Keeping the Personal in “Personal Computing”

Author: Lisa Marie Patzer

Last week I attended the 5th annual Wharton Web Conference at the University of Pennsylvania.  As expected, I learned about current trends in web design, was exposed to some new tools for writing efficient CSS as well as saw a presentation about the developments with HTML5.  The unexpected highlight of the day was the keynote speaker Steve Wozniak, known to some as “Woz”.

Steve Wozniak, photo by the DEMO Conference

Steve Wozniak, photo by the DEMO Conference

Prior to the conference, my knowledge of Wozniak was fairly general.  I knew he was the engineer of the first Apple Computer and that he and Steve Jobs revolutionized the world of personal computing.

Apple_I_Computer_byEdUthman

Apple I Computer, photo by Ed Uthman

What I didn’t know, and what became clear during Wozniak’s presentation, is Wozniak is truly committed to the “personal”.  He spoke at length about the importance of the individual having access to technology, the role of individual creativity in innovation and his belief in hacking as a means for discovery. It was Wozniak’s commitment to free expression and individual ingenuity that prompted him to create devices on his own and ultimately led to the first marketable personal computer.

Apple II Computer, photo is in the public domain

Apple II Computer, photo is in the public domain

8-inch, 5,25-inch, and 3,5-inch floppy disks, image is in the Public Domain

8-inch, 5,25-inch, and 3,5-inch floppy disks, image is in the Public Domain

As a web designer and new media artist, it was inspirational to hear Wozniak speak about the influence an individual can have on the development of technology.  It was a good reminder to me that technology is not only a means to an end.  Technology can be a playground for exploration, tinkering and personal expression. One other fun bit of trivia I learned was that Wozniak developed the first version of the Atari Video game Breakout in just 4 days. It was never mass produced, but it led to the development of the popular home video game featured in this commercial.

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