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Wozniak, Stephen Gary - Overview, Personal Life, Career Details, Chronology: Stephen Gary Wozniak, Social and Economic Impact

computer apple wozniak’s computers

Apple Computer, Inc.


The technical genius behind the Apple I and II microcomputers that launched Apple Computer, Inc., Stephen Wozniak 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 P. Jobs, 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.

Personal Life

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 he had designed a computer that played tictactoe. 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 the age of 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 he 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 has been 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 were 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, aboard Wozniak’s Beechcraft Bonanza on a flight to San Diego to purchase their wedding rings, 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, Wozniak resumed studying for his computer science degree at Berkeley, which he received in 1987. Wozniak is currently married to Suzanne Mulkern, who also had three children from a former marriage. Mulkern, a lawyer, was a seventh-grade classmate of Wozniak. He has retained an office with Apple to work on design ideas, but has largely withdrawn from the company to concentrate on his family and many outside interests.

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 organized the two U.S. Festivals of rock music and in 1987 the first U.S./U.S.S.R. stadium rock concert in Moscow. He has donated over $7 million to various charities, particularly in the San Jose area. A rock music enthusiast, Wozniak is devoted to his family and has said that he would rather be remembered as a good father than as an icon of the computer era. His leisure activities include attending Golden State Warrior games, playing Tetris on his Game-Boy, and going through manuals on new computer programs. He also collects uncut sheets of $2 bills

Career Details

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. He was 22, and Wozniak was 26. Jobs, who had worked in an orchard, proposed the name Apple after several high-tech names were rejected. With Jobs concentrating on marketing and sales, Wozniak began to build the first Apple computer at night, working in his Hewlett-Packard office. The Apple I was assembled in Jobs’s family garage. Wozniak’s design stressed simplicity and ease of use. Microcomputers prior to Apple were mainly for electronic hobbyists, and Wozniak began to construct 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 that was incorporated into the Apple II 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.

Chronology: Stephen Gary Wozniak

1950: Born.

1968: Attended the University of Colorado.

1970: Attended the University of California, Berkeley.

1971: Worked for Hewlett-Packard designing calculator chips.

1976: Cofounded Apple Computer, Inc.

1977: Apple II debuted.

1980: Apple Computer went public.

1981: Took leave of absence from Apple.

1986: Earned B.S. degree from Berkeley.

1992: Started teaching elementary school.

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, though he has continued to offer design ideas, maintain an office, and earn a small salary from the company. In 1991, Wozniak 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 intends to complete his teacher certification and maintain his teaching at the elementary school level. Wozniak said, “I was born to teach—I have always had this gift with children.”

Social and Economic Impact

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 industry 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 and 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 eventually computers will reach the physical limit of their hardware, which will allow programmers to create what he has called “something like a Ten Commandments of Software”: computers shall not crash, and error messages shall be understandable, for example. Wozniak foresees future computers becoming more like real people, moving away from menu-driven controls. Despite his withdrawal from active work at Apple, Wozniak remains on the cutting edge of computer design.

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almost 6 years ago

Back in 1976 my parents and I had a small Sub-S corp called Micro Software
Specialists, Inc. Our first product was a 6502 assembler that ran on a KIM-1 with an added 8K RAM board.

We sold about 300 copies all told.

One of them went to Steve Jobs, and Steve Wozniak, when they were creating the apple II. I often wondered if he would still remember anything from those days. :)

Richard Snow

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over 5 years ago

when was hhe marrrieiieedd???

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over 5 years ago

when was hhe marrrieiieedd???