Steve Wozniak — American inventor

by Kristine Bigcas

Steve Wozniak is an American inventor, programmer, electronics engineer, and co-founder of Apple Inc. He has worked with Steve Jobs in the development of the first personal computers. Together they have pioneered the revolution of personal computers in the 1970s and 1980s. He earned the nickname “The Woz” a short version of “Wheels of Zeus” his own established company. It can also be for “Wisdom of Woz” or “The Wonderful Wizard of Woz” among other nicknames that he has. Having the same name as Steve Jobs, he is also often referred to as “The Second Steve.”

His expertise and intelligence were the keys to the development of Apple I and Apple II. The Apple II was the first successful microcomputer launched to the masses in 1977. He was the brains of the project while Steve Jobs monitored the development and its marketing. Meanwhile, it was Rod Holt who has worked on its power supply. Aside from that, Steve Wozniak had also created a blue box which made him famous in the phreaking community as “Berkeley Blue.”

He appeared in different films, documentaries, and television shows. At some point in 2009, he joined the eighth season of Dancing With the Stars. He was partnered with Karina Smirnoff but was eliminated in the fourth week in the midseason double elimination.

Early Life and Family

He was born Stephan Gary Wozniak on August 11, 1950, but was originally named Stephen. He uses the nickname Steve when introducing himself. He comes from a Polish and Swiss-German family that emigrated to the United States where he grew up. His hometown is in San Jose, California where he spent most of his years growing up. A street in the city was named “Woz Way” as his namesake. His love for technology and his motivation in starting Apple Inc. was the movie Star Trek.

In his years in college, Steve has had multiple experiences that can be credited to his success. His first attempt in completing his degree is at the University of Colorado Boulder. However, he was expelled during his first year for hacking into the computer system of the university. He moved back to the Bay Area and enrolled at the De Anza College. It was at this time that he developed the “Cream Soda” computer with Bill Fernandez. In 1971, he transferred to the University of California, Berkeley before his employment at Hewlett-Packard as a calculator program designer where he met Steve Jobs, his partner in developing the soon to be Apple.

Personal Life

He currently lives in Los Gatos in California where he continues his ventures in business and technology. He is also a Freemason though not having faith in a supreme after marrying Alice Robertson who was a member of the Order of the Eastern Star. He was initiated in 1979 at Charity Lodge No. 362 in now Mt. Moriah Lodge No. 292 in Los Gatos as a third degree Freemason. Nevertheless, he still calls himself agnostic.

Steve is also a very fond of video games. His favorite is Tetris by Nintendo Power in which he has submitted high scores in the 1990s. When the gaming company would not print his scores anymore, he reversed his name into “Evets Kainzow” as an alternative. Despite his intelligence, Steve suffers from prosopagnosia, a cognitive disorder that impairs someone’s ability to perceive familiar faces even his own.

In 2014, he officially became an Australian citizen after applying for a visa. He said: “I have now got a visa for dis­tinguished people – or something like that – it took a long time and cost some money, but we have done it for our entire family, so we can all reside here.” He has been wanting to become an Australian for some time. He added in his statement: “I want to be a distinguished part of this country and some day I may say I lived and died an Australian, and that would be a really nice thing to be able to say. No country is perfect, but I like a lot of things about this place.”

His plan is to buy a home in Sydney while he is still US-based for his work. However, he wants to stay in Tasmania and get a property there in time for his retirement. He gladly told people in an interview that “The Premier of Tasmania actually called us at our home and offered to show us around if we were ever there. Hopefully, in the next few days, we can get there, as I really like the idea of cooler weather,”

Plane Crash

While on board the Beechcraft Bonanza A36TC on February 07, 1981, Steve with his then-fiance Candice Clark, his brother, and his brother’s girlfriend crash landed after taking off from Sky Park Airport. He was piloting the airport as it took off from the runway in Scotts Valley, California. It had a problem while gaining altitude and soon bounced on the runway before hitting two fences and finally hitting the embankment. All passengers were injured but were treated right away.

Steve suffered anterograde amnesia for five weeks and has lost his memory of the crash and everything after his release. He also did not remember his name in the hospital. On top of that, he lost a tooth and had several injuries in the face and in the head. When accounting the events, Steve would say that it was his Apple II computer games that helped his memory recover fast. According to the report of the National Transportation Safety Board, it was the lack of experience of the pilot (Steve) and the premature liftoff that might have caused the crash. He temporarily left Apple after the accident.

Relationships

He was first married to Alice Robertson in 1976. Their relationship did not work for the better and later ended in 1979. Two years later, he married the athlete, Candice Clark on June 13, 1981. They had three children together including US Olympic Committee lawyer, Sara Clark. It was Steve that filed for their divorce that was finalized in 1987.

