Steve Wozniak, the tech mastermind who worked alongside Steve Jobs to build one of the wealthiest brands in the world, has finally spoken out loud and clear about the right-to-repair movement concerning Apple.
In a response to a Cameo video request submitted by Louis Rossmann (a known leader in the right-to-repair movement), Wozniak expressed his full support for the cause, speaking candidly against the power-driven monopolistic mindset that is keeping Apple from allowing repair technicians to tinker with its hardware.
“We wouldn’t have had an Apple had I not grown up in a very open-technology world,” shares Wozniak. At only ten years old, he was already the owner of a ham radio license, and was building his own radios from the ground up.
Wozniak studied the free schematics that came with TVs to learn the circuits and inner workings of technology
If a TV or a radio stopped working, Wozniak says, even the average person knew that it was likely one of their internal vacuum tubes gone bad (which were there in place of chips at the time). You could go to your local electronics store—or even the grocery store!—where you could easily test and exchange the faulty tube.
Through experimenting with all the open-source technology available to him, Wozniak essentially trained himself as an engineer and was eventually able to create his own input-output teletype when building Apple’s first Macbook. A professional teletype cost as much as two cars at the time, Wozniak says—something he could never have afforded even after he’d taught himself to design computers.
The first Apple computer, product of Wozniak’s ingenuity and the offerings of open-source technology
However, his past tinkering with electronics helped him fabricate his own homemade output system, ingeniously rewiring his own TV (which was accompanied by an open-source schematic) as the signal output of what became the Apple I, Apple’s very first consumer product.
Its successor, the Apple II, was the complete opposite of Apple today.
Wozniak also spoke out about the absolute monopoly which phone company “Ma Bell” had held over North America for years back in his day, massively hindering progress in phone technology in its thirst for power—until it took an anti-trust lawsuit to allow creativity and innovation to flood the telephone market once more, leading to greater freedom and choice.
“Sometimes, when companies co-operate together with others, they can actually have better business than if they’re totally protective and monopolistic and not working with others […] How was Apple hurt by the openness of the Apple II, I wonder?”
Wozniak ends his Cameo with a final appeal to the very spirit of excitement and joy in innovation, initially made possible by open-source technology. It was this that had stoked the fire in him as a young boy, and it should still continue to inspire the next generation of technicians and engineers, Wozniak implores.
Here’s hoping Apple will hear the voice of its legendary co-founder, and see the benefit of loosening up on the restrictions around repair on its devices. Apple has already solidified its place as king of the hill, and as Wozniak said, there is probably little to lose in terms of profits by opening up the inner workings of its technology to the public—and there may be a lot to gain for all of us.