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Wozniak, Stephen


Stephen "Woz" Wozniak was born on August 11, 1950, in San Jose, California. He grew up in Sunnyvale, California, which is located in the Santa Clara Valley. This area became a center of high-technology research and development in the 1950s and 1960s and acquired the nickname, Silicon Valley. Wozniak's father was an aerospace engineer at Lockheed.

Although Wozniak shared the same interests as other young boys when he was growing up, he also took an early interest in electronics and computers. He read books and magazines about computer innovations, software programs, and electronic products. At age 11 or 12 he built his own amateur "ham" radio and earned an operator's license. As a teenager he designed computers and software programs, although he couldn't afford to make any of the designs a reality.

Wozniak also designed and built a variety of electronic gadgets, some of them for science fairs, others for his own personal use. His ability to create electronic inventions earned him the nickname, "Woz the Wiz." The "Woz" nickname has stuck with him throughout his life.

After graduating from Cupertino's Homestead High School in 1968, Wozniak attended the University of Colorado at Boulder for one year. He then returned to Sunnyvale and began working as a programmer for a small computer company. Although his electronics and computer projects kept him busy, he did not abandon college altogether. After taking some classes at a local community college, he transferred to the University of California at Berkeley to continue his engineering studies.


After finishing his junior year at UC-Berkeley, Wozniak took a summer job at Hewlett-Packard. The summer job turned into a 10-year career, and Wozniak didn't return to UC-Berkeley until 1981, after he and Steve Jobs co-founded Apple Computer Co.

While working for Hewlett-Packard during the summer of 1970, Wozniak also spent time working on his own computer designs with his friend Bill Fernandez. One of Fernandez's friends was 15-year-old Steve Jobs, who shared Wozniak's fascination with computer technology. Wozniak and Jobs began to share ideas and tinker with electronic projects together. They also shared a love of practical jokes and technological challenges. In one instance, they created an electronic device that could tap into telephone company computers to make free long-distance calls.

Wozniak and Jobs joined the Homebrew Computer Club in 1975. The group consisted of computer programmers and engineers who met informally to discuss computers, software, and electronics. Wozniak was inspired by their enthusiasm for computer technology and decided to design a computer that would incorporate all of the latest technological advances into one simple machine. At the time computers were massive, complex machines that only computer professionals could use.

Wozniak first wrote a detailed software program for the yet-to-be-built computer. Then he found inexpensive and easy-to-find components to build a personal computer for the software to run on. When he showed it to the members of the Homebrew Computer Club, they were impressed, but none more than Steve Jobs. Jobs convinced Wozniak they should establish a company to sell the new computer.


Wozniak and Jobs used Jobs' parents' garage in Los Altos for their base of operations to build the new computer. They settled on the name Apple, and in April 1976 Apple Computer Co. officially went into business. Wozniak was responsible for computer and software design, while Jobs handled marketing and sales and other aspects of the business. The company's first computer was called the Apple I. Within a few weeks a local computer shop placed an order for $50,000 worth of computers, forcing Wozniak and Jobs to borrow money to build and deliver the computers on time.

During Apple's first year Wozniak continued to work on improvements to the Apple I while still holding a job at Hewlett-Packard. By the end of 1976, however, Jobs and new business partner Mike Mark-kula convinced Wozniak, who had recently married, to leave Hewlett-Packard and work full time for Apple. In January 1977 Apple officially incorporated and moved into a new office in Cupertino.

After working full-time on his new computer design for a couple of months, Wozniak completed his design for the Apple II in 1977. The new computer was the first fully assembled programmable computer that was small enough to fit on a desktop. Among its innovative features were a high-resolution color video display, a cassette-tape interface, and a built-in keyboard. The computer also included a plastic case and a built-in speaker for sound.

