Q&A with Apple Founder Ronald Wayne: Steve Jobs, the Economy and the Collapse of the Dollar

Vintage apple computer

Ronald Wayne

This email interview was first published in 2012. Please place any financial advice given at this time in its proper context.

There are a few people who really intrigue me – and one of those on that list is Ronald Wayne. I wrote a little blurb about Wayne last year after I learned about him leaving Apple early in its infancy. He sold his shares of the company for about $2,300.

There is a lot to the man – and I had a few questions for him. He was gracious enough to reply to my questions and the following are his responses, verbatim.  While mostly known for his association with Apple, Wayne has quite a background, with numerous patents to his name and has a strong interest in economic and financial matters.

You are most recognized for your help to start Apple – although this is really only a small part of your life so far. You have quite a few inventions to your name. Which one are you most proud of?

ronald wayneThis is an unusual question, and you may find my response to be a bit unexpected.  In 1972 I was granted a patent (3,727,214) covering a concept that led directly to two significant technological developments (at that time).  The most immediate was a device that represented the first major improvement in analog electric meters (pointer-type electric meters) since the invention of such meters by D'Arsenval in the 1850s.  My meter design totally eliminated the three principal faults of the D'Asenval movement, “hunt”, “lag” and “hysteresis”.  The same concept formed the core of a device which I called a “Ground Reference Indicator”.  In the operation of light aircraft, the most dangerous maneuver is landing, particularly with a low-wing aircraft, since the pilot is then unable to see the ground, and no instrument currently on his dashboard will help him.  My device, however, would provide such a dashboard instrument.  An instrument that would read out the height of his wheels above the runway, in feet and inches.  Due to lack of funding, however, neither of these devices were ever put into production.

At the same time, the most successful device I ever created was a cylindrical, in-line cable selector switch, which I designed, prototyped, and personally saw through production (of 3000 units).  This product was a custom development for the U.S. Naval Air Warfare Center in Indianapolis, for use by the U.S. Marine Corps.  At the time, I was Chief Engineer for Thor Electronics of California, and this project proved to yield the most profitable product the company had produced, in its 40-year history.  You will find a detailed discussion of these, and other products and inventions I'd been responsible for, in my recently published autobiography, “Adventures of an Apple Founder”.  This book is currently available in paperback from Amazon.com, or can be had electronically via Kindle or iTunes.

How would you describe Steve Jobs? Has his success surprised you?

I think it's fairly obvious that the magnitude of any success, such as that achieved by Steve Jobs, is certainly remarkable and surprising in and of itself.  But the fact that Jobs would succeed at anything he might turn his hand and mind to, was no surprise to me at all.  I can say, without qualification, that even during our time together at Atari, he was the most focused and determined person I'd ever met in my life.  That single-mindedness, linked to an incredible intellect foretold success at any effort he'd make.  It's important to understand why the linkage between Jobs and Wozniak was so astonishingly successful.  As it happens, Woz is not only a genius but also incredibly whimsical.  His motivation in creating the basic personal computer was for the sheer pleasure of the experience – but it was Jobs who had both the vision and the drive to turn it into the core of a great industry.

interview with ronald wayne

You don't seem bitter or jealous about Apple's success or having left it early on. How have you maintained this generous spirit?

Generosity has nothing to do with it.  There were a number of reasons behind my decision to withdraw from that partnership, all explained in detail in my autobiography, and many of them also have been expressed in a number of interviews I've experienced.  In brief, there was a very real risk that was evident in a startup “company”, when I was the only one, of the three of us, who had attachable assets.  Not that this was a very serious risk, since it seemed obvious to me that the enterprise would surely succeed.  But at the same time, I was in my 40s, and these kids were in their 20s.  It was like having a tiger by the tail, and it was equally obvious that while it would surely succeed, it would also be a very bumpy ride.

Then there was the issue of what I knew of Jobs' expectations of me, in the coming enterprise.  It was obvious that he would want me to duplicate the documentation (and other administrative successes) which I'd demonstrated at Atari, but then to the benefit of Apple.  Essentially, I felt that while my capacity for creativity was not equal to theirs, I still had my own “spark of divine fire”, and didn't exactly see my self administering a documentation crew for the rest of my days.

In short, my decision was based on the circumstances as I saw them.  And finally, I've held a philosophy all my life, of not wasting my “todays” and “tomorrows”, wringing my hands over decisions I made yesterday.  If those decisions were right, then I'd enjoy the rewards, and if they were wrong, the best I could do was to learn from that experience.

You've written a book called, The Nature of Money – in which you talk about the eventual collapse of the dollar. How do you think this will happen?

I would, of course, encourage you to get a copy of that book, entitled “Insolence of Office”.  It is the product of roughly forty years of focused attention to the nature of our world, and of two particular aspects of that world.

A major interest was to understand the history and evolution of governance, starting with the origin of kingdoms and leading to the ultimate evolution, our Constitutional Republic.  I've come to the conclusion that a major source of today's distorted politics is the public's almost complete lack of understanding of the forces which shaped the creation of our Constitution.

