YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—Steve Wozniak, one of the founders of the Apple corporation, received a state award from President Serzh Sarkisian on Friday at the end of a two-day visit to Armenia initiated by Armenia’s government and information technology industry.
Wozniak, a 61-year-old American computer engineer and programmer who was at the heart of Apple Computer, Co. together with the late Steve Jobs and Ronald Wayne, was honored by the Armenian leadership for his “outstanding contribution to humanity”.
In his remarks at an evening ceremony President Sarkisian called Wozniak “a person who has revolutionized the world”.
“I hope that this special award and the example of Steve Wozniak will inspire families in Armenia to encourage their children to study, so that these children will also achieve heights and render similar great services to their homeland and the whole humanity,” Sarkisian said, as quoted by his press service.
Wozniak is credited with inventing the Apple 1 and Apple 2 computers in the mid-1970s, which kicked off the personal computer revolution. He left Apple in 1987, after 12 years with the company. In the years since, besides becoming a prominent philanthropist, Wozniak has also invented the first programmable universal remote control, helped create the first wireless Global Positioning System, and nurtured the development of several technology start-ups. He is now the chief scientist for Fusion-io, a data storage and server company.
The annual IT Award was instituted in Armenia in 2009 and its first recipient the following year was Craig Barrett, a former chairman and chief executive of Intel Corporation. One of the goals of the award is to encourage contact between some of the leading IT personalities of the world and the industry in Armenia.
Before receiving his prize at the Presidential Palace in Yerevan, Wozniak met with Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian, other senior Armenian government officials, as well as IT company executives and university students.
At a press conference prior to the official ceremony, Wozniak again made a case for nurturing creativity among young people in Armenia as a way to bring success to the country’s IT sector.
He said even his recognition in Armenia could also become a source of inspiration for local commencing engineers.
“When I was young I was inspired by the stories I heard about other people doing things… This great IT award is bringing some of those stories and inspiration to young Armenian engineers,” he said. “I want to go back home, and I want to take the stories about the resources here, the intelligence, the technology community and tell them to consider expanding, setting up development facilities and training facilities [in Armenia].”
The Armenian government has declared development of the domestic IT sector a top economic priority. The sector employing more than 5,000 people is dominated by Armenian subsidiaries of California-based software development companies. According to government data, IT products accounted for 8.5 percent of Armenian exports last year, up from 3.6 percent in 2009.