Stephen Gary Wozniak (/ˈwɒzniæk/; born August 11, 1950), also known by his nickname "Woz", is an American technology entrepreneur, electronics engineer, computer programmer, philanthropist, and inventor. In 1976, he co-founded Apple Computer with his late business partner Steve Jobs, which later became the world's largest technology company by revenue and the largest company in the world by market capitalization. Through his work at Apple in the 1970s and 1980s, he is widely recognized as one of the most prominent pioneers of the personal computer revolution.
Stephen Gary Wozniak
August 11, 1950
San Jose, California, U.S.
|Education||University of Colorado, Boulder|
De Anza College
University of California, Berkeley (BS EECS)
|Call sign||ex-WA6BND (ex-WV6VLY)|
In 1975, Wozniak started developing the Apple I: 150 into the computer that launched Apple when he and Jobs first began marketing it the following year. He primarily designed the Apple II, introduced in 1977, known as one of the first highly successful mass-produced microcomputers, while Jobs oversaw the development of its foam-molded plastic case and early Apple employee Rod Holt developed its switching power supply. With human–computer interface expert Jef Raskin, Wozniak had a major influence over the initial development of the original Apple Macintosh concepts from 1979 to 1981, when Jobs took over the project following Wozniak's brief departure from the company due to a traumatic airplane accident. After permanently leaving Apple in 1985, Wozniak founded CL 9 and created the first programmable universal remote, released in 1987. He then pursued several other businesses and philanthropic ventures throughout his career, focusing largely on technology in K–12 schools.
As of February 2020, Wozniak has remained an employee of Apple in a ceremonial capacity since stepping down in 1985. In recent years, he has helped fund multiple entrepreneurial efforts dealing in areas such as GPS and telecommunications, flash memory, technology and pop culture conventions, technical education, ecology, satellites and more.
Stephen Gary Wozniak was born on August 11, 1950, in San Jose, California.: 18 : 13 : 27 His mother, Margaret Louise Wozniak (née Kern) (1923–2014), was from Washington state, and his father, Francis Jacob "Jerry" Wozniak (1925–1994) of Michigan,: 18 was an engineer for the Lockheed Corporation.: 1 Wozniak graduated from Homestead High School in 1968, in Cupertino, California.: 25 Steve has one brother, Mark Wozniak, a former tech executive who lives in Menlo Park. He also has one sister, Leslie Wozniak. She attended Homestead High School in Cupertino. She is a grant adviser at Five Bridges Foundation, which helps at-risk youths in San Francisco. She once said it was her mother who introduced activism to her and her siblings.
The name on Wozniak's birth certificate is "Stephan Gary Wozniak", but his mother said that she intended it to be spelled "Stephen", which is what he uses.: 18 He has mentioned the surname “Wozniak” being Polish.: 129–130
In the early 1970s, Wozniak's blue box design earned him the nickname "Berkeley Blue" in the phreaking community.
Wozniak has credited watching Star Trek and attending Star Trek conventions while in his youth as a source of inspiration for his starting Apple Computer.
In 1969, Wozniak returned to the San Francisco Bay Area after being expelled from the University of Colorado Boulder in his first year for hacking the university's computer system.
He re-enrolled at De Anza College in Cupertino before transferring to the University of California, Berkeley, in 1971.: 1 In June of that year, for a self-taught engineering project, Wozniak designed and built his first computer with his friend Bill Fernandez.: 1 Predating useful microprocessors, screens, and keyboards, and using punch cards and only 20 TTL chips donated by an acquaintance, they named it "Cream Soda" after their favorite beverage. A newspaper reporter stepped on the power supply cable and blew up the computer, but it served Wozniak as "a good prelude to my thinking 5 years later with the Apple I and Apple II computers". Before focusing his attention on Apple, he was employed at Hewlett-Packard (HP), where he designed calculators. It was during this time that he dropped out of Berkeley and befriended Steve Jobs.
