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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.

To found Apple Wozniak sold his HP-65 calculator (then worth $500) and Jobs sold his VW Microbus. Wozniak was the product designer, Jobs led the business and sales side of things. Wozniak and Jobs built user-friendly computers from the Jobs' family garage.

Wozniak first designed the Apple I computer, a so-called "homebrew" device. It was designed to be sold to hobbyists and sold demonstrated in July 1976 to the Homebrew Computer Club in Palo Alto, California. Unlike other home computers, which were sold as kits, the Apple I was a fully integrated circuit board. Buyers still had to add their own case, power supply, keyboard and display.

Thanks to Steve Jobs' ability to hustle high quality components for a low costs, the original Apple I designed by Wozniak was a seriously impressive computer that sold for $666.66 (Wozniak reportedly choose the price because he liked recurring numbers, and it was a third more than the build cost). Wired's Gary Wolf explains: "The owners of an Apple I got a machine with 8K of RAM. After they loaded Woz's 4K Basic into it - by hand, programming in hexadecimal - and added a keyboard and a monitor and wired two transformers onto the power supply, they could use the remaining 4K to run their programs. It was a computer for serious hobbyists, who loved it as they probably have never loved another computer since."

Wozniak then went on to engineer the Apple II computer, which was released in 10 June 1977. The Apple II computer, in particular, is notable for being the first commercially successful personal computer to feature a central processing unit, keyboard, colour graphics and a floppy drive. In both terms of design and build it is much more advanced than its predecessor, appearing similar to the type of home computer we would recognise today. By 1983 Apple had a stock value of $985 million.

In 1984 Wozniak went on to assist Apple in designing the Apple Macintosh computer, but in 1987 he stopped working principally for Apple. Wozniak has never formally left Apple though, and remains an employee receiving a stipend (estimated to be around $120,000) per year. He is an Apple shareholder, however, and has an estimated net worth of around $100 million.

Wozniak has been involved in several technology ventures post-Apple although none have had the same impact in the technology market. His first venture CL 9 was designed to build universal remote controls, and his Wheels of Zeus project was designed to use GPS technology to help locate everyday objects. He is also on the Board of Directors at Ripcord Networks, Danger. Inc and founded Acquicor Technology along with other Apple alumni Ellen Hancock and Gil Amelio.

 

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