The Apple II came to be regarded as the world's first personal computer. It was also an immediate success, and Apple recorded $2 million in sales by the end of 1977. Seeking to make even more improvements to the Apple II, Wozniak, together with programmer Randy Wigginton, invented a flexible disk drive to replace the cassette-tape interface. The flexible disk drive read information from a floppy diskette instead of a cassette tape. By mid-1978 all Apple II computers came with a flexible disk drive. The creation of the flexible disk drive was another innovation that is now regarded as an important step in the development of personal computers.


Apple's success made more than 40 Apple employees and investors millionaires by the start of the new decade, and Jobs, Wozniak, and Markkula became very wealthy as a result. For Wozniak, the 1980s were a time of great changes and new directions. His first marriage ended in divorce in 1980. In 1981 he was seriously injured, along with his new fiancée Candi Clark, when a small plane that he was piloting crashed on the runway. Wozniak suffered head injuries that affected his short-term memory.

As Apple grew into a big company in the 1980s, Wozniak became dissatisfied with his role there. Following the plane crash, he took a leave of absence and, from then on, did only limited engineering work for Apple. While on leave in the early 1980s, Wozniak spent his energy organizing a three-day music festival that was held on Labor Day in 1982 and again in 1983. The US Festival featured top acts such as Fleetwood Mac and the Grateful Dead and was staged by noted rock promoter Bill Graham.

For his work on designing personal computers, Wozniak was awarded the National Medal of Technology in 1985. He resigned from Apple in 1985, the same year Jobs left the company. After selling his Apple stock for an estimated $70 million, Wozniak formed a new company, CL9, to design and market a universal remote-control device that he invented known as Core. CL9 merged with another company, Tech Force, that manufactured toy robots operated by remote-control devices. After failing to turn a profit, Tech Force went out of business in 1990.

By the 1990s Wozniak was out of the business world. His marriage to former Olympic kayaker Candi Clark ended in divorce in 1990. Later that year he married Suzanne Mulkern, an attorney with three children. Together with Wozniak's three children from his marriage with Clark, the family was a big one. When his son Jesse discovered computers at age 9 in 1991, Wozniak was inspired to begin a class for Jesse and some of his classmates in the summer of 1992. He bought them Apple Macintosh PowerBooks and taught them three times a week from his office in Silicon Valley. By 1993 Jesse's computer class had grown to 12 students, and Wozniak began another one with 20 fifth-grade students. The class consisted of hand-picked students and met after school.

During the 1990s Wozniak's connection to the modern computer industry was limited to occasional speeches on technology issues and appearances at Macworld conventions. He established his own Web site where visitors can exchange e-mail with him and read about his views on computer technology. The site also features WozCam video cameras that are installed throughout his seven-bedroom house in Los Gatos. In 2000 Wozniak was named to the Inventors Hall of Fame.


Kendall, Martha E. Steve Wozniak: Inventor of the Apple Computer. Los Gatos, CA: Highland Publishing Group, 2000.

Min, Janice. "Wizard of Woz: Apple's Steve Wozniak Is ReprogrammedAs a Grade-School Teacher." People Weekly, February 14, 1994.

Picarille, Lisa. "Apple's Engineering GeniusSteve Wozniak." Computer Reseller News, November 15, 1998.

Sellers, Dennis. "Apple Cofounder Named to Hall of Fame." Computer User, September 2000.

"Steve Wozniak." Biography Today: Scientists and Inventors Series Vol. 7. Detroit: Omnigraphics, 2001.

SEE ALSO: Apple Computer; Jobs, Steven

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Stephen Wozniak


Apple cofounder Stephen Wozniak was in his mid-20s, working for Hewlett Packard, when he and Steven Jobs began to build the first Apple computer. When their company went public in 1980, Wozniak made $135 million.

In February of 1981, Wozniak sustained serious injuries in a plane crash. After recovering, he intermittently worked at Apple, and briefly ran his own company making universal remote controls. He has become well known for his philanthropy and interest in lifelong learning. In 1990 Wozniak hired teachers to help him collaborate with the Los Gatos School District to teach computer science to middle school students in his own computer lab.

