The following is a translated summary of a report from the local press. It has been edited for clarity, including the addition of links and information needed for readers unfamiliar with Jeju. — Ed.
A Sehwa High School senior was the envy of her school friends recently when she received an upbeat email reply from programming and computing designing legend Steve Wozniak. Yang Yeon-soo, 17, glimpsed Mr. Wozniak when she was a volunteer at the 7th Jeju Forum held in May 2012 where Wozniak had been an invited speaker.
Yang was not able to speak with him at the forum so left a card with his assistant asking for a message for girls like her living in rural areas.
“I was excited when I heard Steve Wozniak was to be one of the speakers in the Forum. I was very sorry not to have a chance to talk to him individually,” she explained. “The only thing I could do was to hand over my name card to his assistant.”
Although Yang didn’t expect to get a reply to her email, she thought that his message would give students in her school all the more reason to try to make their dreams come true. — Headline Jeju
Text of Steve Wozniak’s reply to Yang Yeon-soo:
First, I would be happy to send you a signed card of mine. Just send me a request for it and include your mailing address.
As for the students on Jeju island…
I look back to my own days as a student. It was a fun time where everything was provided for my entertainment in life. Our socialization was with friends at school, not via mobile tech devices as it is today. The best I can remember is that, like myself, most students found by accidental encounters what they enjoyed and wanted to do in life.
Near the end of high school and early college years I did a lot of internal thinking. This is the age that I hear a lot of students talking about right and wrong and what values are good and exploring religions if they haven’t had one pressed upon them by their parents.
First, I came to the conclusion that I would rather be an average person joking all the time than a powerful businessman stressing over work every day. I also decided for myself that I’d want to be ‘in the middle’ in almost every way. I looked hard and the extreme ends of politics and values and wealth were not desirable and led to corrupt behaviors for many. Early on I decided that I would never want to tell one story in different ways. The truth always comes out one way. I decided that telling 2 versions of the same thing is often hypocritical. The teller doesn’t feel that the truth about how they are and how they act is not good, so they hide it with deception and falsehoods. It’s like having 2 different personalities in your head and can lead to psychological problems and neurosis. I did not want to be like that.
I also decided that I did not have to convince others of my views for those views to be good. They only needed to be good to me. I didn’t have to argue and win points. Arguments rarely have ‘winners’ anyway. I could tell what I believed (even how to make a computer) and if others didn’t agree, they were not bad. They just thought differently. I would have the belief that my thoughts were good and were inside my head and that’s all that mattered.
Also, my dad had told me that how far you go in a company usually is determined by how well liked you are. So I’m always very nice to everyone. There’s no need to make enemies. You are recognized by your own skills and good work, and you don’t have to criticize others for not doing good work. Just worry about your own skills.
One accident that happened to me was that I taught myself, with no books, how to design computers in high school. I loved doing it and designed computers all the time, from descriptions of them in manuals by the companies that made them. I designed the same computers over and over and made a game out of trying to use fewer and fewer parts, coming up with tricks to accomplish my task that could never be in a book. They were ‘tricks’ in my own head. I felt that some of these tricks would be used by probably no other computer designer in the world. In my game world, on paper, where I could never afford to build my designs, I felt I was one of the best in the world.
The best things I did in my young years leading up to the early Apple computers were done because I had little money and had to think deeply to achieve the impossible. Also, I had never done those technologies or studied them. I had to write the book myself. Being self-taught, figuring out how to design computers with pencil and paper, made me skilled at finding solutions that I had not been taught.
Every aspect of our lives and our companies will be changing and improving based on mobile technology. Young people are already ahead in this game and have good ideas of how any operation can be improved. Always focus on good human interface, user interface. Computer apps are not to be judged by what they do or how well they do it. Rather, it is more important that they feel natural to normal humans and they are led to the right actions. An ultimate example is when you speak what you want. If you don’t have to worry about having the right computer words, but just speak it as you would to a human, then the computer has totally gotten out of your way. Finding ways to do this will be very important in the future. The smartest approaches come from understanding normal people.
And every action you take on a smartphone has the ‘other end’ – the servers and storage in data centers. They are doing more calculation and organization and presentation of information than your handheld device, which is mainly displaying the results these days. The cloud represents the information content of the world, which could never be put on the storage [disk] in your mobile device, or even your personal computer. It’s easy to see a world of job opportunities writing apps but don’t forget the importance of implementing the data center side of those apps. There’s a lot of work to be done at that level too. Apps are like furniture. There are infinite variations until we have a few standards that change little. So this is a huge opportunity in the future.
If you are not technical, you have many opportunities in your future just knowing how people do things. Do listen to elders. They are mentors who have been in this world working with other humans doing the important things that make life work a lot longer than you students. The world needs all kinds of human effort to work and to progress. It doesn’t need for everyone to be a computer programmer, for example. We need mathematicians, scientists, archaeologists, writers, and every capacity of job for things to work.
Look at companies that you might someday work for. The hot products suggest some of these companies. But pay attention to how good the companies are to employees. Do they respect the employees? Do they allow them a large amount of decision making at the bottom of the org chart? Are responsibilities moved down rather than coming as orders from above. Is there room for growth and advancement in a particular company? Does the company consider employees as family? Will they take care of you if at some point your job is not working out? Will they find a better role for you? It’s a bad thought that companies easily fire employees and leave them with no income to support a family and home.