The Wonderful Wizard of Woz

The Wonderful Wizard of Woz

The road that led me to the great and powerful Woz was neither made of golden bricks nor pointed out to me by munchkins. I just kind of stumbled down the path to Saturday morning’s NAMM U (for University) Breakfast discussion regarding music and technology, after a night of two hours of sleep and too many after parties. My itinerary simply stated “Key-Note: NAMM President/CEO Joe Lamond.” When I realized the guest of honor was to be none other than Apple Co-Founder Steve Wozniak, it induced such a euphoria that I hardly needed coffee anymore.

Smiling. Applause. Silence.

A stout man with a salt and pepper beard surrounding a huge smile emerged from the curtain. 3,000 of us touched shoulders to be present for the occasion.

You’d imagine that the man responsible for creating the first PC would adore both technology as well as the direction it is headed. Steve Wozniak’s adoration for the prior is obvious but the co-founder of Apple actually indicated his fear of artificial intelligence. “We’re going to be like the family pet,” his voice permeated my morning daze, “dependent on our master (technology) to take care of us.”

 I like to think
(it has to be!)
of a cybernetic ecology
where we are free of our labors
and joined back to nature,
returned to our mammal
brothers and sisters,
and all watched over
by machines of loving grace.

~ Richard Brautigan, “All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace”

Wozniak’s stories were mathematical, not in nature mind you but tangential. Each story led us toward the future while paying homage to the past. He labeled the current technologies in the same vein as the PC: “One-way door technology. Once you cross the threshold you never go back.” Wozniak reminisced nostalgically about days long ago when a housewife could go to the local five and dime and purchase replacement vacuum tubes for the console television at home. Our current “throw away” society doesn’t have to tinker with things any longer. This is coming from the guy who built the first PC in his garage. Tinkering is in his blood.

Steve Wozniak speaks at NAMM

His humorous nature and tendencies toward self-deprecation brought him down from the technological throne high in the clouds to our level. He is human after all. And he is an avid guitar player who absolutely loves Bob Dylan.

Though by default one expects at the NAMM Show the topic of music, Wozniak spoke more of happiness and camaraderie—with good reason. He feels that the very nature of musicians is what makes the music. “Pranksters” (a seemingly favorite word of his), the people who don’t take things too seriously and like to play jokes, are his people. We like-minded musicians are his people, and the future of music.

Wozniak was a kindred spirit in this place, and I’m still not sure whether he was up there to make any one specific point. But despite the abundance of tangents he took, what’s incredible about this man is his love for humanity. Possibility echoed through the hall along with his laugh. He speaks in human terms. The self-proclaimed introvert sat on stage and told us to get out there, meet people and have fun. “Happiness equals smiles minus frowns,” he proclaimed, and I am sure he wasn’t talking about emoticons.

About Shannon William Vlaming

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