Wozniak was introduced to Jobs by Fernandez, who attended Homestead High School with Jobs in 1971. Jobs and Wozniak became friends when Jobs worked for the summer at HP, where Wozniak, too, was employed, working on a mainframe computer.
We first met in 1971 during my college years, while he was in high school. A friend said, 'you should meet Steve Jobs because he likes electronics, and he also plays pranks.' So he introduced us.— Steve Wozniak
Their first business partnership began later that year when Wozniak read an article titled "Secrets of the Little Blue Box" from the October 1971 issue of Esquire, and started to build his own "blue boxes" that enabled one to make long-distance phone calls at no cost. Jobs, who handled the sales of the blue boxes, managed to sell some two hundred of them for $150 each, and split the profit with Wozniak. Jobs later told his biographer that if it had not been for Wozniak's blue boxes, "there wouldn't have been an Apple."
In 1973, Jobs was working for arcade game company Atari, Inc. in Los Gatos, California. He was assigned to create a circuit board for the arcade video game Breakout. According to Atari co-founder Nolan Bushnell, Atari offered $100 (equivalent to $610 in 2021) for each chip that was eliminated in the machine. Jobs had little knowledge of circuit board design and made a deal with Wozniak to split the fee evenly between them if Wozniak could minimize the number of chips. Wozniak reduced the number of chips by 50, by using RAM for the brick representation. The fact that this prototype had no scoring or coin mechanisms meant Woz's prototype could not be used. Jobs was paid the full bonus regardless. Jobs told Wozniak that Atari gave them only $700 and that Wozniak's share was thus $350 (equivalent to $2,100 in 2021).: 147–148, 180 Wozniak did not learn about the actual $5,000 bonus (equivalent to $30,500 in 2021) until ten years later. While dismayed, he said that if Jobs had told him about it and had said he needed the money, Wozniak would have given it to him.: 104–107
In 1975, Wozniak began designing and developing the computer that would eventually make him famous, the Apple I. With the Apple I, Wozniak was largely working to impress other members of the Palo Alto-based Homebrew Computer Club,: 35–38 a local group of electronics hobbyists interested in computing. The club was one of several key centers which established the home hobbyist era, essentially creating the microcomputer industry over the next few decades. Unlike other custom Homebrew designs, the Apple had an easy-to-achieve video capability that drew a crowd when it was unveiled.
Wozniak designed Apple's first products, the Apple I and II computers and he helped design the Macintosh — because he wanted to use them and they didn't exist.— CNBC retrospective
Between Woz and Jobs, Woz was the innovator, the inventor. Steve Jobs was the marketing person.— Apple employee #12 Daniel Kottke
Everything I did at Apple that was an A+ job and that took us places, I had two things in my favor ... I had no money [and] I had had no training.— Steve Wozniak in 2010
By March 1, 1976, Wozniak completed the basic design of the Apple I computer.: 5–6 He alone designed the hardware, circuit board designs, and operating system for the computer. Wozniak originally offered the design to HP while working there, but was denied by the company on five occasions. Jobs then advised Wozniak to start a business of their own to build and sell bare printed circuit boards of the Apple I.: 4–6 : 35–38 Wozniak, at first skeptical, was later convinced by Jobs that even if they were not successful they could at least say to their grandchildren that they had had their own company. To raise the money they needed to build the first batch of the circuit boards, Wozniak sold his HP scientific calculator while Jobs sold his Volkswagen van.: 4–6 : 35–38
On April 1, 1976, Jobs and Wozniak formed the Apple Computer Company (now called Apple Inc.) along with administrative supervisor Ronald Wayne, whose participation in the new venture was short-lived. The two decided on the name "Apple" shortly after Jobs returned from Oregon and told Wozniak about his time spent on an apple orchard there.
