iWoz: From Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer, Co-Founded Apple, and Had Fun Doing It
September 28, 2006
Steve Wozniak tells the tale of Apple's early years with such illuminating details and brio that engineers (and ordinary mortals) will feel they’d actually been on the scene. While lots of books recount this story, Wozniak says many of them “got it wrong.” So he decided to set down his own version, by book and lecture.
A ham radio licensee in 6th grade, Wozniak envisioned becoming an engineer, building "radios, TVs or guidance systems." It was a time when one “couldn’t hope to see a computer, and never own one because it cost as much as a house.”
Wozniak put himself through U.C. Berkeley by working in electronics firms, including Hewlett Packard. All the while he was designing primitive computers. Then came the fateful day when he met Steve Jobs, with whom he had an immediate affinity. "A lot of my life is driven by how you should live, your goals and values. A lot came from the pop music of the day, and we had similar tastes, like Bob Dylan." Both Wozniak and Jobs were fascinated by the early video games, like Pong, which had simple displays and controls. Wozniak stumbled on to the ARPANET, the precursor to the Internet, and was inspired by the idea of typing and seeing words appear on a video screen. ‘I said, Wow, I can design my own computer and build it almost for free.”
Wozniak devised a microprocessor with some memory and created the first "local computer." Jobs set out to sell the invention. The Apple I was born, and in record time, they had an order for 100 computers, at $666.66 each. The famous garage was a staging area where Wozniak tested the machines for defects. He notes about this time, “You can do things amazingly fast when you don’t have any lawyers.”
In 1977, Wozniak’s new and improved Apple II added basic programming language, as well as color and graphics, sound and paddles. This was the machine that convinced the world that computers didn’t just belong in big companies, but in everyone’s homes. “It was the biggest eureka moment of my life,” Wozniak says, when he realized that with software on a computer “you could do in half an hour what would take you a lifetime in hardware.” Whether with games, spreadsheet calculations or recipes, his computer had seized the imagination of an entire nation.
About the Speaker
Co-Founder, Apple Computer Founder, Chairman and CEO of Wheels of Zeus (wOz)
Steve Wozniak was awarded the National Medal of Technology in 1985, the highest honor bestowed America's leading innovators. In 2000, he was inducted into the Inventors Hall of Fame and was awarded the prestigious Heinz Award for Technology, The Economy and Employment for “single-handedly designing the first personal computer and for then redirecting his lifelong passion for mathematics and electronics toward lighting the fires of excitement for education in grade school students and their teachers.”
Wozniak founded the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and was the founding sponsor of the Tech Museum, Silicon Valley Ballet and Children's Discovery Museum of San Jose.
Wozniak recently published iWoz From Computer Geek to Culture Icon: How I invented the personal compter, co-founded Apple, and had fun doing it., (2006 Norton).