A conversation with Woz

Last week, in the course of reporting articles for Newsweek on the death of Steve Jobs, I spent two hours on the phone with Steve Wozniak, Apple’s co-founder. Woz reminisced about his friendship with 16-year-old Steve Jobs, their early days listening to Dylan bootlegs and what it was like as Apple took off. He recalled the times when they disagreed — but never, ever had a face-to-face fight or argument, he insists — and why he believes that Steve died happy. Woz told me about the early days when he and Steve were going door-to-door in the dorm rooms at Berkeley selling blue boxes, illegal electronic devices that let people make free long-distance phone calls. He told me about a prank call they made to the Vatican, and about getting robbed at gunpoint. Finally, Woz revealed that, owing to some kind of miscommunication, he never participated in the forthcoming Walter Isaacson biography of Steve Jobs.

I’m publishing this here because as often happens in the world of print journalism, there was no room for all this material in Newsweek. But I’m hoping people will find it as interesting and informative as I did. (Apologies for any typos. Point them out and I will fix them.)

When I talked to Woz it was Friday morning. He was wrung out and exhausted. He’d been up until midnight on Wednesday, the day the Steve died. He slept for two hours then got up when the camera crews started showing up at 2 a.m. Thursday for the East Coast hits. He gave interviews all day Thursday, went out for dinner, and finally came home and got some sleep.

Are people coming up to you in restaurants, wanting to talk?

No, they are being polite. The waiters are always saying things. But people are holding off more than normal. Usually people come up to me when I’m out at dinner. Everyone wants to express their own emotions and feelings which are strong and deep. They look for, “Where can I express it?” I don’t want to be the focal point. But my phone was ringing constantly.

What was Steve like in the early days?

Steve was very organized and operational minded. He never tried to do any computer design stuff when I was around. He knew it was pointless. From the day we met he found other ways. I was just such a hot shot designer of things, so ahead that nobody would try to do things around me.

How did you and Steve come up with the idea for the first Apple product, the Apple I?

Oh, a lot of people saw the Apple I before Steve Jobs even knew about it. I was in the Homebrew Computer Club. Steve was up in Oregon, working at an orchard, in a commune. We were really not in touch. But I got inspired to help this revolution. People in our club thought the personal computer would affect everyone’s life. We thought everyone would have a little computer, a little thing with switches and weird numbers on it, and people would learn to program to operate a computer. We didn’t think it would be normal stuff like it turned out to be.

I never wanted to run a business. I had a perfect job for life at HP. I went to club meetings every week and I passed out my schematics for the Apple I, no copyright, nothing, just, “Hey all you guys here is a cheap way to build a computer.” I would demo it on a TV set.

Then Steve Jobs came in from Oregon, and he saw what the club was about, and he saw the interest in my design. I had the only one that was really affordable. Our first idea was just to make printed circuit boards. We could make them for 20 dollars and sell them for 40 or something like that. I had given the schematics away. But Steve thought it could be a company.

This was actually our fifth product together. We always were 50-50 partners. We were best friends. We first did the blue boxes. The next one I did was I saw Pong at a bowling alley so I built my own Pong with 28 chips. I was at HP designing calculators. Steve saw Pong and ran down to Atari and showed it to them and they hired him. Whether they thought he had participated in the design, I don’t know and I could not care less. They offered him a job and put him on the night shift. They said he doesn’t get along with people very well, he’s very independent minded. It rubbed against people. So they put him on the night shift alone.

Our next project was when Steve said that Nolan (Bushnell, head of Atari) wanted a one-player game with bricks that you hit out. He said we could get a lot of money if we could design it with very few chips. So we built that one and got paid by Atari.

The legend is that Steve cheated you out of some money on that deal.

The legend is true. It didn’t matter to me. I had a job. Steve needed money to buy into the commune or something. So we made Breakout and it was a half-man-year job but we did it in four days and nights. It was a very clever design.

The next project we did together was we saw a guy using a big teletype machine that cost as much as a car hooked up to a modem dialing in to the ARPAnet. You could get into 12 universities and log in as a guest and do things on a far-away computer. This was unbelievable to me. I knew you could call a local time-sharing company. But to get access to university computers was incredible. So I went home and designed one myself. I designed a video terminal that could go out over the modem to Stanford and then on to the ARPAnet and bring up a list of university computers.

The far-away computers would talk in letters on my TV set. Instead of paddles and balls in Pong, I put in a character generator. The terminal was very inexpensively designed. We sold it to a company called Call Computer. They now had a cheap terminal. Steve and I split the money.

Tell me about making the blue boxes.

