Steve Wozniak Biography (1950-)

inventor, teacher

Born and raised in San Jose, California, Wozniak designed his first computerat age thirteen. He credited his father, an electrical engineer; Tom Swift books (a series about a young inventor); and local science fairs with encouraging his interests in electronics.

In high school, Wozniak met Steve Jobs, who shared his enthusiasm for electronics, and they soon became friends. In 1971, they assembled and sold "blue boxes," an illegal device used to make long-distance telephone calls without being charged. After dropping out of college, Wozniak began designing calculators at Hewlett-Packard, and Jobs gained employment at Atari, the video game company. They stayed in touch, though, and Wozniak, at Jobs's request of Jobs,designed a new game for Atari called "Breakout," which earned him $750.

In 1975, the two friends joined the Homebrew Computer Club (an informal information exchange group for computer enthusiasts based in Menlo Park, California). When the club displayed an Altair 8800, an assemble-at-home personal computer (PC) manufactured by MITS, Wozniak believed he could improve on its design, and had a chance to prove his theory when MOS Technology brought out a new microprocessor chip. He wrote a version of BASIC programming language for the chip and, in a matter of only a few weeks, designed a circuit board that using that chip, along with interfaces that connected it to a keyboard and a video monitor. Although Wozniak said he designed this computer to show off tohis friends, he underestimated the Jobs's marketing skills, who convinced Wozniak to join him in manufacturing personal computers. Jobs, who had been working at an apple orchard at the time, called their new company Apple Computers. To finance their venture, Jobs sold his car and Wozniak sold his two Hewlett-Packard calculators. At first they built their computers in Jobs's garage.In 1976, however, a local retailer ordered 50 Apple I machines, as they wereknown, and Apple Computers soon became a major force in the personal computerindustry. With Jobs in charge of marketing, Wozniak set about improving theApple I. After attending a Homebrew Computer Club meeting where he watched acolor television displaying computer graphics, Wozniak decided to incorporatethis technology into the company's next project. The result, the Apple II, was more sophisticated than any other personal computer available at that time.

In 1978 Wozniak created a floppy disk system for the Apple II to replace thecassette tape used by personal computers of that time and wrote the program for the accompanying software. He later designed the Apple IIe, III, IIc, Lisa, and Macintosh computers. He left Apple temporarily in 1981 to complete hiseducation and returned a few years later. He resigned in 1985 to begin another company, but since 1997 has served as a member of Apple's executive committee and advisor to the chairman. Wozniak currently dedicates the majority of his time to teaching children about computers and maintaining the computer systems for the Los Gatos (California) School District, which he also financed and installed.

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