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Steve Wozniak: One of the big guns of computing fires up his Derry audience

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Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple tries a bag of Tayto crisps after speaking at the Millennium forum in Derry

Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple tries a bag of Tayto crisps after speaking at the Millennium forum in Derry

PA

Steve Wozniak believes smartphones will become more like humans over the next few years

Steve Wozniak believes smartphones will become more like humans over the next few years

PA

Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple tries a bag of Tayto crisps after speaking at the Millennium forum in Derry

Steve Wozniak: he's known as The Woz, one of the revered founding fathers of modern computing.

Wozniak is one of the biggest names in the IT industry and yesterday he was the toast of Londonderry as the headline speaker at an international conference of business advisors.

More than 500 delegates from 24 countries attended the high-profile event in the city's Millennium Forum, many attending specifically to hear what The Woz had to say.

He established Apple in 1976 after meeting Steve Jobs while working for Hewlett-Packard and the two are largely credited with being the founding fathers of modern computing.

Wozniak built and invented the first Apple computer, the Apple I, which went on sale in the mid 1970s for $666.66 before going on to develop the Apple II.

After helping build up the company, he left Apple in 1987. While he and Jobs weren't close and were very different characters, they kept in contact until the death of Jobs in 2011.

The six-bedroom house which Wozniak built just before leaving Apple in Los Gatos, California, near Silicon Valley, is up for sale at present with a price tag of $4.4m (£2.8m).

Since then he's been involved in a number of technology companies and philanthropy projects aimed at helping young people.

And the future belongs to the youth, Wozniak told an audience at the Noribic conference. "Young people start the big companies such as Apple and Google because they don't have the attachment to do the old way of doing things," said the Apple co-founder.

"They come up with the clever new ways of doing things. They don't have a lot of money, so they don't have to do things for money. So they are much greater risk takers. Once you have success in your life, you only pursue things that maintain your success. Young people are willing to go off in a different direction. They find solutions that other people would not find."

Wozniak echoed a theme of the conference in encouraging risk taking and looking to new approaches to overcome challenges.

"Change is the new norm – it's the new status quo," he said. "It's okay to break the rules if you know what will work."

But the man who broke lots of rules in helping to build Apple into one of the world's biggest companies admitted that it is difficult to predict the future.

"It's hard to see where we get to with all this new technology."

Wozniak was clear, though, that he expects technology to move closer to the individual and become more interactive, both as a one-to-one teaching device in schools and in everyday life.

"We are moving closer and closer to where computers are like a person," he suggested. "Our mobile devices are becoming more like humans."

Increasingly, he suggested, we will wear personalised computing devices either as wristwatches, or on our heads – as with the Google glasses. Wozniak predicted that the intimacy of the devices will be enhanced by their use of our very personal data – providing governments do not ban corporations from collating this.

Wozniak, the engineer behind the original Apple products, told the Belfast Telegraph that if Northern Ireland was to compete effectively as an innovative country it needed to provide resource centres in which young people could experiment and build. "Your real education comes in thinking out how to solve problems," he suggested.

Wozniak said he was pleased to be in Derry. "I can sense a lot of enthusiasm. I expect the most success from companies where I see a high level of sophistication. I see that here in the same way I do when I go to Brazil."

If our entrepreneurs were listening, a new generation of high- tech Northern Ireland businesses may be about to be born.

Perhaps one of them, one day, will be a new Apple.

Belfast Telegraph