These were counterculture days. I was anti-war. Steve was into the hippie thing too. I didn’t do it to make money but just to build a device to explore it, not to save money on phone calls. I was so honest I would not use the blue box to make long-distance calls. But if I wanted to play pranks, like route signals around the world and make them come back to the phone next to me. We did prank calls. I would call a hotel in Paris and make a reservation. At the dorms in Berkeley we would go door-to-door selling blue boxes. One hundred and fifty bucks was the price.

Did you really once call the Vatican and pretend to be Henry Kissinger?

Yes, I did. We were doing a demo of a blue box in a dorm room. I called Italy, then asked for Rome, then asked for the Vatican. I told them I was Henry Kissinger calling from a summit meeting in Moscow. It was 5:30 in the morning in Italy. They told me to call back in an hour. I did, and I spoke to a bishop who said he had just spoken to Henry Kissinger in Moscow.

We also got robbed at gunpoint once. This was in a pizza parlor in Sunnyvale. Two guys looked like they might be interested. We took them back to a pay phone and made a call to Chicago for them. They were enamored and wanted the blue box, but they had no money. We got out to the car and they show up with a gun and stick it in Steve’s face. We gave them the blue box. But they didn’t know how to use it. They gave us a phone number to call so we could tell them how to use it. I came up with this idea of telling them a method that would get them caught by the police, or one that would get them billed. We didn’t do it. But boy it would have been funny. But you don’t want to be dealing with someone who is pointing a gun in your face.

You guys seem like an unlikely pair.

We were very similar. We would hunt through stores in Berkeley looking for Dylan bootlegs. Steve was interested in computers, and he really wanted to find a way to build a computer out of these new devices called microprocessors. He thought that someday they could replace big computers and everyone could have their own computer relatively cheap. Steve had a background working in surplus stores buying stuff cheap and selling it for a lot more. I was shocked when he told me how he could buy something for 6 cents knowing he could sell it for 60 bucks. He felt that was normal and right, and I sort of didn’t. How could you do that? I was not for ripping people off. But then we started Apple and I went with the best advice which is that you should make good profit in order to grow.

Steve was willing to jump right into that. Mike Markkula was the mentor who told Steve what his role would be in Apple, and told me mine. He was the mentor who taught us how to run a company. He’s very low-key. He stays out of the press and he’s not that well-known. But he saw the genius in Steve. The passion, the excitement, the kind of thinking that makes someone a success in the world. He saw that in Steve.

Mike Markkula had worked at Intel in engineering and marketing. He really believed in marketing. He decided that Apple would be a marketing driven company. He was introduced to us by Don Valentine. Don had come to the garage and I ran the Apple II through its paces and he said, “What is the market?” I said, “A million units.” He asked me why that was and I sad, “There’s a million ham radio operators and computers are bigger than ham radio.” We didn’t quite get the formula. Steve Jobs and I had no business experience. We had taken no business classes. We didn’t have savings accounts. We had no bank accounts. I paid cash at my apartment — I had to, because of bounced checks.

Was Steve more into business than you were?

He understood the technology well enough to know that I was the best designer. He knew that. He had seen other companies and he knew that you need a businessman who understands technology. He was very much a technologist businessman. He wasn’t an engineer. He didn’t do any hardware or software.

Randy Wigginton told me that in the early days you were the most impressive one, not Steve Jobs.

Well I was a super brilliant engineer. HP turned down my idea for the personal computer five times. Then later when they saw the Apple II they said it was the best product they had ever seen. I was highly regarded for my engineering skills. But I never wanted money. I would have been a bad person to run a company. I wanted to be a nice guy. I wanted to make friends with everybody. Yes I came up with the idea for the personal computer but I don’t want to be known as a guy who changed the world. I want to be known as an engineer who connected chips in a really efficient way or wrote code that is unbelievable. I want to be known as a great engineer. I’m thankful Steve Jobs was there. You need someone who has a spirit for the marketplace. Who has the spirit for who computers change humanity. I didn’t design the Apple II for a company. I designed it for myself, to show off. I look at all the recent Apple products, like the iPhone, the iPad, and even Pixar, and it was like everything Steve worked on had to be perfect. Because it was him. Every product he created was Steve Jobs. You’re not going to let an imperfect you go out. That’s why he was so tight and controlling of the quality of things.

Are you surprised that Steve Jobs became this huge cultural icon? Randy said that in the early days he would never have bet on Steve becoming so important.

Nobody would have bet on it except a few rare people, ones that know that greatness and great companies come from people who have a certain kind of spirit, a way of thinking beyond what other people might think. Randy was really young in those days. So it would have been hard for him to see that. It was hard for me to spot that in Steve. But Mike Markkula spotted it. Mike really thought we would have one of the biggest companies ever.

