iWoz

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iWoz
Iwoz cover.jpg
Author Steve Wozniak with Gina Smith
Country United States
Language English
Genre Autobiography
Publisher W. W. Norton
Publication date
2006
Media type Print (Hardback)
Pages 288 p.
ISBN ISBN 0-393-06143-4

Warning: Display title "<i>iWoz</i>" overrides earlier display title "<i>IWoz</i>". iWoz: From Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer, Co-Founded Apple, and Had Fun Doing It (ISBN 0-393-06143-4) is a 2006 autobiography of Steve Wozniak. It was authored by Wozniak and California author and journalist Gina Smith and published by W. W. Norton & Company.

In iWoz, Wozniak gives a short history of his life, the founding of Apple Computer and some of his other ventures. Near the end of the book, Wozniak explains that he wrote the book in order to dispel some misconceptions that have been spread about him, his relationship with Steve Jobs and his relationship with and feelings towards Apple. Wozniak presents his story in short vignettes, never longer than a few pages, and most no longer than just a few paragraphs.

The photo plates of the book use several images from Wikipedia.

Synopsis[edit]

Wozniak starts his autobiography with a description of his parents, some of their history, and describes how his father had a top secret job involving electronics. He goes on to describe how his father took the time to describe to him, in detail, how electronic components work. He cites this as a major reason for his later success.

Wozniak goes on to describe his childhood, in the 1950s Silicon Valley, which was then very agricultural, abounding with fruit orchards.

Wozniak then recalls and describes some science fair entries he built and entered. He also relays that he won every science fair he entered, except one.

Wozniak explains how in high school, he picked up the unusual personal hobby of redesigning electronic components. He explains that by doing this, he became a system engineering expert.

During this time, since about the fifth grade, Wozniak describes his great shyness and how it adversely affected his personal life.

Later in high school, he came across the opportunity to work for Sinclair and how he loved the exposure it gave him to computers and the computer programming language FORTRAN.

Wozniak discusses how he decided to enroll at the University of Colorado at Boulder, through a trip he and some friends took to Boulder, Colorado area one winter before finishing high school. Because of the high tuition, and an inadvertent expense he had incurred for the university's computer department, he was unable to attend for a second year and instead enrolled in the local junior college, De Anza College.

Wozniak describes his lack of religious convictions (his parents never attended any church while he grew up), but that through the friendship of a college dorm roommate, a born again Christian, he decided that, although he didn't necessarily believe in the religious figure of Jesus, he felt an affinity for his philosophy of peace and love for one's fellow man. After some research, Wozniak decided he opposed the Vietnam War, not seeing how it helped the United States' security. His viewpoint drove a wedge between him and his father, who supported the war.

Wozniak tried to unify himself with the hippie culture of the 1960s, because he generally agreed with their peace-based philosophy, but never dressed like them (though he did grow his hair long and sported a beard). But he says he was ultimately rejected by them because he refused to use recreational drugs.

Wozniak goes onto describe how he met Steve Jobs when Jobs was still a high school student (Wozniak was four years his senior and had graduated years earlier). He describes how they both "hit it off" right away. They enjoyed the same music, had the same interests and both had a working knowledge of electronics. It would turn out, they would both also have an affinity for pulling pranks.

Wozniak describes his development of his infamous blue box (a device that allowed the user to make free long distance phone calls), his involvement in the early phreaking community and some trouble it got him into. He also describes his development of the first "Dial-A-Joke" number in the San Francisco Bay Area and how, through it, he met his first wife, Alice.

Wozniak describes with a great deal of affinity, his job as an engineer at Hewlett Packard (HP). He describes HP as a company he wanted to work for the rest of his life because it was, in his words, perfect for engineers.

