Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!

Apple Co-Founder Steve Wozniak Plays Not My Job

Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple.
Marcel Antonisse/AFP/Getty Images

Long ago, two teenagers named Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak met in California, and to make a long story short ... now we can't put down our iPhones. "The Woz" is one of the founders of Apple and a legend in computing.

We've invited Steve to play a game called "This apple don't need no Genius Bar." Three questions about actual apples.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

PETER SAGAL, Host:

And now, the part of the show where we invite on people who have done great things and ask them to do something else entirely. Long ago, two young men named Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak met in California, and to make a long story short, now I can't stop checking my iPhone every five minutes.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Our guest, known as Woz, is one of the founders of Apple, the inventor of the personal computer and a legend in computing. Steve Wozniak, welcome to WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME!

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

STEVE WOZNIAK: Thank you, Peter. And I would like to apologize.

SAGAL: You'd like to apologize.

WOZNIAK: Like to apologize, yeah, for the world that we've got nowadays.

SAGAL: Well I wanted to ask you about that, because the story goes, and you can clarify whether this is true or not, that you and Steve Jobs back there in California, two young men, you were working for HP. Computers at that time were just these big things that filled rooms, used by companies. And you had this idea to make a personal computer that people could have in their homes and use themselves. So what did you imagine people would do with the computer when you built that first Apple one? Was it in a garage, or is that just a myth?

WOZNIAK: Well, I'm a poor marketer. I was a total engineer. So my marketing survey was one person, myself, and I had two needs. I wanted to play computer games because they were so much more fascinating than all the other games of that day. And I also wanted to do my computer work that I did at Hewlett Packard, which was writing programs that checked to make sure the chips would work right. And I wanted to be able to type those programs into my own computer rather than using one computer that 40 engineers took turns signing up for.

SAGAL: I understand. And when did looking at naked people come into the picture?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

WOZNIAK: You know, we actually never imagined there'd be enough memory for a song, much less a picture of a naked person.

SAGAL: Wow.

WOZNIAK: So, we didn't think of those things. That was much later.

SAGAL: So tell us about the day that you met Steve Jobs. What was he wearing that day?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

WOZNIAK: You know, to the best of my recollection, he was wearing some jeans with holes in them and pretty much just a T-shirt. It was a warm California day.

SAGAL: Yeah. He wasn't wearing a mock turtleneck, I guess.

WOZNIAK: Not a mock turtleneck then. And we just started comparing which pranks did you do at the high school.

SAGAL: We heard that one of your pranks involved a phone call to the Vatican.

WOZNIAK: Yes, it did, in college. I had a college year and I was amazed to discover that the entire phone network of the world was controllable with little tones into your phone. They had a horrible mistake the way they've designed it without security.

Steve Jobs and I got interested in these devices called blue boxes and I built one. And he said, let's sell them. And so in doing demos to people to get them interested in buying these little devices from us, I would make phone calls to weird places in the world. And one time I thought of calling the pope.

SAGAL: You called the pope?

WOZNIAK: And not to make a confession, as they say.

SAGAL: Yes. How'd it go? Did you get the pope on the line?

WOZNIAK: It went pretty well. You know, I got told at first by the - I got to Italy inward and then Rome inward, the Vatican and they said that the - it was 5:30 in the morning there. And I said, I'll call back in an hour. And I called back in an hour. I got to talk to the bishop who was going to be the translator. And I had said I was Henry Kissinger so now...

SAGAL: Right.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

WOZNIAK: And I said I was with Richard Nixon at the summit meeting in Moscow. And this bishop came on and said that he just spoke with Henry Kissinger, so I guess they called to check it out.

SAGAL: Oh really? You got that far, that's pretty cool.

ROY BLOUNT JR: You sound just like him. I don't know why.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: So it's 35 years after you invented the personal computer. Apple, of course, is a huge company, as we all know. And everybody's got a computer. Everybody's got a computer in their pockets. How do you feel about that? How do you feel about what you have wrought, sir?

WOZNIAK: I actually feel incredible about it because I've loved these devices my whole life. You know, from the time you hook up your first hi-fi and you plug a turntable into a radio receiver and you plug a couple of wires to speakers, some of us just want to do that our whole lives and we just enjoy being able to connect things.

And nowadays, every single program, every app is a connection. So I enjoy doing it with not only Apple products but all the products in the world that are real neat and show-off-able.

SAGAL: Well, speaking as gadget head, tell me what's in your pockets right now. Tell me what you got?

WOZNIAK: All righty, in my pockets I have my main iPhone which is in a white case that I bought from a guy in China. I'm sure it's definitely stolen materials, from Apple's point of view.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Okay.

WOZNIAK: And I have a second iPhone which is a black colored one. It takes better photographs than a white one.

SAGAL: Yeah.

WOZNIAK: And I have a third iPhone and I have...

SAGAL: Wait a minute, why do you need three iPhones?

WOZNIAK: Well, I actually...

SAGAL: In the hope that one of them will actually make a call, is that...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

WOZNIAK: No.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

WOZNIAK: I actually had a joke. It actually goes in with a joke.

SAGAL: What's the joke?

WOZNIAK: I used to carry a white iPhone and a black iPhone and I would ask people what color iPhone do you think I have. And I would always make them right. I prefer to make them right than wrong. And then I'd show them I have both. And they'd say why do you have two, and I would say well, when the battery runs out in the one, I've got the other. I don't have the battery problem and I can multitask. I can hold one up to my ear and look something up on the other one.

BLOUNT JR: And what are you doing with the third one?

WOZNIAK: The third one, I wanted to test out. I'm a tester. I like to do things personally, play will all the little gadgets. Apple came out with a plan where you could tether an iPhone, get the Internet from it to you computer.