In the early days of Apple Steve deliberately injected himself into every decision. I said, “Look if I try to pretend that I know how to do marketing, it’s better to be silent and thought a fool than open your mouth and leave no doubt.” So I sat there in staff meetings and I did what I was excellent at — printer interfaces, floppy disk interfaces, serial interfaces. I did my job. Steve wanted an important say in every division of the company. Mike defined that was Steve’s role. Get in and learn. Get a footprint in every department so over time Steve got very confident about telling anyone what to do. Because he was the founder and he was protected.

Is it true you originally didn’t want to join Apple?

I said no to Apple at first. I was philosophically pure and I always said I would not be corrupted by money. I would not take big money from Markkula and give up my dream of being an engineer at the greatest company ever, HP, for life. I said no to Apple. I said I could design computers in my spare time. Markkula said I had to leave HP. I said, “No, I don’t have to leave HP, I’ll moonlight.” Then all of my friends started calling me and telling me I had to go to Apple. My friend Allen Baum said, “You can stay at HP and become a manager and get rich or you can go to Apple and stay an engineer and get rich.” That’s what I needed to hear. I realized I don’t have to run anything. I didn’t want to run a company. I was so non political that I would have been thrown out, probably. Steve had a way of being offensive to people. He was always jumping at people always trying to be at the top and out in front. I was quiet. I never had that kind of ADHD life that so many of my friends in technology have. I was calm. No big ups and downs.

Did you guys have a falling out at some point? I read that you were upset when Steve started emphasizing the Mac instead of the Apple II.

Well I had worked on the Mac. I believed in that technology so thoroughly. I saw it as Apple’s future. But I didn’t believe we should cut off the Apple II product line and stop mentioning it in public. The Apple II was the big cash cow. The Apple II people felt bad, but not me. However, I did speak out on their behalf. Steve didn’t talk to me personally about these issues. But he didn’t like what I was saying. The closest thing we ever had to an argument was when I left in 1985 to start a company to build a universal remote control. I went to Frog Design to do the design. Steve dropped in there one day and he saw what they were designing for me and he threw it against the wall and said they could not do any work for me. “Anything you do for Woz, belongs to me.” I was on my own, but I was still friendly with Apple. But Steve had a burst-out there. The people at Frog told me about it. That was the only time there was ever a fight between us, but it wasn’t actually between us. Nobody has ever seen us having an argument.

Were you still working together closely in 1985 when you left to create the new company?

We were much more distant by then. The first couple of years at Apple we were very close. But then Steve was the businessman at the top, and I was an engineer. We were in different parts of the company. We weren’t communicating much. We were different people by then.

But even after you left to start the new company you remained an Apple employee. You’re still an Apple employee today, right?

I get 200 bucks every two weeks. A tiny salary.

When did you first move out of the garage?

It turns out that from our Apple I sales in the garage and by not paying salaries to ourselves we had established a bank account with about $10,000, and that was enough to move to an office space in Cupertino. I think we moved in before we even got the initial investment funding from Mike Markkula. We had a few desks, and no walls. We hired a president, Mike Scott. I really liked Scotty. He could be stern and strict but he also had a light side. He took Apple to the IPO. You never hear about him, but boy he was so important. He created a manual that was just filled with all of my designs and information. I wanted it to go out with the computer. Steve Jobs thought I wanted the information out so people could use our computer, but no, I wanted the information out there so people could learn what computers were and how they were built. I can’t tell you how many times I run into CEOs and they tell me they went through that manual and learned it all and that is what brought them into computers. If we published that manual today I don’t think Apple would let anything out that had all those little details.

What is the deal about Steve parking in handicapped spots? Was that true?

To me, I would just laugh and enjoy it as a joke. He was always flying around to buildings in his car and you know what it’s like when you can’t find a parking spot, so he would just drive up and pull in. There’s a story that someone once keyed his Mercedes at Apple so from then on he would park his car in a handicapped spot near a window so it was always being watched.

And what about him having a car with no license plate? How did he do that?

You can get a permit for that. Steve was always trying to be anonymous, and hidden. That’s the opposite of how I am. I don’t call reporters, but I don’t hide from people who I am. I get tons of email a day and I try to answer all of them.

Do you remember the first time you met Steve?

