What I Learned from Woz
A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to see Steve Wozniak speak at the OSU Stillwater campus. A lot of what he talked about is in his autobiography (which I highly recommend, along with Pirates of Silicon Valley and Triumph of the Nerds, both of which include Woz and give some insight into the early days of personal computing.) It was great to see him retell some of the stories I’ve heard before, but what I really picked up on was a recommendation he made to anyone starting a new project or developing a new product.
His basic idea is: build something you would want for yourself. Wozniak designed and created the Apple I computer not because he saw a demand and wanted to make money selling computers; it was something he wanted to have for himself. As he puts it in this short video: “Make sure you are a buyer of your product.”
I thought about how this applies to a game that I want to eventually build. I’ve been brainstorming ideas for the game, which as of now is mostly just a collection of notes and outlines, but I have a pretty good idea of how I want it to work. One of the main reasons I want to design and build this particular game is that it would be something I would enjoy playing myself. I would definitely be a buyer of my own product.
This can also be great advice for people looking for ideas for programming projects. Build something you would want yourself, something that fills a need you have, helps you with mundane task, or is inspired by a hobby or personal interest. Working through books and tutorials can go a long way to advance your learning, but building something you have deep personal interest in can also be a great learning experience. Having more personal interest in the project can give you extra motivation to get through difficult parts of the process or add extra features you may not have considered before. You also end up with something unique you can put in your portfolio that not only demonstrates your skill, but reflects your personality and interests outside of programming.