Steve Jobs stepping down as the CEO of Apple has brought a lot of old stories out of the woodwork. Bloomberg television, as they have for the last few days, interviewed Steve Wozniak and Ron Wayne together, the two guys that started Apple with Steve Jobs in his parents’ garage – that was 35 years ago, guys. The interview, embedded above or available over at Bloomberg, is full of interesting little nuggets, such as how Jobs introduced Wozniak to Ron Wayne as “a person we could trust as an intermediary if we ever had disagreements”.
And because Ron had, in Wozniak’s words, “a mature adult mentality” and a clear sense of how companies are run, he drafted on a typewriter all the legalese of their partnership agreement that “looked like it came from a lawyer”.
However, Ron Wayne left Apple after just twelve days and sold his stake which would now have been worth an estimated $35 billion. Incredibly, the guy never regretted the decision. Why? In his own words, Wayne realized he was “standing in the shadow of a couple of really brilliant guys” and that his “level of creativity couldn’t possibly match theirs”. Figuring out he “would have wound up doing rather mundane work”, Wayne pulled out.
Asked how involved Steve Jobs will be in his role as chairman of the board, Wozniak replied:
Well, what does he say? I would have no guess. He wants to be chairman of the board. You know, chairman of the board is not nothing. It involves some preparation, some time. He wants to be an employee. That is kind of like he feels loyal and feels some connection to Apple, because it is very important to him, and I am glad to see that.
And yes, everyone’s favorite geek is confident that Apple can and will continue making magical products without Jobs at the reigns. His reasoning echoes Daring Fireball’s John Gruber’s sentiment (and our own) that Jobs’s greatest creation is Apple itself rather than any Apple product:
One thing Steve always did, even starting back with me and Ron, is when he found people that were very good at something, better than the average person if you run into, he wanted to hire them. Apple is full of some incredible people, and Steve would not leave this company not feeling it has got a good push for right now to keep the ways of thinking that lead to the great products that Steve has employed. He has been an example. There are many things he does, and people talk about how he made decisions, why his choices were a certain way, and those people are at the helm of apple. Short-term, I would expect Apple might come up with home run after home run after home run again.
If you don’t have the time to sit through the entire video, check out a couple noteworthy highlights after the break.
Ron Wayne on what attracted him to the two Steves:
Steve Jobs was a very dynamic person to start with. He was fun to be with. We spent quite a bit of time together at Atari, and when he indicated he was getting together with Steve Wozniak to come up with a computer business, I said I was there to help in any way I could. We spent quite a bit of time together. He had a modest disagreement with Steve Wozniak over some philosophical issue, and I happened to be there at the time. We had a conversation in which, successfully, I was able to get the issue resolved. At the moment, Steve Jobs was very impressed with that bit of diplomacy and suggested immediately that we form a company with he and Wozniak each having 45% and myself having 10% as a philosophical tie-breaker in the case of any disputes in the future.
Wayne on why he pulled out of Apple after 12 days:
I knew that the enterprise would be successful, although nobody could have anticipated the kind of success it would realize today, but there were several different things. First of all, I was a product developer and designer myself, but I was a little bit intimidated by the fact that I was standing in the shadow of some real geniuses. It was obvious what Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs were able to do. In addition to that, I think Steve Jobs had an idea in the back of his head based upon the fact that I had rebuilt the documentation system for Atari. He was very impressed with the system and certainly wanted to have that as part of the new enterprise. The only problem with that was I could see myself looking ahead in the future as leading a major office in the back of the company shuffling papers for the rest of my life. That wasn’t exactly the future I had in mind for myself.
Wozniak on his reaction to Ron Wayne leaving:
Steve Jobs told me about it, and I was kind of shocked. In later life, I had a different opinion. I figured it was because we were getting parts on credit, building the computers with no money, and selling them for cash to pay off the credit. If anything fell through in that plan Steve Jobs had no savings account or money or friends or relatives with money, and neither did I, so our adult supervision, Ron, might be on the hook for the money. I thought that might have scared him off, that he was taking a majority of the risk and he only got 10 percent.
To that, Ron Wayne replied: “There was that element, yes.”
Steve Wozniak on the early days of Apple:
After we started the company, that came about because best friends and technology and we had this commonality. We went through project after project after project during my college years, his high school and his college years, before we started Apple. When it came to starting Apple, boy, things were gung-ho.
The world was right for this product. We were the right people. It was in our blood. Steve thought in terms of complete products and what they would do for people and humanity, and I just thought of what I could build for myself to use and impress all my technical friends and be super engineer…We worked for a while out of our homes. I had a secure job at Hewlett- Packard as an engineer. Hewlett-Packard turned me down for this project five times. Steve Jobs pretty much was so young he didn’t need any income and money, so we just survived on — it was moonlighting for a while. You do that out of your house, you do it out of your garage, and it never came up, ‘do we throw in the towel because we are not making any money yet?’ Never came up.
Steve Wozniak on whether he thought Steve Jobs could turn around Apple:
I felt that Apple could be turned around, and I was a little skeptical of how Steve would do when he came back, but he just proved himself over and over and over, and there was a lot more psychological, marketing-wise, knowing how to. But it was really the discipline to run a company, to keep secrets where you need to keep secrets, to make sure you are not overbuilding a bunch of junk you cannot sell and losing money. The financial discipline in the company was great, and Steve spoke of that. These things were important to him. Almost everything he ever spoke about during the time I knew him was the work values he had. Almost all those things are superbly done at Apple now.
Ron Wayne on why he does not regret selling his stake in the company, now estimated to be now be worth $35 billion:
Essentially, as I said earlier, I had a different view of myself, my employment in the future. I am essentially the creative, product development sort of guy, and I wanted to get into a great number of projects which, frankly, I could master. I also realized the fact that I was standing in the shadow of a couple of really brilliant guys here the level of my creativity couldn’t possibly match theirs. As I said, I would have wound up doing rather mundane work.
There was the risk element to that and a year or so before I had formed my own corporation and it came to a kind of sticky end and I spent two years buying my way out of that mess, and there was the risk involved and whether or not I would be able to survive if the whole thing blew up.
Steve Wozniak jumped in, saying the following:
Ron Wayne is one of those people who does not look back with regret. Your mind is working well and making the right decisions for the way you think at that point in time, and that was part of what made him credible to Steve and I. It was a type of integrity. I was really sorry to see him leave.
Wozniak on whether he was spoken to Jobs since he stepped down:
I have not. I do not try to get into personal lives and bother people, which is odd because I was going to send him an e-mail just yesterday before I heard the news, basically about an aspect of products that coincide with his own philosophies about products that we had briefly in a product at Apple and sort of lost it, and I wanted to get it back, but I cannot go into detail.