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Steve Wozniak talks about Nat Geo’s new show ‘American Genius’

Steve Wozniak

(Geekwire) – The road to genius superstardom is hardly paved with daisies and chocolate. It takes a lot of work to get to the status of being able to dominate an industry and enjoy the spoils that go with it.

Hence, the National Geographic Channel’s latest mini-series, American Genius, which premieres Monday, June 1. And just who did Nat Geo decide to focus on in its very first episode? Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.

From the Nat Geo press release on the new series:

In the 1980s, two of America’s most brilliant minds, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, battle to dominate a new age and, in the process, revolutionize billions of lives. Up until this time, most computers were behemoth machines that sat in research labs and university tech centers, largely inaccessible to the public — but not for long. Relive Gates and Jobs’ heated battle to bring the personal computer to the masses.

In a conference call to preview the episode, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak discussed the essence of Jobs, the so-called rivalry between Jobs and Gates and just who Woz thinks is doing a bang-up job in tech today.

Wozniak, who also makes several interview appearances in the episode, said that Jobs was more of a visionary while Gates was able to build products that people needed in the short-term.

Here are a few Woz-isms for you to enjoy, edited from the conversation:

On Jobs’ and his personality differences: “I think we are very different people, and it was a good and bad thing. I really believe that people who are very similar in personalities and values can work better together. I think Steve and I, we’re very similar in values particularly. In personality, he wanted to be out front and be kind of a master of a company and make something in life and be important, and I really just wanted to design computers and be a great engineer.”

Bill Gates had more of an execution ability to build the things that are needed now, to build a company now, make the profits now, in the short-term.

On Microsoft vs. Apple: “The real differences between where Steve Jobs is portrayed compared to Bill Gates is Steve Jobs having a very futuristic forward vision, almost a bit of the science fiction, ‘Here’s what life could be.’ But Bill Gates had more of an execution ability to build the things that are needed now, to build a company now, make the profits now, in the short-term. I think that was the biggest difference between them.

“I think Steve Jobs actually felt that Bill Gates should be giving up the current and really pushing the world toward the future of a mouse-based, point-and-click type of computer machinery and that Bill Gates was just in it more for the money. I mean the world market for computers grew 10 times and Microsoft got it all.”

Why everyone wants to be in a startup: “That’s how it is these days; all over the world by the way, all over the world and especially in a lot in the countries that are resource dependent like Russia with oil and petrol fuels. Countries like that realize that it’s going to run out some day, and the information economy is where they want to be.”

On how accurately TV and film can portray tech giants:“A lot of the world gets built up by others when you’re in this, I don’t know, kind of superstar god-like category, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. So, the myth gets built up in our heads, and we want to justify our own myths and feelings…

“If you’ve watched Steve Jobs and Bill Gates together on AllThingsD, the way Bill Gates looked at Steve Jobs was as though Steve Jobs, his mind was different and he was a god and how can you think that way. Even we technologists can build things, but to have thinking like Steve Jobs is amazing.

“You can never kind of re-create incidences/people really perfectly accurately, but you can convey the meaning accurately, and the meaning is often defined by collective consciousness…You’ve seen videos of them and you can kind of portray some of their words and thinking to get across that idea. But still, the editor of a TV show is in control of that. So it’s going to be a surprise for all of us. We’ll see.”

On the Internet of Things: “The feeling I get is that it’s a bubble and a bubble because when the Internet started I had the same feelings. All these things you can do with the Internet. It’s going to change everything in life, but the trouble is life can only change at a certain speed.

“I also think that Internet of Things is all these things that are going to be helping us, they’re going to be making smart decisions on their own, knowing our schedules, knowing everything about the world, everything that’s on the Internet about us to help us out with our life from appliances at home to appliances in our car to the ones that we carry with us.

“So, Internet of Things is going to grow and grow and become very important, but it’s also like all the machinery in the world can control things without us humans making the decisions we used to make. It’s a little part of that dumbing us down where we don’t have to think anymore because it’s being done for us and that leaves us very dependent.

“If you lose your smartphone, can you call your mother? Do you even know her phone number?”

The iPhone came with every little detail handpicked by Steve Jobs so it would work well for him. When one person with that kind of a mind is in control of a product, that’s when you get the exceptionality.

On the next great visionary in tech: “I look at Elon Musk in a lot of ways, pursuing industries that everyone could say every one of them just for some reasons don’t make any sense, from solar to the SpaceX to the Tesla automobile — fine products.

“I love fine products, fine technology products, whether they’re smartphones, whether they’re computers and that Tesla car is just so incredible, because who in history would have thought that you should make an electric car large for a family-size car. Well, where did it come from? Elon Musk has a large family. The iPhone came with every little detail handpicked by Steve Jobs so it would work well for him. When one person with that kind of a mind is in control of a product, that’s when you get the exceptionality.”

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