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Wozniak, Stephen Gary


The technical genius behind the Apple I and II microcomputers that launched Apple Computer, Inc., Stephen Wozniak (1950) revolutionized computer design. By creating machines that were easy to use and relatively low in price, he helped launch the era of the personal computer. With Apple cofounder Steven Jobs (1955), Wozniak worked out of his garage to develop Apple's breakthrough computers. Within 10 years he was running a company with 1,000 employees and annual sales of $500 million.

Stephen Gary Wozniak was born on August 11, 1950, in San Jose, California. Wozniak was the eldest of three children. His father, Jerry, was an engineer at Lockheed. Wozniak's interest in science and engineering came early. His father gave him a crystal radio kit when he was seven and an electronics kit a year later. Around fourth grade Wozniak recalls reading Tom Swift books about "this young guy who was an engineer, and he owned his own company. . . . It was just the most intriguing world, like the first TV shows you ever watched." His father also helped with various science fair projects on electronics. By sixth grade Wozniak had designed a computer that played tic-tac-toe. Wozniak continued to design computers through high school and college, without taking a course or even buying a book on how to do it. He just pieced things together with a group of like-minded friends. At age 14 Wozniak won an award for building a binary adding and subtracting machine, one of hundreds of small computers he designed before Apple.

Growing up in Sunnyvale in the Silicon Valley, the area between San Francisco and San Jose that is studded with electronics firms, Wozniak felt right at home. Something of a math and science prodigy, Wozniak was also a cutup and a practical joker. As his mother, Margaret, recalls, "I knew my son would either be rich or wind up in jail." Although Wozniak scored a perfect 800 on his math SAT, he lacked social skills and shunned parties, preferring technical magazines. In 1968 Wozniak attended the University of Colorado, having been rejected by Cal Tech. His second year was spent at De Anza College before he transferred to the University of California at Berkeley to study electrical engineering. Dropping out of Berkeley after his junior year, Wozniak became a designer of calculator chips at Hewlett-Packard. He also began to attend meetings of the Homebrew Computer Club, a group of Silicon Valley high-tech enthusiasts that set him on the course of designing inexpensive personal computers.

Wozniak met the younger Steven P. Jobs, another Homestead High alumnus, in 1968. In 1971 the pair started their first business venture: making "blue boxes" that allowed people to make free long-distance phone calls. They built the devices and sold them for $150 each to Wozniak's fellow students. He and Jobs continued to build microcomputers for the Homebrew Computer Club and in 1976 Jobs proposed starting a computer company, Apple Computer. He was 22 and Wozniak was 26. After several high-tech names were rejected, Jobs, who had worked in an orchard, proposed the name Apple. With Jobs concentrating on marketing and sales, Wozniak began to build the first Apple computer.

The Apple I was assembled in Jobs' family garage. Wozniak's design stressed simplicity and ease of use. Microcomputers prior to Apple were mainly for electronic hobbyists; Wozniak had constructed a machine that was affordable, useful, fun, and simple. Within a month of assembling the Apple I, they landed a $50,000 order. Wozniak's later design of a flexible disc (a "floppy disc") to replace the clumsy magnetic tape that all small computers then used for information storage was a revolutionary breakthrough. It was incorporated into the Apple II, a computer that made the company's fortune and transformed the personal computer business. The Apple II was the first small computer with a plastic case, the first with high-resolution color graphics, the first with so few chips for a complete system, and the first with a built-in speaker port for sound. Wozniak had designed a small but effective personal computer that could be used by ordinary people without complex training and commands that had been essential in microcomputers up to this time. Apple, therefore, had extended computer use to a much wider audience and pioneered the personal computer market. In subsequent refinements Apple marketed the IIe, III, and the IIc, as well as Lisa and Macintosh in the early 1980s. Wozniak's technical genius was behind each of these projects.

