American Computer Designer and Electrical Engineer
Steven Wozniak designed and built the Apple I, the first complete, small, easy-to-use computer. His later Apple II added color capabilities, the simple computer language called BASIC, and came in one unit in a plastic case. Along with Steve Jobs (1955- ), Wozniak co-founded the Apple Computer Company.
Steven Wozniak was born in California in 1950, the son of a Lockheed engineer. At Homestead High in Sunnyvale, where he met Jobs, his spare time was spent building computers, arcade machines, and electronic devices in his garage. He belonged to a computer club, though his friend Jobs did not.
At the University of Colorado, De Anza Community College, and the University of California at Berkeley, Wozniak majored in electrical engineering. He dropped out of college and went to work for Hewlett-Packard in 1971, while Jobs worked at Atari. Wozniak spent his spare time designing computers. He and Steve Jobs unveiled the Apple I to the public at the first Computer Show in Atlantic City in August 1976. From the beginning, the Apple computer amazed the industry but did not sell well. No one would invest in it, so Wozniak and Jobs sold their personal possessions and incorporated Apple Computer Company in 1977. The corporate logo, an apple with a stem, a bite out of it, and bright color stripes to emphasize the color capabilities of the computers, is still one of the most recognized logos in the industry.
Apple II was a distinct improvement. Introduced the next year, it came in a plastic case, had color graphics, and ran BASIC and an accounting program called VisiCalc. It was designed for those interested in what a computer could do—not just how it worked. Orders skyrocketed and articles began to appear in magazines and newspapers about two college boys who had designed a successful computer in a garage. By the time Apple III appeared, the company had moved out of the garage, hired mid-level managers, and had several thousand employees. The machine was selling well even out-side the United States. By 1981, Apple sales topped $500 million.
Success changed the company. An older, more conservative executive board wanted Apple to become more conventional. Then the personal computer market became saturated, and Apple had to lay off 40 employees. Steve Jobs, who owned 11% of Apple stock, became chairman of the board in March 1981. Steve Wozniak took a leave of absence. He wanted to design computers, not run a business.
At this time Wozniak was involved in the crash of a small airplane he was piloting to San Diego. As a result, he was afflicted with a form of amnesia in which he says he could not form new memories. He didn't remember the crash for months and could not remember what he had just done or said. Slowly his ability to remember came back, but he was changed by the experience.
In 1982 Wozniak went back to work for Apple. After disagreements with Jobs and the board, he left for good in 1985. He was worth over $100 million at the time. He still owns stock and continues to receive a small stipend from the company. He finished his degree at the University of California at Berkeley and started a company to explore expanding the uses of electronics. He became involved in a group dedicated to eliminating international dissension. In 1990 he helped establish a company to investigate the legal ramifications of computers. He also donated many Apple computers to schools. He lives with his wife and several children in Los Gatos, California. He is still involved with computers and is proud of his designs and the pioneering innovations the Apple computers represent.
LYNDALL B. LANDAUER