Design Con 2015

Woz's take on smart watches, engineering and everything

Rick Merritt

August 11, 2014

Rick MerrittAugust 11, 2014

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The Woz showed off his nixie tube watch and gave the Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch a big thumbs down in a public appearance here.

Steve Wozniak, the designer of the original Apple personal computer, was in top form, firing off opinions in his characteristic, rapid, stream-of-consciousness style on everything from innovation and the Internet of Things to what inspired him to become an engineer.

Woz came to an on-stage interview at the Flash Memory Summit here wearing a bulky black gadget on his wrist, a 140V nixie tube watch. "I like the show-off factor... and it's waterproof so you can take in the bathtub, which my wife says you can do once anyway," he quipped.

The nixie watch displayed the first then the last two digits of time at the flick of his wrist. "It's so easy to read these nice big digits," Woz said, flashing the time to a standing-room-only audience at the Flash Memory Summit. "That's good technology because it lets your brain do less work -- it's easier than taking the phone out of my pocket."

Steve Wozniak (center) shows his nixie tube watch to an EE Times 

reporter as he was mobbed on stage after his appearance by techno-fans wanting a picture 

with the Silicon Valley icon.
Steve Wozniak (center) shows his nixie tube watch to an EE Times reporter as he was mobbed on stage after his appearance by techno-fans wanting a picture with the Silicon Valley icon.

Riffing on wearables and the IoT, Wozniack said:

    I've tried a few smartwatches. The Martian watch was pretty dumb with one line of text. The [Samsung] Galaxy Gear [was one]. I had to hold to my ear to hear it. I couldn't speak into it because I use Google Now, not S- voice, so after a half a day I got rid of it. I never get rid of anything so soon...

    A 1x1-inch screen is small for scrolling around. I don't feel comfortable with it. Some company will hit another format, and it's probably something we can't think of now...

    We have a few guesses about IoT, like using sensors all around a room to help keep a more accurate temperature, but the killer ideas are still in the future. If my wife were home I'd make my Tesla horn honk to let her know I am thinking about her.

The Woz gave no indication whether he knew anything about the long rumored Apple iWatch expected to debut as early as a company event on September 9.

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