SAGAL: Right.

WOZNIAK: And I just got one phone that way so, A, I'd have it for emergencies and, B, I could test it. And I also have a Droid X, android phone which is a big screen. There's a lot of things I like about that phone and about the android system but not as much as the iPhones. It's not as beautiful.

MAZ JOBRANI: Do they make you sign up the two- year contract whenever you get a phone?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

WOZNIAK: What you're saying is not funny. It's exactly, every single time I get every phone, yeah.

SAGAL: Yeah, really.

WOZNIAK: Yeah, I never run the contracts out.

SAGAL: What happens if you get a call, all four at once? What happens then?

WOZNIAK: Actually, I use Google Voice and I have it transfer my calls, up to three of my phones currently at once, but it used to ring even more phones, like six.

JOBRANI: You don't...

SAGAL: You had six phones?

WOZNIAK: Yes. And when I drive, I got mounts for them all on my dashboard, so I can have calls all the time. And I can set them all into navigation mode and have six different navigation systems all telling me different ways to go.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

AMY DICKINSON: Wow.

JOBRANI: Can we call you if we need tech supplies?

SAGAL: I was about to say, I lost the Internet connection to one of my PCs. Maybe you can help me with this. Now, I wanted to ask...

WOZNIAK: You're joking, but I do that every day of life because so much of me is a teacher and I want to help other people.

SAGAL: Really? Do people call you up and say, Woz, I can't get my computer to do this, can you help me out?

WOZNIAK: Everything that has a computer in will fail. Everything in your life, from a watch to a car to, you know, a radio, to an iPhone, it will fail if it have a computer in it. They should kill the people who made those things.

SAGAL: Yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: If we could only find them. Well, Steve Wozniak, we're delighted to have you with us. Woz, we've asked you here to play a game we're calling?

CARL KASELL, Host:

This apple doesn't need no Genius Bar.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Since you founded Apple Computer, we figured we'd ask you, naturally, about actual apples. Since our audience is primarily American, we should probably explain that apples are a fruit.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: And a fruit is a kind of food that does not come in a package. Anyway, answer two out of three questions about actual apples and you'll win our prize for one of our listeners, Carl's voice on their home answering machine. Carl, who is Woz playing for?

KASELL: Woz is playing for Sean Milroy of Highland Heights, Ohio.

SAGAL: All right, here's your first question, Woz. The phrase, an apple a day keeps the doctor away, famous slogan. It's actually adapted from a different phrase popular in Britain. What was that original British phrase? Was it, A, eat an apple on going to bed and you'll keep the doctor from earning his bread? B, if you want that doctor to bore, eat an apple down to the core? Or C, some day in the future, there'll be a drink called Snapple, but for now for your health, how about this apple?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

WOZNIAK: Well, you make it kind of easy with that last one. I'm going to go with number one just because it was first. No other reason.

SAGAL: You're right.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

SAGAL: It was first and it was the correct one.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Eat an apple on going to bed, you'll keep the doctor from earning his bread. One of the reasons, of course, we rebelled against Britain was that we found its folksy nostrums too long and cumbersome.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: All right, very well, here's your second question. The apple spread throughout America thanks to one John Chapman, known to history as Johnny Appleseed. He really did plant apple trees all over this country. But what was his primary reason? A, he knew that eating apples could prevent tooth decay? B, apples were a cheap source of booze? Or C, he thought apple leaf tea could free us from dependence on foreign tea?

WOZNIAK: Wow. I'm actually going to go - it's probably number two, but I'll pick three.

SAGAL: You think it's number two, but you're going to pick three?

WOZNIAK: Yeah, I think it's two. I think I heard that somewhere in the past. It just rings a little bell inside.

SAGAL: But you're going to go for three?

WOZNIAK: Yeah, three sounds just more reasonable.

SAGAL: Well the answer was B. It was booze. In Johnny Appleseed's day, apples weren't sweet enough to eat, but man were they good for making hard cider. If you consider alcohol a drug, then Johnny Appleseed was America's greatest pusher.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Well this made it exciting, so I appreciate that, Woz. You have one left and if you get this right, you'll win. Back before modern varieties of apple were developed, there were hundreds of kinds of apples grown in America, including which of these, according to author Michael Pollan? A, the Westfield Seek-No-Further; B, the Balmy Surcease; or C, the Cooperstown Goliath?

WOZNIAK: You got to be kidding me.

SAGAL: I'm not.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

WOZNIAK: What were those again?

SAGAL: Now you're like wait a minute, you can win this. A, the Westfield Seek- No-Further; B, the Balmy Surcease; or C, the Cooperstown Goliath?

WOZNIAK: I'll try Westfield Seek-No-Further, because it's a common phrase.

SAGAL: And you'd be right.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

WOZNIAK: I'll tell you, you have got a big smile on my face.

SAGAL: Oh...

WOZNIAK: Just from the fun of playing.

SAGAL: Other early American varieties of apple included the Ox Heart, the Yellow Bellflower, the Black Gilliflower, the Twenty Ounce Pippin and the Sheepnose. Carl, how did Woz do on our quiz?

KASELL: Woz had two correct answers, Peter. That's enough to win for Sean Milroy.

SAGAL: Well done.

WOZNIAK: Oh, thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Congratulations. Steve Wozniak, known as the Great God Woz, is one of the founding Steves of Apple Computer. He's a fellow of the Computer History Museum, whose exhibition, "Revolution: The First 2,000 Years of Computing" opens January 13th in Mountain View, California. Steve Wozniak, thank you so much for being on our show.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

WOZNIAK: Thanks for all the laughs.

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Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!