I took a year off from college to earn money for tuition. I was working as a programmer and I told the company that I knew how to design minicomputers. This exec said “If you can design one, we’ll get you the parts.” So I designed a very simple computer, and they got me the chips. I was working on it with a friend, Bill Fernandez. We were in his garage building this thing. Bill said “You should meet this guy Steve Jobs, he’s at our high school and he knows about this digital stuff. And he’s played some pranks too.” So Steve came over. We talked about what pranks we had done. Then we started talking about music. I was turned on to Dylan, reading the words and analyzing them. We agreed Dylan was more important than the Beatles because he had words that meant things. He was serious. He was not just about enjoyment. We started going to Dylan concerts together. We would go through music stores looking for Dylan bootlegs. We found some pamphlets with Dylan interviews, and then we drove down to Santa Cruz to meet the guy who wrote the pamphlets. He showed us some rare pictures of Dylan and we listened to some rare music of Dylan.

Steve’s lifestyle was the young hippie who has nothing, who is getting by on almost zero dollars. I always had a job, always had money. But I admired everything I read about the hippies. This was the Vietnam War days. I became distrustful of authority. That matched the hippie philosophy of Steve. We admired the students who were protesting. We had a lot in common. People think we were way different but not really. With Steve, maturity came to him, but less maturity came to me in my life. He took on the responsibilities of business. I always wanted to be a young person. I wanted the fun in life forever. When you die you should die happy. For some people that’s all about making a business success, tangling with people, yelling at them on the phone, that’s what makes them happy. Steve was a more serious capable disciplined person. I’m still young and undisciplined. I have a lot of fun.

Do you think Steve died happy?

Of course! If he were to sit back and say, “When I was young, what was my dream in the world,” well he achieved that 100 times over. I think Steve when he was away from Apple he was unhappy but obviously he died happy. I think he died mature and cognizant and aware. I think you are lucky when you have time to see it coming. You can make sure you go out with the right things done.

Will you go to the funeral?

I don’t know about it yet. I haven’t been informed. Will Steve Jobs even have one? Is he the kind of person who would have one? I haven’t seen him for many years. Just phone calls here and there. I don’t know if I was the right person in that crowd. We had an unbelievably important relationship. I never said anything bad about Steve. We never had a fight. Not in person, between us. One time we disagreed when I was designing the Apple II and I wanted eight slots and he wanted only two slots and I said, “Well go get another computer.” My design was good and those slots turned out to be an unbelievable part of the Apple II’s success.

What happened to Steve during the years when he was thrown out of Apple that made him such a great CEO when he came back?

I think Steve learned a lot of discipline. Not just personal discipline but discipline for the company, how to make sure the company met its goals. When he left Apple he was still just flying around believing in his own directions but ignoring the directions of other people. When he left Apple he had some quiet words for me. He told me he was going to start this other company because he felt his purpose in life was to create great computers.

Years later, after Pixar came out with “Toy Story,” Steve told me that all these others were making animated movies but what matters is whether the story is any good. The problem is you don’t really know which one is the good one. But he knew. That’s the vision thing. There is some very different genius involved in having everything a home run out of Pixar. I don’t know everyone is talking about “Apple, Apple, Apple,” after Steve’s demise, because Pixar is another one. And it’s a whole diferent realm. I always liked the comparison of Steve to Disney more so than to Edison.

What was Steve’s biggest strength?

Everyone else will say vision, and gosh darn that’s important but that doesn’t go anywhere without operational discipline. Steve once told me that Apple only lost money when they built junk. It was his focus on good products that I believe was the biggest thing. All we have to do is make great products. If you have a big market. Apple had millions of fans, such a huge user base. Another strength was that he came back and put together a new board of directors. He organized the company to have good tight controls. Watching everything he could — that is operational excellence. Lots of CEOs just look at little points of data and make a decision. Steve was so much more than that. It’s rare. It does take a lot of work and time. I always felt bad setting up even a lunch with him, because he must have been the busiest person in the world.

Did you talk to Walter Isaacson for the biography of Steve?

I got a call from someone writing a book about Steve Jobs, saying it was an official book, but I turned him down. I didn’t want to talk about Steve. I was afraid he wouldn’t want it. So I never spoke to Walter for the book. I feel so bad about that. Then again, so much stuff that I’ve said is already out in the public.

111 Responses to “A conversation with Woz”

  1. woz

    Wow, that was really great Lyons, thanks.

    And thanks also for your advice about asking Laurene out. You’re the best, bro.

  2. frank

    This was great, thanks!

    Just wondering one thing, did you type this as he spoke? Some parts are written as if Woz was a foreigner when he spoke.

  3. andy js

    @woz: that’s one hilarious comment, had a great laugh.

    Thumbs up for Dan Lyons for the interview, this is a great stuff!