Many years after his failed marriages it was rumored that Steve was dating the actress Kathy Griffin. They were first seen at the 2007 Emmy Awards. In an interview, Kathy was asked if she was dating him to make her ex-husband jealous to which she replied with “What better way to get back at my ex, who was a tech, than to marry the biggest techno-nerd in the Universe?”

They were seen multiple times in public after that including the Silicon Valley Fur Ball to which they became the King and Queen of the Humane Society on April 05, 2008. They were later reported to have broken up in June 2008. After their breakup, Kathie said “I got an email last week from him, and he is going to marry someone else… I think he might be married. I don’t really know that for sure, though.”

In August 2008, just a few months after the confirmation of his breakup with Kathie, Steve got married to Janet Hill. To this day, he and Janet are still happily together.

IT Career

His first work was with Hewitt-Packard where he worked on a mainframe computer. There, he met Steve Jobs who was then working there for the summer. He recounted their first meeting in an interview with ABC News. There he said: “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.”

They first collaborated for Breakout, an arcade game by Atari, Inc. Jobs offered Steve to help him with the reduction of the chips used on the circuit board for the game in the exchange of half the total amount paid. The deal was $100 per chip and he was able to lessen the number to a total of 50 chips. Steve was then later told by Jobs that they were paid $700 which they split equally. Little did Steve know that there was a $5000 bonus. He only found out ten years later.

He made his first test on his prototype on June 29, 1975. It only ran a few letters and programs but was the first to display a character on a TV screen. In 1976, he single-handedly designed the circuit board and hardware of the Apple I. Together with Jobs they had sold their most valuable possessions to get more funds for the Apple I. They had worked in Jobs’ room before moving to his garage. Steve’s apartment was used in the development too. They had finally sold their computer for $666.66.

Steve then quit his job at Hewett-Packard and started Apple Computer with Jobs on April 1, 1976. He developed the Apple II with improved specs of the colored graphics display, BASIC programming language built-in the system, and eight expansion slots. After their launch, Apple II became one of the first mass-produced computers that were successful in the market. He continued working for Apple until his plane crash in 1981. When he returned in 1983, he only did engineering work and found himself unhappy with his life in Apple. He described it to be the “bane of his existence” since he had to do more management work rather than engineering which was his passion. In 1985, he left Apple with finality, selling a majority of the stocks he had.

He continued his studies in USC-Berkeley but under the name of Rocky Raccoon Clark and finally earned his diploma. He then taught computer studies to fifth through ninth graders. While doing those, he continued to receive a stipend from Apple which was estimated to be at $120,000 per year plus his cut as a shareholder in Apple. His departure from the company has caused his relationship with Jobs to falter. Although remaining friends, Steve says their dynamic has changed.

He founded Wheels of Zeus in 2001 and created wireless GPS technology. He also joined Ripcord Networks Inc., as one of the board of directors. Apart from that, he also became one of the board of directors of Danger Inc. When Wheels of Zeus closed down, he founded Acquicor Technology and became the chief scientist at Fusion-io and Primary Data.

Other Works

He sponsored US Festivals twice in celebration of the evolving technology. The festival showcased computers and technology exposition. Both festivals occurred in 1982 and 1983. He was also credited for the Apple Patents of “Microcomputer for use with video display,” “Controller for magnetic disc,” “Apparatus for digitally controlling PAL color display,” and “Digitally-controlled color signal generation means for use with display.”

In 2009, he joined Dancing with the Stars Season Eight. He was partnered with Karina Smirnoff. They were able to compete until the fourth round of the dance offs but were later eliminated in the midseason double elimination after getting a score of 12 out of 30 in their Argentine Tango. Prior to this, he has already appeared in different television shows and interviews. In fact, he was in the fourth season of Kathy Griffin My Life on the D-List with her former lover.

Philanthropy

He took a big part in the founding of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. He has also provided financial support in keeping the technology program in his local district up and running. He also allowed the use of his name for the Stephen G. Wozniak Achievement Awards which is awarded to any student in high school or college in the Bay Area that has shown innovative use of computers in different fields.

Net Worth and Awards

He has received different awards since the start of his success. One of which is the ACM Grace Murray Hopper Award and the National Medal of Technology which was given by President Ronald Reagan. He was also inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame for his work and given the 7th Annual Heinz Award for Technology, the Economy, and Employment. In 2014, he was given the 66th Hoover Medal from IEE President & CEO J. Roberto de Marca. This is an award for engineers who have made advanced achievements for the humankind.

On top of his awards, he was given various honoraries degrees as well. Some of which are from the University of Colorado, Michigan State University, Universidad Nacional de Ingenieria, and University Camilo Jose Cela among others. With all his business, investments, and other sources of income, Steve Wozniak has a total estimated net worth of $100 million.