by Eddie Evans
There was excited chatter as the revolutionaries met in a nondescript
garage in Menlo Park, California, but in the beginning few of them
really knew how they would change the world.
And yet within a year of that first meeting of the Homebrew Computer
Club on March 5, 1975, a computer was in the hands of consumers for
just a few hundred dollars and the personal computer revolution was
Steve Wozniak says that meeting inspired him to design and build the
first Apple computer, but he almost didn't show up. "I was shy and
felt that I knew little about the newest developments in computers,"
Shyness is a theme for Wozniak. He is "the other Steve" in the duo
behind Apple Computer Inc. (Nasdaq:AAPL - news), the self-effacing
engineer to Steve Jobs' brash marketing whiz.
While Jobs, now presiding over the success of Apple's iPod, is almost
a household name, the other Steve has been content to stay out of the
limelight, until now.
In a book titled "iWoz" published this week, Wozniak seeks to tell the
engineer's side of the story and set a few things in the record
For him, the day that defined the personal computer was June 29, 1975,
the first time he typed a character on a keyboard and saw it show up
on the screen right in front of him.
"Every computer before the 'Apple I' had that front panel of switches
and lights. Every computer since has had a keyboard and a screen," he
TELLING HIS STORY
Wozniak, variously known as "Woz" and the "Wizard of Woz," put
together circuit boards for what would be called the Apple I, and Jobs
sold them for $500 each to a new computer store, the Byte Shop in
Mountain View, California.
"There are stories that Steve (Jobs) and I engineered those first
computers together," he writes. "I did them alone."
By 1977, the pair had introduced the Apple II, still recognizable as a
personal computer even today, and sold 2 million by the time it was
superseded by the Macintosh.
As Apple grew into a huge company, Wozniak shunned management
positions and worked in a cubicle alongside other engineers, even
though he was a co-founder.
An incident that still grates is the way his departure from Apple in
1985 was reported in the press. The fact that he was unhappy with the
way Apple was going was not a factor, he said, and he left solely so
he could start his own company. He is still on the payroll of Apple
and sometimes represents the company at events.
He also still counts Jobs among his friends, and in an interview said
that any differences between them were very minor and a "little bit
But his book tells some choice stories from their long friendship,
including a controversy over a fee for a game called Breakout in the
early days and another incident in which Jobs blocked a design company
from working with Wozniak.
SHARING THE WEALTH
Wozniak also said that Jobs declined to write a foreword for the
book. A spokesman for Apple declined to comment.
The book's title, "iWoz," invites comparison with Jobs, who has
sometimes called himself iCEO since his returned to Apple as interim
CEO in 1997.
Wozniak, a bear of a man at 55, retains the innocence of the computer
nerd who in 1975 was too shy to talk at computer club meetings and who
was happy to share his designs for the early Apple with its members.
In fact, he never seemed to aspire to massive wealth. Along the way,
he has taught at a public school and spent millions of dollars of his
own money to fund rock concerts. And he sold stock cheaply to other
Apple engineers before the company's successful initial public
offering in 1980 so that they could share in the wealth.
From his experience, he advises today's would-be inventors to avoid
big, structured companies, where there is less leeway to turn clever
ideas into revolutionary new products.
"Yes, a person who is technical, a little bit nerdy, not so social,
can just do some common-sense things and have it work out great," he
Copyright 2006 Reuters Limited.
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