Tech Trivia : Did You Know? This Week in History …

9th August 2023

The Wonderful Wizard of Woz!

Steve Wozniak – business partner of Steve Jobs and co-founder of Apple – was born on August 11, 1950.

Most people know that Apple went on to become one of the most valuable companies in the world and even though Steve the company way back in left in 1985, there are numerous other projects and charities he contributed to without diminishing his love of computing and engineering as he got older.

However, some of the details of his earlier life before 1985 are worthy of note, so here are 10 fun facts about this energetic engineer :

 1 – He was born in San Jose, California to Francis Jacob Wozniak and Margaret Louise Wozniak. He possibly got his love of engineering from his father, who was an engineer for Lockheed Martin and was of Polish descent. Wozniak is a common surname in Poland, and it’s derived from the Polish word “woźny,” which means a driver or a carriage man.

2 – Steve Wozniak (‘Woz’) is a well-known fan of Star Trek and has often spoken about how the show influenced him as a child. He has attributed Star Trek with inspiring him to think about the future and the possibilities of technology.

3 – He has talked about his prosopagnosia, also known as ‘face blindness’. Prosopagnosia is a cognitive disorder that affects a person’s ability to recognise faces, including faces of people they know well.

4 – Woz attended the University of Colorado Boulder, for a year from 1968 to 1969, studying electrical engineering before expelled for hacking into the university’s computer system! This was part of Wozniak’s early interest in computers and electronics. He later went back to university (5).

5 – Steve Wozniak attended the University of California, Berkeley, but he dropped out in 1972 to work with Steve Jobs. They later co-founded Apple Inc. in 1976.

6 – Like Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak also worked at Hewlett-Packard.  Wozniak worked at HP from 1971 to 1976. During his time at HP, Wozniak worked as an engineer in the calculator division. It was during this period that he began attending meetings of the ‘Homebrew Computer Club’ with Jobs. He developed the early design of what would become the Apple I computer while still employed at HP. Wozniak actually offered his design for the Apple I to HP while he was still an employee, but the company declined his offer.

7 – Wozniak left HP in 1976 to co-found Apple Inc. with Steve Jobs and Ronald Wayne. Apple revolutionized the tech industry with a series of innovative products including the Apple I and II computers, the Macintosh, the iPod, the iPhone, and the iPad, transforming personal computing, music, and mobile communications, and (as we all know), becoming one of the most valuable companies in the world.

8 – To gather funds for their initial Apple prototype, which would eventually evolve into the Apple I, both Wozniak and Jobs had to make sacrifices. Jobs sold his Volkswagen van, while Wozniak decided to sell his HP scientific calculator. These sales collectively generated over $1,000, providing the necessary capital to kickstart their venture.

9 – In 1981, he was involved in a crash when the plane (that he was piloting), stalled while taking off. Wozniak suffered several injuries, including a concussion. The concussion caused him to lose his short-term memory, meaning he couldn’t remember things that had happened since the crash. This memory loss lasted for several weeks, but Wozniak eventually made a full recovery.

The crash had a significant impact on Wozniak’s life. He took time off from Apple to recover and also began to reevaluate his life and his priorities, which eventually led him to reduce his role at Apple and focus on other interests and projects.

10 – Later that same year (1981) he decided to go back to school to complete his degree at the University of California, Berkeley. He re-enrolled under the pseudonym Rocky Raccoon Clark to avoid attention and earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science in 1986. The university also awarded him an honorary Doctor of Engineering degree in 2000.

So, quite a few inspirations there from his formative years before Apple became massive, not least of which is that when it comes to University, it’s never to late to finish what you started!