On democracy and social revitalization

Editor’s note:  This article is part two of three in a series about Steve Wozniak.

“Steve has this saying. He’ll say: ‘A family of five deserves five votes,’ and what he means by that is: Kids don’t really have a voice in the political system like adults do,” said Matt Spergel, son of Marty Spergel, a longtime business associate of Steve Wozniak. “For the most part, [kids are] kind of excluded from the political process.”

Wozniak places great emphasis on the importance of schooling in a democratic society.

“[Our] educational system involves home. It involves the culture of the country,” Wozniak said.

“Education is considered a right,” Wozniak continued. “It’s been considered a right for hundreds of years and that means that not just the kings and the wealthy get it, but anyone gets it. Only governments can supply it to everybody and handle that equality and fairness thing.”

Wozniak also addresses the practical considerations involved.

“It always boils down to money,” Wozniak said, explaining that limited budgets translate into higher student-teacher ratios, even though lower ratios are proven to provide for effective teaching environments.

Wozniak believes that if a teacher really cares, then they will never let a student pass through the system without fully understanding everything along the way. This practice becomes more difficult when a teacher is responsible for more students than they can handle.

Marty Spergel was present at the very first meeting of the famous Homebrew computer club in 1975, where he met Wozniak. Later Marty became involved with both Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs in supplying parts for the manufacture of the Apple II personal computer.

“There’s only one thing that’s going to turn around the economy,” said Marty. “Unless there’s demand for products and services, this country isn’t going anywhere. All of the other stuff that politicians tell you is BS.”

Marty marvels at Apple’s ability to create demand, in terms of people wanting to buy their products.

“People wait in line to get those products,” Marty said. “All you need is about another 199 companies like Apple and that’ll take care of about three-fourths of the gross domestic product (GDP) of the United States.”

Both Spergel and Wozniak agree that they key to achieving success, either in business or as participants in the political system, is to learn to find the basic, simple facts involved in any issue.

After becoming wealthy through the growth of Apple in the early 1980s, Wozniak returned to UC Berkeley to finish his bachelor’s degree that he had left unfinished. He enrolled anonymously under the pseudonym “Rocky Racoon Clark.”

As Wozniak explained in his autobiography and in other interviews, one of his classes was taught by a TA who followed an antiquated type of Marxist social philosophy. Wozniak and the TA consistently butted heads throughout the semester.

Was the TA stuck in a philosophical rut? Wozniak chuckled in response to the question.

“I’m not sure what a ‘philosophical rut’ is,” he said, adding that his method of reasoning is to simply “look at new facts and judge things.”

Wozniak’s influence as a core insider at Apple ended before Steve Jobs rejoined Apple as CEO in the late 1990s. Jobs decided to change Apple’s course and join forces with Bill Gates.

Apple has been criticized by social activists for making contracts with manufacturers overseas who have reputations for exploiting their employees in the effort to produce inexpensive parts, a practice that has accelerated in recent years along with globalization.

Wozniak is sensitive about the topic of Apple making business agreements with Microsoft and, after an hour-long telephone interview, quickly ended the interview at the mention of Gates’ name.

BRIAN RILEY can be reached at science@theaggie.org.

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