The Woz

Stephen Gary “Woz” Wozniak (born August 11, 1950 in San Jose, California) is an American computer engineer who co-founded Apple Computer, Inc. (now Apple Inc.) with Steve Jobs and Ronald Wayne. His inventions and machines are credited with contributing significantly to the personal computer revolution of the 1970s. Wozniak created the Apple I and Apple II computers in the mid-1970s.

Wozniak has several nicknames, including “The Woz”, “Wonderful Wizard of Woz” and “iWoz” (a reference to the ubiquitous naming scheme for Apple products). “WoZ” (short for “Wheels of Zeus”) is also the name of a company Wozniak founded. He is sometimes known as the “Other Steve” of Apple Computer, the better known Steve being co-founder Steve Jobs. He has Polish ancestry.

In 1970, Wozniak became friends with Steve Jobs, when Jobs had a summer job at the same business where Wozniak was working on a mainframe computer. According to Wozniak’s autobiography, iWoz, Jobs had the idea to sell the computer as a fully assembled printed circuit board. Wozniak, at first skeptical, was later convinced by Jobs that even if they were not successful they could at least say to their grandkids they had had their own company. Together they sold some of their possessions (such as Wozniak’s HP scientific calculator and Jobs’s Volkswagen van), raised USD $1,300, and assembled the first prototypes in Jobs’s bedroom and later (when there was no space left) in Jobs’s garage. Wozniak’s apartment in San Jose was filled with monitors, electronic devices, and some computer games Wozniak had developed, similar to SuperPong but with voice overs to the blips on the screen. Wozniak carried electronic devices with him often, and would entertain party goers with novel devices.

By 1975, Wozniak withdrew from the University of California, Berkeley and came up with the computer that eventually made him famous and some have compared to a work of art since the hardware, circuit board designs, and operating system was the work solely of Wozniak. With the Apple I design, he and Jobs were largely working to impress other members of the Palo Alto-based Homebrew Computer Club, a local group of electronics hobbyists very interested in computing, one of several key centers which established the home hobbyist era essentially creating the personal computer industry over several years. Unlike other Home Brew competitors, the Apple had an easy-to-achieve video capability that immediately created buzz and drew a crowd when it was unveiled.

On April 1, 1976, Jobs and Wozniak formed Apple Computer. Wozniak quit his job at Hewlett-Packard and became the vice president in charge of research and development at Apple. Their first product, the Apple I computer, was similar to the Altair 8800, the first commercially available personal computer, except it had no provision for internal expansion cards. With the addition of these cards, the Altair could be attached to a computer terminal and could be programmed in BASIC. The Apple I was purely a hobbyist machine, a $25 microprocessor (MOS 6502) on a single-circuit board with 256 bytes of ROM, 4K or 8K bytes of RAMand a 40 character by 24 row display controller. It lacked a case, power supply, keyboard, or display, which had to be provided by the user. The Apple I was priced at $666.66. (Wozniak later said he had no idea about the correlation between the number and the mark of the beast, and “I came up with [it] because I like repeating digits.” It was $500 plus a 1/3 markup, which is actually $666.67, rounding up to the nearest penny.) Jobs and Wozniak sold their first 50 computers to Paul Terrell, who was starting a new computer shop, called the Byte Shop, in Mountain View, California. Terrell bought just the circuit board for the Apple I; he had to supply the keyboard, monitor, transformer, and even the case in which to put the computer.

Wozniak lives in Los Gatos, California. He is a member of a Segway Polo team, the Silicon Valley Aftershocks. In 2006, they were challenged to a game by the newly formed New Zealand Pole Blacks (the Woz Challenge Cup); the match ended in a 2-2 tie, with the Woz Challenge Cup staying in Auckland. In 2007, the Silicon Valley Aftershocks avenged the tie by defeating the Pole Blacks 5-0 in the Woz Challenge Cup finals. The 2008 Woz Challenge Cup was held at the SegwayFesT 2008 in Indianapolis, Indiana from 8–10 August 2008 (polo events ran 7–9 August 2008).

His favorite video game is Tetris. In the 1990s he submitted so many high scores for the game toNintendo Power that they would no longer print his scores, so he started sending them in under the alphabetically reversed “Evets Kainzow”.

He is also a sworn member of the Freemasons. Wozniak describes his impetus for joining the Freemasons as being able to spend more time with his wife at the time, Alice. Alice belonged to the Order of the Eastern Star, associated with the Masons. He says that although he took the necessary oaths and is a lifetime Freemason, he doesn’t actually put a whole lot of stock in the mystical and religious overtones of the oath or the order. He says that he joined the Freemasons for one specific purpose, but he is very unlike the other members of the order. He says he quickly rose to a third degree Freemason because, whatever he does, he tries to do well. He was initiated in 1980 at Charity Lodge No. 362 in Campbell, California.

He is married to Janet Hill. According to his ex-girlfriend Kathy Griffin, “He met someone very quickly and then they [got] engaged. I have had dinner with them, and she’s a thousand times more appropriate!

Wozniak is listed as the sole inventor on the following patents:

  • US Patent No. 4,136,359 – “Microcomputer for use with video display” – for which he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
  • US Patent No. 4,210,959 – “Controller for magnetic disc, recorder, or the like”
  • US Patent No. 4,217,604 – “Apparatus for digitally controlling PAL color display”
  • US Patent No. 4,278,972 – “Digitally-controlled color signal generation means for use with display”

Edited from Steve Wozniak

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