Wozniak describes his encounter with the first successful video arcade game, Pong, at a bowling alley with Alice (then his fiancee). He describes just staring at it, amazed that computers could be used in such a way. He went home and recreated the game on his own, using a standard television for the display (which in itself, took some doing). He even added some features not found on the commercial game, such as displaying the score onscreen and displaying four-letter exclamations when missing a ball. Once while visiting Jobs, he showed it to one of the top executives of Atari, Inc., Al Alcorn, who was so impressed that he offered Wozniak a job right on the spot. Wozniak declined, however, explaining that he could never leave HP.

While still with HP, Wozniak describes his moonlighting development, with Jobs, of the prototype of the arcade game Breakout for Atari, Inc in only four days. He also describes, without bitterness, how Jobs shortchanged him on the job. Jobs, who worked for Atari Inc., said he would give Wozniak half of "whatever they paid him" for development of the game. Jobs subsequently gave Wozniak $375, saying Atari Inc. paid him $750 for the game. Later Wozniak found out that Atari Inc. actually paid Jobs five thousand dollars for the game.

Wozniak describes his impetus for joining the Freemasons. He says he joined, actually, to be able to spend more time with his wife, Alice. Alice belonged to a group, Eastern Star, that did a lot of joint projects with the Masons. He says that although he took the necessary oaths and is a lifetime Freemason, he doesn't actually put a whole lot of stock in the mystical and religious overtones of the oath or the order. He says that he joined the Freemasons for one specific purpose, but he is very unlike the other members of the order. He says he quickly rose to a third degree Freemason because, whatever he does, he tries to do well.[citation needed]

Wozniak describes how he got involved with the Homebrew Computer Club when it was still very small and met in a garage. From his involvement with the club, he was inspired to develop a computer, which would ultimately become the first Apple computer, the Apple I. He showed it off at some club meetings, after the main meeting because he was too shy to give a demonstration before an audience. He gave out his schematics to the club members for free, so they could build their own. None did, however, as they lacked the time or resources.

Wozniak also showed the computer to Jobs. During this time, Wozniak was still working as an engineer for HP. All his development time was done after work and on weekends. Jobs successfully secured an order for 100 Apple Is at USD$500 a piece, something Wozniak said he could have never done himself.

About this time, Jobs suggested that he and Wozniak start a company. Wozniak was never interested in being an entrepreneur, feeling that such would detract from his role as an engineer. However, Jobs convinced him it would be something they could look back on and be proud of, even if it failed. Shortly after this, and toying with several names, he and Jobs settled on "Apple," after Jobs' visit to a commune with a similar name.

After their first order, he and Jobs set about assembling the computers, with some paid help of friends and family. They delivered the assembled computers—really just printed circuit boards with components soldered on—as they were completed to the computer store that had commissioned them. The owner of the shop paid them in installments as they were delivered. Suddenly, he and Jobs had a huge cash reserve and nothing to spend it on (they didn't pay themselves a salary). At this time, Jobs still had his job at Atari and Wozniak still worked for HP.

Right after designing the Apple I, Wozniak set about designing the Apple II. He says that all the ideas for improving the computer came to him while he was designing the Apple I, but he didn't implement them because he wanted to finish the Apple I in a timely manner. The Apple II featured several improvements over the Apple I, including real color graphics and six expansion slots (an idea he and Jobs disagreed over). It also had a real case, something the Apple I lacked.

About this time, Jobs and Wozniak searched for someone to head their company, and finally found Mike Markkula. Markkula was convinced Apple would be a Fortune 500 company within five years. Wozniak, however, was unconvinced. Markkula said that Wozniak would have to leave his job at HP. Wozniak was reluctant to do so, since he wanted to be an engineer and not a manager. He finally agreed to do so after an old friend told him he could join Apple and still be an engineer.

Shortly after the release of the Apple II, Wozniak says that he was almost an overnight millionaire. He went from being just an employee of HP to being worth millions of dollars.

The Apple II had a working cassette tape interface, for secondary storage. Markkula was frustrated with the slow operation of the cassette tapes, and their instability. He asked Wozniak to develop another method of secondary storage. Wozniak settled on the floppy disk, a new idea at the time. Wozniak developed the entire floppy disk system in two weeks time, with the help of another engineer.

