr. Henry Kissinger. He almost got through except that the Vatican called the real Dr. Kissinger to verify the call.
  7. Woz and Jobs got robbed of a blue box at gunpoint in Sunnyvale.
  8. The statement that convinced Woz to leave HP to start Apple (uttered by Allen Baum) was, “You can be an engineer and become a manager and get rich, or you can be an engineer and stay an engineer and get rich.”
  9. Woz lost approximately $12 million in each of the two US Festivals that he put on.
  10. Woz taught computer technology to elementary school students for ten years.

The book ends with Woz’s thoughts on being a great engineer:

  1. Don’t waver.
  2. See things in gray-scale.
  3. Work alone.
  4. Trust your instincts.

When is the last time your manager told you to work like this?

Anyone interested in engineering, Apple, personal computers, technology, and entrepreneurship should read this book.You’ll find it compelling because it is so unlike most books about innovation and entrepreneurship. As I said, it’s the engineer’s manifesto.

You can pre-order one by clicking here.

Comments

I came across this blog searching for autobiographies, and found it to be very interesting.

I am not an engineer but I was wondening if you review other books, as you did such a brilliant job on this one?

I would love to know what you'd say about my autobiography, it totally straight up no holds bared, and the truth throughout. Sooo unlike the one you just previewed here as to knock your socks off!

You can check it out and come back to me by email either way.

Have fun, Linda

I noticed Apple by 1978 when I was planning a trip to New York to a Psychoanalytical International Congress to be held in 79. Popular Mechanics and Hi-Fi magazines pullulated about the “home computers”, Radio Shack and Altair the most obvious. But Apple was amazing, and I would not need a big monitor, since I could use my home TV. Bingo. By November 1979 there where another mad guy with an Apple ][ in Porto Alegre, south of Brazil, and we founded the “Brasil Apple Club” which still exist and maintain an Internet discussion group. Woz was _the_ man to cheer. Mr. Jobs was barely noticeable until many years after that. Nowadays, of course, we may re-think all that.

I had the fortunate opportunity to meet Woz last Sunday, at a polo match in San Francisco of all places. He had brought his Segway polo team (has to be seen to be believed) to play a match against a local team after the horse polo match was done. And there he was, darting about, helmet on his head, riding a Segway, swinging a polo mallet at the ball and even scoring a goal at one point. He took one heck of a header, but got right back on the machine and back into the fray. Amazing.

I got to talking to some of the guys about the machines as the game went on. One of them explained to me that Woz had organized this sport... when I mentioned that Steve was the reason I became a computer engineer, having cut my teeth on the Apple //, he said, "He's a friend of mine, would you like to meet him? Make sure you tell him about how important the Apple // was to your life, he will just eat that up."

When I met the big burly guy, it was like a little kid meeting a sports hero. I had a big lump in my throat, because, indeed, this was the guy that sparked an adolescent's imagination, and set the course of the rest of my life in my career. What was funny, is that he was absolutely the most unassuming, friendly, and wonderfully unabashadly dorky geeky guy you ever could meet... gleefully so. Amazing. He chatted with me, talked about the Apple stuff, his love of messing about with Segways, his music festivals, and his upcoming book. When I told him I was from outside Philly, he told me to make sure I came up to hang out during his book signing. The guy was brilliant, yet almost child-like in his demeanor - he just exuded "FUN". What a neat individual.

The very next day, I stood at 1 Infinite Loop, staring up at the building I had seen so many times in photos, again with a lump in my throat - at the very company whose groundbreaking product and personalities drove me into my career as software engineer, and who made me view my engineering as art and with passion... I was starting my first day of work there.

What a journey. What an inspiration.

I heard the Woz being interviewed on WJR 760 radio in Detroit, Saturday morning.... the next day (Aug 20), he was the special guest at the 20th anniversary of the MacGroup-Detroit. I'm not a Mac user, but I know many who are... and they have a religious zeal with the OS. I'm going to investigate the Mac system.... perhaps on my next computer purchase... I'll convert from the MS/OS to the Mac.

I'm a big fan of the WOZ type of person. I personally know what it is to develope an idea... usually working alone.

Starting in 2001, I developed a word game called "Word-Sport" Scrabble may determin who is the best in word formation, now word-sport determins who is the fastest! There is to much emphesis on violence in gaming. It also has a neat way to play it live on the internet. Now, I need a way to implement it. Perhaps the members at the MacGroup-Detroit can advise. You can see what I have so far at www.word-sport.com

I was impressed with the WOZ at the MacGroup presentation. Hope he does well in future endeavors. I'll be reading his book when it comes out

I'm also reading I Con and all those points were made in there. The philosophy is great but now I've read those here, so are there other reasons to read I Woz? Or should I just thank you for saving me the coverprice?

Addendum to #3 "Work alone... but have a great sounding board".

Nothing like a little discussion around a topic with someone to help clarify it or realize where the stupidity may be.

Also, your reviews might seem more sincere without the aff links to amazon... not like the extra income is going to make a huge dent in that new car you want from the widget making people.

I can't wait to read this book. GET IT ON THE SHELVES ALREADY!!!

I loved the 4 rules and I really do believe you have to work alone like an artist, trusting your gut instinct while staying plugged in to the greater creative force to create something of great value.

