Who is Steve Wozniak?

wiseGEEK Writer

If you’re reading this from your Apple computer, or you just love Macs in general, it’s hard not to get excited about Steve Jobs and the other Steve, as he’s fondly called, Steve Wozniak. Wozniak, together with Jobs is best known for founding Apple Computers. While Steve Wozniak is no longer an active employee of Apple, he still enjoys showing up for events like the yearly MacWorld, and most of his projects of late are of a charitable nature, including his massive contributions to the San Jose Children’s Discovery Museum.

Steve Wozniak was in charge of research and development in the early days of Apple.
Steve Wozniak was in charge of research and development in the early days of Apple.

A native of San Jose, CA, which would later become a key “computer area” called Silicon Valley, Steve Wozniak is fairly unassuming for a multimillionaire. He resists the public attention and prefers to take a backseat to Jobs. He was much more interested in developing product rather than running a company. Wozniak left Apple in 1987 to first develop a series of remote control switches, which did not do well on the market, and then briefly took a stint as a 5th grade teacher. Today he primarily supports educational endeavors through his charitable foundation Unuson, initially created to sponsor the US festivals in 1982 and 1983.

Apple Inc. was started by Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs.
Apple Inc. was started by Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs.

The role of Steve Wozniak in helping to create Apple was not marked by ambition to produce a world-renowned computer. Instead, initially, Steve Wozniak was most interested in creating a computer to wow his friends in the Homebrew Computer Club to which he belonged. The two Steves had met in 1970, and Steve Jobs was five years younger than Wozniak. Steve Wozniak was 20, and Steve Jobs was 15 when they met.

Jobs was inspired by the idea that he could make a personal computer, and Steve Wozniak was inspired by Jobs. Together, they worked developing prototypes of the Apple in some very unassuming places, at first in Jobs’ bedroom and then in Wozniak’s garage. Eventually they felt they ought to form a company. Though Wozniak was at the time working for Hewlett Packard, he quit to become Vice President when Apple was founded in 1976.

Steve Wozniak was particularly in charge of research and development, since the early computer designs he and Jobs had worked on together needed many improvements. Ultimately, Wozniak was responsible for developing much of the hardware and some of the software needed to create the Apple II. Just ten years after the first meeting between Jobs and Steve Wozniak, Apple became a publicly traded company, and the two Steves at the ages of 30 and 25 were millionaires.

An airplane accident in 1981 caused Steve Wozniak to suffer a form of amnesia, and he decided to leave Apple for a brief time to finish his degree at University of California, Berkeley. He earned his degree in 1986, but returned to Apple in the capacity of product development only in 1983. 1982 and 1983 also marked Wozniak’s founding of Unuson and his sponsoring of the two US festivals. He officially retired from Apple in 1987, and pursued several different career directions.

Steve Wozniak, sometimes referred to as the “Woz," has received numerous honors. He received the National Medal of Technology from President Reagan in 1985, was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2000, and has two honorary doctorate degrees from Kettering University and Nova Southeastern University. You can read more about Steve Wozniak in his 2006 autobiography iWoz: from Computer Geek to Cult Icon. Additionally the film Pirates of Silicon Valley made for television in 1999 received good reviews and is available on DVD.

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