Wozniak spends a great deal of time pointing out how advanced the Apple II was to other home computers available at the time, including its graphics, sound and programming ease.

Wozniak discusses his courtship with Candi Clark and a plane crash that happened shortly before their marriage. He crashed a private plane while taking off from the small airport in Scotts Valley, California. He was unable to recall any of the events of the crash and for many weeks after being released from the hospital, didn't realize he had been in a crash at all. He says he wandered around in a haze and didn't report to work, thinking every day was a weekend day (the same day, in fact). He didn't remember one day to the next and needed to be told how to get to places familiar to him. He finally figured out what happened through logic, after which his memory began operating correctly again.

About this time, Wozniak decided to return to college to finish his degree. He also points out that he did not drop out of college, he simply couldn't afford the last semester at the time. He enrolled in University of California, Berkeley under an assumed name, since by now Steve Wozniak was a household name. He lived in a rented apartment near the university while his second wife, Candi, stayed at their home in the Santa Cruz mountains, where he visited her on weekends.

At this time, Wozniak discusses his launch of the US Festival, envisioning it as a modern day Woodstock Festival, but featuring progressive country music, a genre Wozniak had just developed an affinity for from listening to Gilroy's KFAT radio station. Ultimately, it turned into a rock format, because another backer feared a country-themed festival wouldn't attract enough customers. Wozniak lost money on the venture, but stated he didn't care since it made the attendees—and him—happy. The first festival opened the day after his first child, Jesse, was born.

Despite losing money, it didn't stop Wozniak from backing another US Festival the following year. Though mostly another rock festival, the second festival also featured a "country" day. Wozniak also lost money on the second festival—despite enhanced security—but he states once again that it was worth it.

Wozniak describes that he had a myriad of electronic entertainment devices in his Santa Cruz home (more than most people had at the time). Each was controlled by a different remote control. He hated having to use each one whenever he wanted to watch television, for example, the sound output of which was routed through his stereo. After a while, he decided to start a new company to develop what is now known as a universal remote. As he left on good terms with Apple, a Wall Street Journal journalist interviewed him about his departure. Wozniak was careful to tell him he had no qualms with Apple, but that he just wanted to develop the new remote. Unfortunately, the article stated just the opposite[citation needed], which resulted in hard feelings on the part of Jobs.

Wozniak started the new company, called CL 9, with two other friends, in Los Gatos. He intended financing the entire venture by himself, but later external investors also contributed money to the company (much to his chagrin). Wozniak and friends made great headway on the product, which Wozniak states was revolutionary at the time.

About this time, Wozniak's second marriage, to Candi, was breaking up. In fact, their third child was born after their divorce was finalized. He states that Candi still lives on their Santa Cruz estate.

Wozniak eventually sold CL 9, which subsequently went out of business. All the while, he emphasizes he is still an Apple employee, but that he makes as little as a full-time Apple employee can make. He says that he represents Apple at conventions and other groups.

Wozniak discusses how he always had a yearning to teach, since about the fifth grade (about 10 to 11 years old in the United States). For 10 years, starting when his son, Jesse, was in the fifth grade, Wozniak donated computers and taught a computer class at his son's school. He states those were the happiest ten years of his life.

Wozniak discusses his main reasons for finally writing his autobiography was to dispel several myths that surround his history, and that of Apple, including:

  • He developed the Apple II almost independently, not with a lot of help from Jobs
  • He didn't leave Apple; he is still, in fact, officially employed by Apple
  • He didn't have a "falling out" with Jobs (except right after the development of CL 9) and was still friends with him.

Wozniak ends his book with advice to others, particularly the youth, on how to develop their own inventions and encourages them to ignore the mainstream and follow their own passions and ideas.

References[edit]

External links[edit]

  • Woz.org — Wozniak's official site