The Wizard of Woz: Steve Wozniak - the Man Behind the Scenes

Some people may only know of one Steve that founded Apple. The company’s name itself is almost synonymous with the late Steve Jobs. Jobs was the face of Apple and the driving force of the company’s marketing, before passing away on October 5, 2011. However, without Steve Wozniak, the technical guru and co-founder of Apple, there wouldn’t have been a product to market in the first place. In this article, we will pull back the curtains and learn more about “The Woz.”

Life Before Apple

Stephen Gary Wozniak was born on August 11th, 1950 in San Jose, California. His father, Jerry Wozniak was an electronics engineer in what would come to be known as Silicon Valley. The apple certainly did not fall far from the tree. From an early age, Wozniak despised the concept of formal education.  He was a larger fan of self-education and hands-on application of knowledge. This led to his aptitude for creating homemade electronic devices. Although he was not the biggest fan of formal education, he still attended Cupertino Junior High School, where he won a blue ribbon for the best electronics project, which was a binary computer that could add and subtract. He also attended Homestead High School, where the teachers sent him to program computers at an electronics company, Sylvania, because he was too advanced for any of their electronics or math classes. After finishing High School, he attended the University of Colorado Boulder, where he was expelled his first year for sending prank messages on the school’s computer system. He re-enrolled at De Anza Community College and transferred to the University of California, Berkley in 1971, where he eventually dropped out twice. He received his B.S. degree in electrical engineering in 1987, after the school decided to give him credit for his work at Apple.

The Meeting of the Steves

Woz and Jobs met through a mutual friend named Bill Fernandez. Apparently, Bill thought that the two should be introduced because of their love for electronics and also their love for playing pranks. While working at Hewlett-Packard, where he designed their scientific calculators, he spent time collaborating with Jobs on other projects as well. He helped Jobs design a game called Breakout, in which they split the $750 award for the project (Wozniak found out later there was a substantially larger bonus for the project that he was not aware of). Wozniak proposed his idea for the Apple 1 computer and was rejected by HP five times. They didn’t believe there was a need for anyone to personally own a computer. It was Steve Jobs that finally convinced him to branch off and join him on their own adventure of creating their own company and marketing the idea themselves.

Making History

On April 1, 1976, Jobs and Wozniak formed Apple. They sold some of their personal belongings for capital and worked out of Job’s bedroom to start out. Not the most ideal workplace, but it allowed them the space to develop their first printed circuit boards. Later on they decided to set up shop in Jobs’ garage. I know, still not the most extravagant headquarters. The same year that Apple was founded was also the same year when Wozniak finally completed the design for the Apple 1 personal computer.  They sold the first one for $666.66 in July of 1976. All in all, they manufactured a total of 200 and sold 180 of them. Selling all but 20 of their first personal computers wasn’t a bad start for two guys working out of a garage if you ask me. After achieving success with the Apple 1, Wozniak began designing the Apple 2. This was the first PC that could display color graphics and had the BASIC programming language built in to it. This was also the PC that Jobs and Wozniak argued over, creating some tension in the relationship. Jobs apparently wanted only two expansion slots, while Wozniak opted for 8. After a heated argument between the two and Wozniak threatening that Jobs would have to “find another computer,” they decided to go with eight. The Apple 2 was released in June of 1977 and ended up being the first personal computer that was mass produced and became known as “the people’s computer.” In 1980, Apple went public and Jobs and Wozniak became instant millionaires. By the end of production, in 1993, between five and six million Apple 2 computers were sold.

Life After Apple

In 1981, Wozniak was involved in a plane crash, which forced him to step away from Apple temporarily. In 1983, he returned to Apple.  However, he was only interested in a role as an engineer. Two years later, he decided that Apple was not going in the right direction and the company was holding him back. In 1985, Wozniak permanently resigned from Apple and sold most of his stock in the company. After his departure from Apple, he founded his own company, CL 9. He pursued several other business and philanthropic ventures, including teaching technology in K-12 schools. He is currently the chief scientist at a data virtualization company, called Primary Data.  

Mission Accomplished?

It was definitely a rough beginning for Jobs and Woz.  Starting out in a bedroom, heated arguments and the decline of their friendship.  Overall, the upside still outweighs the negatives. Together, they ushered in the personal computer revolution, made millions and beat the odds.  Who would have thought that two guys in a garage would change the world? They were innovators, pioneers and despite their disagreements a pretty good team, considering what they were able to achieve.  Even though it was a rocky road I believe it is safe to say that they accomplished their mission.

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