After the company was formed, Jobs and Wozniak made one last trip to the Homebrew Computer Club to give a presentation of the fully assembled version of the Apple I.: 39–40 Paul Terrell, who was starting a new computer shop in Mountain View, California, called the Byte Shop, saw the presentation and was impressed by the machine.: 66–67 Terrell told Jobs that he would order 50 units of the Apple I and pay $500 (equivalent to $2,380 in 2021) each on delivery, but only if they came fully assembled, as he was not interested in buying bare printed circuit boards.: 7 : 66–67
Together the duo assembled the first boards in Jobs's parents' Los Altos home; initially in his bedroom and later (when there was no space left) in the garage. Wozniak's apartment in San Jose was filled with monitors, electronic devices, and computer games that he had developed. The Apple I sold for $666.66. Wozniak later said he had no idea about the relation between the number and the mark of the beast, and that he came up with the price because he liked "repeating digits". They sold their first 50 system boards to Terrell later that year.[clarification needed]
|Wozniak and Steve Jobs with an Apple I circuit board, c. 1976.|
In November 1976, Jobs and Wozniak received substantial funding from a then-semi-retired Intel product marketing manager and engineer named Mike Markkula.: 10 At the request of Markkula, Wozniak resigned from his job at HP and became the vice president in charge of research and development at Apple. Wozniak's Apple I was similar to the Altair 8800, the first commercially available microcomputer, except the Apple I had no provision for internal expansion cards. With expansion cards, the Altair could attach to a computer terminal and be programmed in BASIC. In contrast, the Apple I was a hobbyist machine. Wozniak's design included a $25 CPU (MOS 6502) on a single circuit board with 256 bytes of ROM, 4K or 8K bytes of RAM, and a 40-character by 24-row display controller. Apple's first computer lacked a case, power supply, keyboard, and display—all components that had to be provided by the user. Eventually about 200 Apple I computers were produced in total.
After the success of the Apple I, Wozniak designed the Apple II, the first personal computer with the ability to display color graphics, and BASIC programming language built in. Inspired by "the technique Atari used to simulate colors on its first arcade games", Wozniak found a way of putting colors into the NTSC system by using a US$1 chip, while colors in the PAL system are achieved by "accident" when a dot occurs on a line, and he says that to this day he has no idea how it works. During the design stage, Jobs argued that the Apple II should have two expansion slots, while Wozniak wanted eight. After a heated argument, during which Wozniak threatened that Jobs should "go get himself another computer", they decided to go with eight slots. Jobs and Wozniak introduced the Apple II at the April 1977 West Coast Computer Faire. Wozniak's first article about the Apple II was in Byte magazine in May 1977. It became one of the first highly successful mass-produced personal computers in the world.
Wozniak also designed the Disk II floppy disk drive, released in 1978 specifically for use with the Apple II series to replace the slower cassette tape storage.
In 1980, Apple went public to instant and significant financial profitability, making Jobs and Wozniak both millionaires. The Apple II's intended successor, the Apple III, released the same year, was a commercial failure and was discontinued in 1984. According to Wozniak, the Apple III "had 100 percent hardware failures", and that the primary reason for these failures was that the system was designed by Apple's marketing department, unlike Apple's previous engineering-driven projects.
During the early design and development phase of the original Macintosh, Wozniak had a heavy influence over the project along with Jef Raskin, who conceived the computer. Later named the "Macintosh 128k", it would become the first mass-market personal computer featuring an integral graphical user interface and mouse. The Macintosh would also go on to introduce the desktop publishing industry with the addition of the Apple LaserWriter, the first laser printer to feature vector graphics. In a 2013 interview, Wozniak said that in 1981, "Steve [Jobs] really took over the project when I had a plane crash and wasn't there."
