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Apple icons no. 2: Steve Wozniak, Apple's engineering genius

Lou Hattersley | Jan. 2, 2014
Biography of Steve Wozniak: co-founder of Apple, noted silicon valley philanthropist and architect of the Apple Computer.

Steve Wozniak profile
Steve "Woz" Wozniak is a co-founder of Apple Computer, and the principle designer and creator of the Apple I and Apple II microcomputers.

Along with his friend Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak founded Apple Computer in 1976 along with a third co-founder, Ronald Wayne.

Wozniak was born on August 11 1950 to Margaret Elaine and Jacob Francis "Jerry" Wozniak. His father was an engineer at Lockheed Martin.

Steve Wozniak grew up in the 1950s in Cupertino, California. The area was predominantly agricultural at the time, but would later become known as Silicon Valley. In his book iWoz, he describes being interested in electronics from a very young age. Wozniak frequently attended science fairs and recalls winning every science fair competition he entered, except one.

Wozniak has spoken as a child longing for a Data General Nova computer. When his dad told him, "they cost as much as a house" he replied "Well, I'll live in an apartment."

His hobby at high school was redesigning electronic components. He also liked to play pranks, and recalled inventing a device that could cause interference with television signals at the push of a button. He would use it to try and control people, by convincing them that the television would only work if they hit it, or held the antenna or stood on one leg and so on.

Wozniak didn't have many companions at high school. But became friends with Steve Jobs after a mutual friend introduced them because they both liked electronics and playing pranks.

After high school Wozniak went briefly to the University of Colorado in Boulder, but due to the high costs of attending he enrolled in his second year at De Anza College, San Francisco and later worked at Hewlett-Packard.

In 1976 Steve Jobs approached Wozniak to assist him in designing and building a video game called Breakout. Jobs had been offered $750 with a bonus for every chip fewer than 50 he could use to complete the game, by Nolan Bushnell, the founder of Atari. Bushnell was reportedly tired of Atari engineers typically using between 150-170 chips per machine.

Wozniak and Jobs worked on the design for four days without sleep, finally delivering a design to Atari that used 44 TTL (transistor-transistor logic) chips. Wozniak's original design used 42 chips but Wozniak said "we were so tired we couldn't cut it down".

Jobs reportedly only shared $375 with Wozniak telling him only of the $750 payment (not the bonus). Wozniak reportedly did not learn about the bonus until 10 years later, but said that if Jobs had told him and said he needed the money, he would have given it to him.


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