News, , , , , , — September 5, 2011 16:53 — 2 Comments

Meet the Apple founder who has never owned one of its products

Ronald Wayne was lauded as guest of honour at the Brighton Digital Festival’s Update 2011 conference today, and rightly so as along with Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, Wayne founded Apple.

Dressed in a three-piece suit with a gold watch on a chain, it’s hard to believe this quiet and unassuming elderly gentleman is responsible for one of the most cutting-edge companies on the planet.

His name may not be as synonymous with Apple as Jobs and Wozniak, but his influence on the design of Apple products, and the company’s philosophy can still be detected today.

His heritage is undeniable and the predominately young geeky crowd at Update 2011 lap up his words – even though he talks about making things back in the day by using simple wooden building blocks, we’re talking pre-Lego.

Amazingly, Wayne has never owned an apple product, or a computer until the late 1990s. He gave back his 10% share in the company because, he was a maker, not a businessman and he didn’t want to end up as he says, “the richest man in the cemetery”.

He describes Jobs and Wozniak as “whirlwinds, real tigers by the tail, guys.” He realised very early own that Apple was going to be successful, but he says he left because he found the pace too fast, Wayne was and still is a maker, engineer, draughtsman, who prefers to work old school, with a pencil and piece of paper.

Wayne was 20 years older than Jobs and Wozniak when he met the pair at games company Atari. Wayne had come from Vegas, developing slot machines and Jobs, with $50,000 to invest wanted to go into the slot-machine business.

Wayne advised him against it, and instead Jobs with Wozniak started developing computers.

Wayne describes Wozniak as an amazing engineer, a gracious and considerate person with a fanciful passion for designing and building things. Jobs was no slouch either of course, and he developed the classic Atari game Breakout.

Jobs, was also a businessman, Wozniak, wanted to give his designs and inventions away, but Jobs insisted that the circuit boards must remain integral to Apple. Wayne agreed with Jobs and prevented a major fallout in the early days by mediating between the two and more importantly convincing Wozniak that Jobs was right.

As well as working on the prototype of the first Apple computer, Wayne is also responsible for the efficiency at Apple. It was his stock taking system that he developed at Atari that Jobs took with him to Apple, because he was so impressed with its thoroughness.

Wayne also designed the first Apple logo that evolved from a simple doodle with words by Wordsworth.

What makes him keep inventing things? He has gone back to his roots and is working on a new version of the slot machine with the thrill of the cash jackpot dropping into the tray, but with modern technology.

He says, for him making things is a ‘whimsy’. It is a fanciful passion and it doesn’t matter what you are working on, from planes to kitchen utensils, he tells the audience.

His advice to today’s designers is the same advice he was given as a young student at the School of Industrial Design in New York City. ‘Architecture is enclosing space for human living,’ he was told.

“You are designing for people, if you forget that your design will fail, It doesn’t matter what it is — a piece of music, a code, a bridge, remember that and you can’t go wrong.”

At the end of his talk he is presented with his first Apple product – an iPad2. Whether he will ever take it out of its box is anyone’s guess. A man like Wayne is not about gadgets, but one thing for certain is that he will appreciate the design; after all it contains his DNA.

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About the author

Tony Myers has written 866 articles for Smart Movie Making

Fooling around with the iPhone since 2010. Taking it to the next web by writing about new media, new technology, new wave cinema and the digital revolution.


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