On February 7, 1981, the Beechcraft Bonanza A36TC which Wozniak was piloting (and not qualified to operate) crashed soon after takeoff from the Sky Park Airport in Scotts Valley, California. The airplane stalled while climbing, then bounced down the runway, broke through two fences, and crashed into an embankment. Wozniak and his three passengers—then-fiancée Candice Clark, her brother Jack Clark, and Jack's girlfriend, Janet Valleau—were injured. Wozniak sustained severe face and head injuries, including losing a tooth, and also suffered for the following five weeks from anterograde amnesia, the inability to create new memories. He had no memory of the crash, and did not remember his name while in the hospital or the things he did for a time after he was released. He would later state that Apple II computer games were what helped him regain his memory. The National Transportation Safety Board investigation report cited premature liftoff and pilot inexperience as probable causes of the crash.: 28–30
Wozniak did not immediately return to Apple after recovering from the airplane crash, seeing it as a good reason to leave. Infinite Loop characterized this time: "Coming out of the semi-coma had been like flipping a reset switch in Woz's brain. It was as if in his thirty-year old body he had regained the mind he'd had at eighteen before all the computer madness had begun. And when that happened, Woz found he had little interest in engineering or design. Rather, in an odd sort of way, he wanted to start over fresh.": 322
Later in 1981, after recovering from the plane crash, Wozniak re-enrolled at UC Berkeley to complete his Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences degree that he started there in 1971 (and which he would finish in 1986). Because his name was well known at this point, he enrolled under the name Rocky Raccoon Clark, which is the name listed on his diploma, although he did not officially receive his degree in electrical engineering and computer sciences until 1987.
In May 1982 and 1983, Wozniak, with help from professional concert promoter Bill Graham, founded the company Unuson, an abbreviation of "unite us in song", which sponsored two US Festivals, with "US" pronounced like the pronoun, not as initials. Initially intended to celebrate evolving technologies, the festivals ended up as a technology exposition and a rock festival as a combination of music, computers, television, and people. After losing several million dollars on the 1982 festival, Wozniak stated that unless the 1983 event turned a profit, he would end his involvement with rock festivals and get back to designing computers. Later that year, Wozniak returned to Apple product development, desiring no more of a role than that of an engineer and a motivational factor for the Apple workforce.: 323–324
Starting in the mid-1980s, as the Macintosh experienced slow but steady growth, Apple's corporate leadership, including Steve Jobs, increasingly disrespected its flagship cash cow Apple II series—and Wozniak along with it. The Apple II division—other than Wozniak—was not invited to the Macintosh introduction event, and Wozniak was seen kicking the dirt in the parking lot. Although Apple II products provided about 85% of Apple's sales in early 1985, the company's January 1985 annual meeting did not mention the Apple II division or its employees, a typical situation that frustrated Wozniak.
Even with the success he had helped to create at Apple, Wozniak believed that the company was hindering him from being who he wanted to be, and that it was "the bane of his existence". He enjoyed engineering, not management, and said that he missed "the fun of the early days". As other talented engineers joined the growing company, he no longer believed he was needed there, and by early 1985, Wozniak left Apple again, stating that the company had "been going in the wrong direction for the last five years". He then sold most of his stock.
The Apple II platform financially carried the company well into the Macintosh era of the late 1980s; it was made semi-portable with the Apple IIc of 1984, and was extended, with some input from Wozniak, by the 16-bit Apple IIGS of 1986, and was discontinued altogether when the Apple IIe was discontinued on November 15, 1993 (although the Apple IIe card, which allowed compatible Macintosh computers to run Apple II software and use certain Apple II peripherals, was produced until May 1995).
After his career at Apple, Wozniak founded CL 9 in 1985, which developed and brought the first programmable universal remote control to market in 1987, called the "CORE".
Beyond engineering, Wozniak's second lifelong goal had always been to teach elementary school because of the important role teachers play in students' lives. Eventually, he did teach computer classes to children from the fifth through ninth grades, and teachers as well. Unuson continued to support this, funding additional teachers and equipment.
In 2001, Wozniak founded Wheels of Zeus (WOZ) to create wireless GPS technology to "help everyday people find everyday things much more easily". In 2002, he joined the board of directors of Ripcord Networks, Inc., joining Apple alumni Ellen Hancock, Gil Amelio, Mike Connor, and Wheels of Zeus co-founder Alex Fielding in a new telecommunications venture. Later the same year he joined the board of directors of Danger, Inc., the maker of the Hip Top.
