WEST PALM BEACH — The call went out to a packed room of 650 people to turn off their technology — cell phones and such — to hear Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Wozniak speak Thursday.
“The part about turn off your technology to me sounded wrong,” Wozniak joked at Palm Beach State College’s inaugural Science Technology Engineering Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) event at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach.
Woz wants more tech turned on — the kind that better understands what humans say, what they mean and what they need.
In short, he wants technology that makes his self-described nerd self, once afraid to speak at the local computer club, feel sort of like his excellent fifth-grade teacher once did: understood, appreciated, sensing that he’s dealing with an entity that knows a thing or two about him.
That means capitalizing on the kind of technology that lets cell phones and computers act on voice commands, which he believes is only in its infancy.
“The stars of tomorrow are going to be the ones that carry computers into better understanding of humans,” Wozniak said.
Eventually, he said, “these machines are going to be like human friends. It’s absolutely going to happen.”
That has been the stuff of dreams — or alternatively, nightmares — animating sci-fi and popular culture for decades. But Wozniak believes there’s always going to be room for tech that delivers what humans want, whether it’s a device you wear like a watch or glasses or a better application for getting the weather, finding a car part or buying a house.
He designed the early groundbreaking computers at Apple in ways that made them affordable and easy to use. It was there he teamed with the late Steve Jobs to launch what became an American juggernaut.
“I kept designing technologies and he kept finding ways to sell them,” Wozniak said.
Wozniak said he is looking forward to the new movie about the sometimes mercurial Jobs, though recalling that early era can be emotional, he said.
“I try to avoid thinking of him and his voice in the early days,” Wozniak said. “That makes me cry sometimes.”
Wozniak, who currently serves as chief scientist for global data storage and delivery firm Fusion-io, said he’s not as familiar with current management at Apple as he was with Jobs. Though Apple has a lost a little luster on Wall Street lately, Wozniak said after his talk he believes the company as still in a strong position with offerings like Siri, which talks to mobile-device users as a person would.
“The stock’s down right now,” he said. “The motivation’s down a little.”
Still, he thinks the company can continue to thrive if it responds to new challenges as it has in the past. When a company gets to be Apple’s size, he said, “it’s going to be around for decades. You wish your country or your state was run like Apple.”
Wozniak’s appearance was designed to highlight a five-year STEAM initiative at Palm Beach State College that aims to provide 1,000 scholarships in science and other fields, 50 academic program enhancements, 100 new business partnerships and 50 new internship possibilities.
The Palm Beach Post