Wozniak married three times. He met his first wife, Alice Robertson, over a Dial-a-Joke line that he had started and sometimes manned as "Stanley Zeber Zenskanitsky." They divorced in 1980. Wozniak's second wife, Candi Clark, was an Apple financial analyst who made the 1976 Olympics as a kayaker. The couple had three children. In 1981 the two were aboard Wozniak's Beechcraft Bonanza on a flight to San Diego to purchase their wedding rings when the plane crashed on takeoff. Candi suffered a skull fracture and numerous broken bones in her face. Wozniak was afflicted with short-term amnesia for five weeks. The accident, Apple's growing bureaucracy, and management hassles precipitated Wozniak taking a leave of absence from the company. While away from Apple, he resumed studying for his computer science degree at Berkeley, which he received in 1987. In the late 1990s Wozniak married Suzanne Mulkern, who also had three children from a former marriage. Mulkern, a lawyer, had been a seventh-grade classmate of Wozniak.

Wozniak gave away about half his shares in Apple before it went public in 1980, including $40 million in stock to his first wife, $4 million to his parents, brother and sister, and $2 million to friends. However, Wozniak's remaining 3.7 million shares were worth around $100 million. In 1982 and 1983 Wozniak, a rock music enthusiast, organized two U.S. Festivals of rock music and in 1987 the first U.S.-Soviet stadium rock concerts in Moscow, Russia. He has donated over $7 million to various charities, particularly in the San Jose area.

Wozniak remained devoted to his family in the late 1990s; he said that he would rather be remembered as a good father than as an icon of the computer era. His leisure activities included attending Golden State Warrior games, playing Tetris on his GameBoy, and going through manuals on new computer programs. He also collected uncut sheets of two dollar bills

Wozniak, who continued to see himself as an engineer and programmer rather than as a business executive, became less and less involved in the running of Apple in the late 1990s; he continued to offer design ideas, maintain an office, and earn a small salary from the company. In 1991 he embarked on a new career as a grade-school teacher. Inspired by his son Jesse's growing interest in computers, Wozniak began an ad-hoc class for him and his fifth-grade classmates in 1992. He later expanded Jesse's class, started a new one of 20 fifth-graders, and taught a class for teachers at the local middle school. Wozniak intended to complete his teacher certification and maintain his teaching at the elementary school level. He said, "I was born to teachI have always had this gift with children."

Wozniak is one of the true pioneers of the computer age. By designing a simple-to-use and relatively inexpensive microcomputer, he helped to create the personal computer business that has transformed modern life. More of an inventive engineer than a businessman, Wozniak's computer designs have become standard in the technological revolution that he helped to start. The multibillion-dollar personal computer industries can trace its origins in part to Wozniak's innovations. Wozniak helped initiate the continuing development of smaller, faster, and easier to use computers that could reach more users. The world following the appearance of the first Apple computer has changed remarkably, and Wozniak's innovations have contributed greatly to those changes.

Wozniak has used the fortune he gained from his inventions to make a difference in his community and in the world. He has brought people together for rock music, accelerated the thaw in U.S.-Soviet relations by offering computer expertise and arranging exchanges, and served in his local community as a teacher of the next generation of computer wizards. Wozniak has predicted that computers will eventually reach the physical limit of their hardware, which will allow programmers to create what he has called "something like a Ten Commandments of Software." For example, computers shall not crash, and error messages shall be understandable. Wozniak foresees future computers becoming more like real people, moving away from menu-driven controls. At the very end of the twentieth century, despite his withdrawal from active work at Apple, Wozniak remained on the cutting edge of computer design.

See also: Paul Allen, Computer Industry, William Gates III, Steven Jobs


Friesberger, Paul, and Michael Swaine. Fire in the Valley: The Making of the Personal Computer. Berkeley and Los Angeles: Osborne/McGraw-Hill, 1984.

Garr, Doug. Woz: The Prodigal Son of Silicon Valley. New York: Avon, 1984.

Linzmayer, Owen W. Apple Confidential: The Real Story of Apple Computer, Inc. San Francisco: No Starch Press, 1999.

Moritz, Michael. The Little Kingdom: The Private Story of Apple Computer. New York: William Morrow, 1984.

Rose, Frank. West of Eden. New York: Penguin, 1990.

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