In 2006, Wheels of Zeus was closed, and Wozniak founded Acquicor Technology, a holding company for acquiring technology companies and developing them, with Apple alumni Hancock and Amelio. From 2009 through 2014 he was chief scientist at Fusion-io. In 2014 he became chief scientist at Primary Data, which was founded by some former Fusion-io executives.
Silicon Valley Comic Con (SVCC) is an annual pop culture and technology convention at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, California. The convention was co-founded by Wozniak and Rick White, with Trip Hunter as CEO. Wozniak announced the annual event in 2015 along with Marvel legend Stan Lee.
In October 2017, Wozniak founded Woz U, an online educational technology service for independent students and employees. As of December 2018, Woz U was licensed as a school with the Arizona state board.
Though permanently leaving Apple as an active employee in 1985, Wozniak chose to never remove himself from the official employee list, and continues to represent the company at events or in interviews. Today he receives a stipend from Apple for this role, estimated in 2006 to be US$120,000 per year. He is also an Apple shareholder. He maintained a friendly acquaintance with Steve Jobs until Jobs's death in October 2011. However, in 2006, Wozniak stated that he and Jobs were not as close as they used to be. In a 2013 interview, Wozniak said that the original Macintosh "failed" under Steve Jobs, and that it was not until Jobs left that it became a success. He called the Apple Lisa group the team that had kicked Jobs out, and that Jobs liked to call the Lisa group "idiots for making [the Lisa computer] too expensive". To compete with the Lisa, Jobs and his new team produced a cheaper computer, one that, according to Wozniak, was "weak", "lousy" and "still at a fairly high price". "He made it by cutting the RAM down, by forcing you to swap disks here and there", says Wozniak. He attributed the eventual success of the Macintosh to people like John Sculley "who worked to build a Macintosh market when the Apple II went away".
At the end of 2020, Wozniak announced the launch of a new company helmed by him, Efforce. Efforce is described as a marketplace for funding ecologically friendly projects. It used a WOZX cryptocurrency token for funding and blockchain to redistribute the profit to token holders and businesses engaged on the platform.
In September 2021, it was reported that Wozniak was also starting a company alongside co-founder Alex Fielding named Privateer Space to address the problem of space debris. Privateer Space debuted the first version of their space traffic monitoring software on March 1, 2022.
Wozniak is listed as the sole inventor on the following Apple patents:
In 1990, Wozniak helped found the Electronic Frontier Foundation, providing some of the organization's initial funding and serving on its founding Board of Directors. He is the founding sponsor of the Tech Museum, Silicon Valley Ballet and Children's Discovery Museum of San Jose. Also since leaving Apple, Wozniak has provided all the money, and much onsite technical support, for the technology program in his local school district in Los Gatos. Un.U.Son. (Unite Us In Song), an organization Wozniak formed to organize the two US festivals, is now primarily tasked with supporting his educational and philanthropic projects. In 1986, Wozniak lent his name to the Stephen G. Wozniak Achievement Awards (popularly known as "Wozzie Awards"), which he presented to six Bay Area high school and college students for their innovative use of computers in the fields of business, art, and music. Wozniak is the subject of a student-made film production of his friend's (Joe Patane) nonprofit Dream Camp Foundation for high-level-need youth entitled Camp Woz: The Admirable Lunacy of Philanthropy.
Because of his lifetime of achievements, multiple organizations have given Wozniak awards and recognition, including:
For his contributions to technology, Wozniak has been awarded a number of Honorary Doctor of Engineering degrees, which include the following:
Steve Wozniak has been mentioned, represented, or interviewed countless times in media from the founding of Apple to the present. Wired magazine described him as a person of "tolerant, ingenuous self-esteem" who interviews with "a nonstop, singsong voice".
In March 2015, Wozniak stated that while he had originally dismissed Ray Kurzweil's opinion that machine intelligence would outpace human intelligence within several decades, Wozniak had changed his mind:
I agree that the future is scary and very bad for people. If we build these devices to take care of everything for us, eventually they'll think faster than us and they'll get rid of the slow humans to run companies more efficiently.