This reality, coupled with that public's equal lack of historical knowledge, has allowed that public to be hoodwinked into voting against their own best interests.  In short, encouragement of the public's political enlightenment was the motive behind my writing of the first two-thirds of that book.  The final third of the book is composed of a treatise I originally composed more than twenty-five years ago, which effectively anticipated today's worldwide economic situation, and essentially foresees where we're going from here.

The thesis is a simple one.  I start with the irrefutable fact that gold and silver had been the successful basis for the world's currencies for more than 3000 years, and then (in simple English) I outline the “mechanics” of that truth.  My discussion than goes on to describe how the hellish cost of World War II effectively drove every major Country on Earth into bankruptcy, as evidenced by the proceedings of the Bretton-Woods conference of 1944.  The effect of that conference was to encourage the world's governments to abandon “metals-based” currency for the “comfortable latitude” of fiat money. In short, worthless paper.

The result (which can be readily confirmed by a simple Google search), from then to now, has been worldwide inflation of 2500% to 4000%, exactly as predicted by the writings of Adam Smith, in his book “Wealth of Nations”, published in 1775.  This worldwide inflation is now progressing “geometrically”.  In other words, progress which mathematically projects a worldwide monetary collapse – leading inevitably to a return to the inherent stability of gold and silver.  And why are gold and silver the basis of such monetary stability?  Simple!  The supply of these metals is beyond political influence to recreate!   Metal currency cannot inflate!  Again, for the complete discussion of this issue, together with all of the historical facts and demonstrable evidence, please read Chapter V of Insolence of Office.

I've read that a lot of your wealth is in precious metals. Is this something you would recommend to others as well?

For a start, I cannot describe my holdings as “wealth”, by any stretch of the imagination.  But yes, all of my “long term savings” is in metal, and has been for more than forty years.  And yes, again.  Anyone who hopes to survive the coming economic tsunami, which both history and evidence dictates is poised to envelop us, had better convert their savings from “dollar-denominated anything”, into metal.

I further suggest, that while gold will rise spectacularly in “buying power”, under the influence of events to come, silver's rise in buying power will be twice as great.  The reason for this prediction is simple.  When the world is forced back to the stability of the metal-based currency, governments will once more be compelled to strike silver “street coin”.  The governments of pre-World War II, all struck silver coin, which represented a huge demand on the silver market – and it was this demand that established the pre-WWII silver-gold ratio, of 16:1 worldwide.  That is – one ounce of gold was equal to sixteen ounces of silver – a ratio that had stood for more than 300 years.  It was the abandonment of governmentally struck silver street coin, following WWII, that has since seen that ratio oscillate from 40:1 to 80:1 and back again, many times.  The current ratio is roughly 40:1

What do you feel is the most important issue folks should be addressing or doing with their personal finances?

Let me start this response by relating my impression that the Bretton-Woods conference (of 1944), essentially set the “scenario” for the world's economy for the following hundred years – but not the “dialog”.  By “dialog”, I mean the precise details of how that scenario would play out.  As things currently stand, we are already at the brink edge of the noted collapse, which can now be triggered by any number of specific events.  For example, one such event could have been (or might be, in the future) the U.S. Government's failure to raise its arbitrary “debt ceiling” (which would then trigger a massive default on this country's financial obligations [debts]).  What that trigger will actually consist of, is totally unknown – except that such a trigger is now certain to occur, most probably through a foolish political mistake or misjudgment.  Naturally, the inventive machinations in world politics will endeavor to avoid such a trigger at all possible cost, until the last possible moment.  But as a result, the longer that it takes for that collapse to occur, the more severe will be the crash that follows.  As to “when” that event might be – who knows.  Five years?  Two years?  Six months?  Or perhaps a week from Tuesday.

What should people be doing now?  In my opinion, they should rush to take advantage of whatever time remains, to convert whatever long-term savings they have into metal, and more particularly, into silver.  Moreover, in my view, stocking up on food and guns (or whatever) is a foolish failure to recognize, that the United States is still the most productive country in the world, which currently feeds one-fourth of the world's population.  When the collapse finally occurs, those who possess the “buying power”, will then be in a perfect position to buy anything (or anyone) they want.

Though you speak of the demise of the dollar – do you see in light at the end of the tunnel – any hope for saving it?

Since the predictions of Adam Smith (1775), in regard to fiat currency has thus far proven flawless, and recognizing the worldwide inflation of all of the world's currencies, to now be progressing geometrically – do you see any way of avoiding a worldwide return to hard money?  The tragedy is that since it is inherent in the nature of politics, and of politicians, to “live in the eternal now”, our leadership (which should be looking ahead to this reality) has simply chosen to ignore the inescapable evidence which my writings now outline.   And worldwide, they will twist and turn and manipulate in any futile attempt, “to make 17 cents add up to a dollar”.  This leadership is determined to lead us all over the edge – like lemmings to the sea.

In consequence, we must individually secure our own affairs, first by understanding the “mechanics” of currency, and through that understanding, realize that what we must “save” is “BUYING POWER” (not paper money) – and by that means, to save in any form of “media” that preserves that buying power – namely, gold and silver.  To do anything else is to “cut the anchor chain – and then go down with the anchor”.

You can find out more about Wayne at his website and through his new book entitled, “Adventures of an Apple Founder“.

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  1. Great interview. Good questions posed and fascinating answers given.

    • Thanks for reading Iberius.

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