Biography of Steve Wozniak, Apple Computer Co-Founder

SteveWozniak.jpg
Steve Wozniak. Getty Images

Steve Wozniak (born Stephan Gary Wozniak; August 11, 1950) is the co-founder of Apple Computers, who is credited with being the main designer of the first Apples. A noted philanthropist who help found the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Wozniak was the founding sponsor of the Tech Museum, the Silicon Valley Ballet and the Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose.

Fast Facts: Steve Wozniak

  • Known For: Co-founder with Steve Jobs and main designer of the first Apple computers.
  • Born: August 11, 1950 in Los Gatos, California, USA.
  • Education: Attended De Anza College and the University of California, Berkeley; awarded a degree from Berkeley in 1986.
  • Spouse(s): Alice Robertson (m. 1976–1980), Candice Clark (m. 1981–1987), Suzanne Mulkern (m. 1990–2004), Janet Hill (m. 2008)
  • Foundations Started: Apple Computer, Inc., Electronic Freedom Frontier.
  • Awards and Honors: National Medal of Technology, Heinz Award for Technology, The Economy and Employment, Inventors Hall of Fame inductee.
  • Children: 3

Early Life

Wozniak (known as "the Woz") was born on August 11, 1950, in Los Gatos, California, and grew up in the Santa Clara Valley, now known as "Silicon Valley." Wozniak's father was an engineer for Lockheed, who always inspired his son's curiosity for learning with a few science fair projects, and who gave him his first crystal set at the age of six. Wozniak got his ham radio license in the sixth grade; and built an "adder/subtractor machine" to calculate binary arithmetic in the 8th grade.

As a young man, Wozniak was a bit of a prankster/genius, who wrote his first programs in his own version of FORTRAN at the University of Colorado but was put on probation for "computer abuse"—essentially he spent the computing budget for the whole class five times over. He designed his first computer called the "Cream Soda Computer," comparable to the Altair, by the time he was 18. He began courses at the University of California at Berkeley, where he was introduced to Steve Jobs by a mutual friend. Jobs, still in high school and four years younger, would become Wozniak's best friend and business partner. Their first project together was the Blue Box, which allowed the user to make long distance phone calls for free; Wozniak himself thinks he should be remembered by posterity for running the first dial-a-joke service in the San Francisco Bay area.

Early Career and Research

In 1973, Wozniak dropped out of college to begin designing calculators at Hewlett Packard, but he continued to work on side projects. One of those was to become the Apple-I. Wozniak built the first design for the Apple-I in his office at Hewlett Packard; he worked closely with an informal users group known as the Homebrew Computer Club, sharing schematics and giving away his code. Jobs had no input into the original build, but he was the visionary of the project, discussing enhancements and coming up with some investment money. They signed partnership papers on April 1, 1976 and began selling the Apple-I at $666 per computer. That same year, Wozniak began to design the Apple-II.

In 1977, the Apple-II was revealed to the public at the West Coast Computer Faire. It was an astonishing success, even at the very steep price of $1,298, selling 100,000 units in three years. Jobs opened their first business office at Cupertino and Wozniak finally quit his job at H-P. Wozniak has been credited by everyone including Steve Jobs as the main designer on the Apple I and Apple II. The Apple II was the first commercially successful line of personal computers, featuring a central processing unit, a keyboard, color graphics and a floppy disk drive.

Leaving Apple

On February 7, 1981, Wozniak crashed his single engine aircraft in Scotts Valley, California, an event which caused Wozniak to temporarily lose his memory, and, on a deeper level it certainly changed his life. After the accident, Wozniak left Apple and returned to Berkeley to finish his degree in electrical engineering/computer science—but dropped out again because he found the curriculum confining. He was awarded a bachelor's degree anyway in 1986, and has since been awarded numerous degrees from institutions such as Kettering and Michigan State University.

Wozniak did return to work for Apple Computers for a brief period between 1983 and 1985. During that time he greatly influenced the design of the Apple Macintosh computer, the first successful home computer with a mouse-driven graphical interface. He still has a ceremonial role in the company saying, "I keep a tiny residual salary to this day because that's where my loyalty should be forever."

He founded the "UNUSON" (Unite Us In Song) corporation and put on two rock festivals. The enterprise lost money. In 1990, he joined Mitchell Kapor in establishing the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the leading nonprofit organization defending civil liberties in the digital world. In 1987, he created the first universal remote.

In 2007, Wozniak published his autobiography, "iWoz: From Computer Geek to Cult Icon," which was on the best seller list of The New York Times. Between 2009 and 2014, he was hired as chief scientist for Fusion-io, Inc., a computer hardware and software company that was acquired by SanDisk Coporation; and then was Chief Scientist at the data virtualization company Primary Data, which shut down in 2018.

Marriage and Family

Steve Wozniak has been married four times, to Alice Robertson (m. 1976–1980), Candice Clark (m. 1981–1987), Suzanne Mulkern (m. 1990–2004), and currently Janet Hill (m. 2008). He has three children, from his marriage with Candice Clark.

Awards

Wozniak was awarded the National Medal of Technology by the President of the United States in 1985, the highest honor bestowed on 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."

Sources