I am still reading the book iCon (on page 200/300) and the comments on the Jobs and Woz relationship were not very flattering for Jobs (to say the least) so far. I assume in the Woz bio there are also comments on his relationship with Jobs? Naturally, there must be...

Hmm interesting comments. I don’t think that Woz's advice is only for engineers, but for anyone who is passionately creating. Woz engineered as an artist creates, with passion, a desire to make something beautiful, and to share a passion and vision with others. This isn’t engineering to fit the needs of a marketplace, it is his way to do the ultimate of human expression and that is to create.
No, this does not often make profitable companies, it may not even produce useful products. Woz was blessed to be at the right place, at the right time, with the right skills, with the necessary passion, and to be partnered with Jobs who had a shared vision and a complimentary set of skills. Not often do 'artist' like Woz get rewarded in our society. And the fact that he was, and that he stuck to his values makes him such an inspirational person.

I'm definitely excited for this book. It looks to be right in the same vein of books I've been reading for the past several years (iCon, the Apple Way, The Cathedral & The Bazaar, Just For Fun, Softwar, etc.).

I've heard Woz talk on a few occasions, and he is wonderful to listen to. He is definitely the engineer's engineer. Engineering for engineering's sake. If even half of the comments are true, this will be a great book to read.

Perhaps it will assuage some of the lingering pain that I suffered from trying to read The Apple Way -- which was a horrible book where the author just babbled and didn't have half a clue about what he was talking about, and didn't tell me a !%@# thing that I didn't already know. If that book truly is leveled at managers, then I have less respect for them than before if this type of literary drivel is what business managers can understand.

I love the idea of no matter what your work is that, done right, it can make the world a better place.

Best thoughts,

Marilyn

I already ordered my copy of I, Woz, and I can't wait to get it.

I still have my manual from my Apple II as a reminder as to how to write a good manual. With the IBM PC came thick and un-neccessary text. There is a market to teach computer users using the method of old...

A person has more bandwidth when they work alone.

Can't wait to get my eyes on it, big fan of the Steve's. What kind of work does Woz do for Apple since he is a presently an employee?

**************************************

I don't really know. I just know he's still on the payroll.

Guy

Woz may have lost $12 million in each of the two US Festivals that he put on, but he sure scored a big PR coup.
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I haven't read this yet but it sounds like a good read. (Funny how "read" and "read" are spelled the same but pronounced differently!)

Curious am I: what's the context behind "Work alone", as opposed to "Work together" or "Work well with others"?

>Did he really mean "don't waiver"? Or "don't waver"?

LOL, yeah is he saying to be resolute, or is he commenting on some type of sports personnel strategy :)

Pip Coburn in his new book The Change Function:Why Some Technologies Take Off and Others Crash and Burn suggests that most technology companies fail because they are run by technologists. The problem as he sees it is that engineers make cool/interesting products while customers want cool/interesting improvements on products.

Maybe the old adage that a new product only needs to be 10% different to succeed in the marketplace should really be - you must only be 10% different?

Of course Apple is a whole nutha story, eh?

Looking forward to the Woz book. Business autobiographies make for some of the best reading for entrepreneurs.

Beth C.

This seems like an interesting book. I think I'm going to buy a copy of it for a good friend of mine who's an engineer.

Do you think people who are more business/marketing type people would get anything out of this?

I wonder if you're being genuine or whether this is another one of Guy's lies (i.e. blindly promoting the book for your friend)! :P

*****************************

Neeraj,

If this were a lie, I would have listed it in my top ten lies posting.

Guy

Thanks for the great preview, Guy. Makes me wish the book were coming out sooner. I like Woz's points on being a great engineer, but perhaps in order to be a successful engineer as well as a great one we need to add this:

5. Have a partner like Steve Jobs to help sell your creations.

Also, if I were to pretend to be Guy on the phone, can I get through to Walt Mossberg? :)

He tried to call the Pope?
Nothing like starting at the top in pursuing endorsements...can't wait to read this one.

Hi Guy,

I agree with Woz' last points. Simply because I'm there!

Andrew Fife's points are valid, but motivated by incremental improvement thinking. It works, but the product is just another version of another product.

No financial backer is interested in unproven products in unproven markets. Hence the truly innovative must go alone.

By going alone, one does not ignore customers, and broader business concerns. One bootstraps, finding a good match between product and customer, and changing whichever needs to change until a market has developed and the product stabilised.

G

May I also recommend Francis Spufford's Backroom Boys. It's termed 'a love letter to quiet men in pullovers' and features the stories of technologists who kept concorde flying and created the computer game, among other things. It's really very good

Did he really mean "don't waiver"? Or "don't waver"?

I believe that Woz's last four thoughts on being a great engineer are pretty dangerous advice for most. For truly visionary engineers he is absolutely right. However, I believe that most creative ideas and inventions start out as people attempting to solve pain they are experiencing directly and clearly visionary insight is incredibly rare. The problem here is that most end users are not engineers. Furthermore, many entrepreneurs are too stubborn or attached to their product/babies to know when or where they need to make improvements. Not wavering, working alone and trusting ones instincts will blind many to the actual pain being experienced by prospective customers. I strongly believe that entrepreneurs should spend as much time as possible working with prospective customers in order to build the products that the market really demands rather than the product entrepreneurs think the market demands.

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