HP Culture, Circa 1976

Wozniak:”No, I’m never going to leave Hewlett-Packard. It’s my job for life. It’s the best company because it’s so good to engineers.” It really treated us like we were a community and family, and everyone cared about everyone else. Engineers—bottom of the org chart people—could come up with the ideas that would be the next hot products for the company. Everything was open to thought, discussion and innovation. So I would never leave Hewlett-Packard. I was going to be an engineer for life there.

Livingston: You were designing all of these different types of computers during high school at home, for fun?

Wozniak: Yes, because I could never build one. Not only that, but I would design one and design it over and over and over—each one of the computers—because new chips would come out. I would take the new chips and redesign some computer I’d done before because I’d come up with a clever idea about how I could save 2 more chips. “I’ll do it in 42 chips instead of 44 chips.”

The reason I did that was because I had no money. I could never build one. Chips back then were… like I said, to buy a computer built, it was like a downpayment on a good house. So, because I could never build one, all I could do was design them on paper and try to get better and better and better. I was competing with myself. But that’s just the story of how my skill got so good. It’s because I could never build anything, I just competed with myself to come up with ideas that nobody else would come up with.

Steve Wozniak

(Link leads to excerpt from Founders At Work)

In the article, we see that Steve is obsessed with the idea of creating designs that are simple and elegant. That just sort of, well, work. That can flow intuitively.

It’s the same with software. If your software sounds complex and hard to understand, it’s probably buggy. Keeping the software simple – searching for the elegant solution instead of the easy one – leads to less lines of code, faster development, and fewer defects. A few years ago I wrote Beautiful Code for Dr. Dobbs, but I suspect it needs a follow-up. Beautiful Systems? Beautiful Solutions? hmm … needs work.

Tomorrow: Blue Man Group. Serious this time!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.