Wozniak stated that he had started to identify a contradictory sense of foreboding about artificial intelligence, while still supporting the advance of technology. By June 2015, Wozniak changed his mind again, stating that a superintelligence takeover would be good for humans:
They're going to be smarter than us and if they're smarter than us then they'll realise they need us ... We want to be the family pet and be taken care of all the time ... I got this idea a few years ago and so I started feeding my dog filet steak and chicken every night because 'do unto others'.
In 2016, Wozniak changed his mind again, stating that he no longer worried about the possibility of superintelligence emerging because he is skeptical that computers will be able to compete with human "intuition": "A computer could figure out a logical endpoint decision, but that's not the way intelligence works in humans". Wozniak added that if computers do become superintelligent, "they're going to be partners of humans over all other species just forever". In an interview to the BBC in May of 2023 Wozniak said that AI may make scams more difficult to detect, noting that "AI is so intelligent it's open to the bad players, the ones that want to trick you about who they are".
Wozniak lives in Los Gatos, California. He applied for Australian citizenship in 2012, and has stated that he would like to live in Melbourne, Australia in the future. Wozniak has been referred to frequently by the nickname "Woz", or "The Woz"; he has also been called "The Wonderful Wizard of Woz" and "The Second Steve" (in regard to his early business partner and longtime friend, Steve Jobs). "WoZ" (short for "Wheels of Zeus") is the name of a company he founded in 2002; it closed in 2006.
Wozniak describes his impetus for joining the Freemasons in 1979 as being able to spend more time with his then-wife, Alice Robertson, who belonged to the Order of the Eastern Star, associated with the Masons. He was initiated in 1979 at Charity Lodge No. 362 in Campbell, California, now part of Mt. Moriah Lodge No. 292 in Los Gatos. Today he is no longer involved: "I did become a Freemason and know what it's about but it doesn't really fit my tech/geek personality. Still, I can be polite to others from other walks of life. After our divorce was filed I never attended again but I did contribute enough for a lifetime membership."
Wozniak was married to slalom canoe gold-medalist Candice Clark from June 1981 to 1987. They have three children together, the youngest being born after their divorce was finalized. After a high-profile relationship with actress Kathy Griffin, who described him on Tom Green's House Tonight in 2008 as "the biggest techno-nerd in the Universe", Wozniak married Janet Hill, his current spouse.
On his religious views, Wozniak has called himself an "atheist or agnostic".
He is a member of a Segway Polo team, the Silicon Valley Aftershocks, and is considered a "super fan" of the NHL ice hockey team San Jose Sharks.
In 1998, he co-authored with Larry Wilde The Official Computer Freaks Joke Book.
In 2006, he co-authored with Gina Smith his autobiography, iWoz: From Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer, Co-Founded Apple, and Had Fun Doing It. The book made The New York Times Best Seller list.
Wozniak has discussed his personal disdain for money and accumulating large amounts of wealth. He told Fortune magazine in 2017, "I didn't want to be near money, because it could corrupt your values ... I really didn't want to be in that super 'more than you could ever need' category." He also said that he only invests in things "close to his heart". When Apple first went public in 1980, Wozniak offered $10 million of his own stock to early Apple employees, something Jobs refused to do.
He has the condition prosopagnosia (face blindness).
He has expressed support for the electronics right to repair movement. In July 2021, Wozniak made a Cameo video in response to right to repair activist Louis Rossmann, in which he described the issue as something that has "really affected me emotionally", and credited Apple's early breakthroughs to open technology of the 1970s.
I am also atheist or agnostic (I don't even know the difference). I've never been to church and prefer to think for myself. I do believe that religions stand for good things, and that if you make irrational sacrifices for a religion, then everyone can tell that your religion is important to you and can trust that your most important inner faiths are strong.
I'm kind of spiritual inside. I have a lot of philosophies of how to be a good person, how to treat people, and I've worked them out, thinking over and over, reflecting inside my mind the way shy people do, and I was very shy, and coming up with my own little keys and rules for life, and they stayed with me.