  4. Neo

    Great interview. I read Woz’s biography before and like his attitude to life. This interview makes me like it more.

  5. Al K. Lloyd

    I met Woz once a few years back, standing outside of the Alexis Park in Vegas. Just a super friendly guy, not a bad word to say about anyone.

  6. FakeWoz

    Fake Steve (Legit Lyons) asked the good questions only the great Woz can answer. I hope Woz will return to Apple fulltime and guide the engineering vision to even more greatness.
    I can’t wait for my SJ book next week!

  7. Jason

    I have read a few stories and reminiscent tales but this one was by far the most interesting to me. From the beginning I have always thought of SJ as more Disney than Edison and this is the first time I have seen it said. I also have not read everything written out there though.

    I was never and will never be an “Apple groupie” but as a geek I love Apple products because I see the vision behind them, the tools, the pride. Something very few in the tech industry grasp. I used to wonder why Apple products were so popular with artsy types and creative people but I realized something I have heard for years. It takes an artist to understand true art. If you look to a product to do nothing more than sit on a desk then you may not understand the point of having a Mac. If you want something that represents a vision and in a sense inspires you to do more and tap into your unseen skills then a Mac may give you a sense of belonging.

    Without going more off base here I will end with another thanks from both Woz and the author for giving even more insight into a mind that never allowed it’s light to leak.

  8. Reed

    Who has the spirit for who computers change humanity.
    Who has the spirit for how computers change humanity.

  9. Chris

    Maybe the original Apple II reference manual. I remember reading all the firmware printed in it many times. Long time ago and it was awesome fun. I also recall the first software I think I ever purchased came on cassette tape – the SubLogic A2-3d1 graphics library, the root of what became Flight Simulator. I also bought a Mountain Hardware Music System, a polyphonic synth that occupying both apple II slots! Fantastic. I used it in a musical at high school once :) .

  10. Adrian O'Connor

    In the 8-bit era, starting probably with the Apple II, computers came with incredibly detailed technical reference manuals that described the computer’s internals in great detail. In particular, you got circuit board diagrams (schemata) and memory locations for the functions that were built in to the ROM chips.

    Here’s a list of Apple II manuals: http://apple2history.org/museum/books_manuals/. Woz is probably talking about the red book.

    I never owned an Apple II — in the UK Sinclairs and Commodores were far more popular — but I remember getting similar reference guides and being entirely confused (and also impressed by them) as a young boy.

  11. SDC

    Fantastic interview! This is the best “Woz” interview I have read thus far! Kudos Dan!

    You asked…so I have identified some typos:
    - He asked me why that was and I sad, “There’s a million
    - You’re not going to let an imperfect you go out.
    - In the early days of Apple Steve deliberately injected himself into every decision.
    - I was quiety
    - Who has the spirit for who computers change humanity.
    - I was so non political
    - He was always jumping at people always trying to be at the top and out in front
    - If we published taht manual today I don’t think Apple would let anything out that had all those little details.
    - We never had a fight. Not in person, between us.
    - only two slots and I said, “Well go get another computer.”
    - When he left Apple he some quiet words for me.
    - I don’t know everyone is talking about “Apple, Apple, Apple,” after Steve’s demise, because Pixar is another one.

  12. Dr Lou

    Super Post, and Thank You. It’s a great view into history.

    … and I’m guessing there are very few typos in there; Woz really talks like that!

  13. ckzero

    There are many like Jobs, but not many like Woz. The world needs more Steve Wozniaks. (Absolutely no disrespect to SJ)

    This is the interview I’d been waiting for, thanks. Brilliant.

  14. Jerry king

    Thanks for the great interview. Thanks Woz for apple. And thanks for the US Festival. I have a crystal apple with Woz’s name on the bottom. One of my treasures.

  15. AJ

    Great interview as usual. I had no idea Woz was still on Apple’s payroll. Quite surprised and a bit disappointed though that Woz’s perspective won’t be in the official Steve Jobs bio.

  16. Arnold

    And it’s a whole diferent realm. I always liked the comparison of Steve to Disney more so than to Edison.

    different has two f’s

    :) Great Article. Thanks for sharing

  17. Steve Wozniak

    First manual was a collection of copied pages but soon the complete “Red Manual” was done. It was the size of letter paper and about half an inch thick. In addition, whenever anyone called wanting more information we’d send them the “Woz Pack” which was about an equivalent amount of other design and programming notes I’d done. I’m sure all this is online somewhere too.

  18. Steve Wozniak

    Actually, I later spoke to Walter Isaacson and he told me that I did indeed speak to him on more than one occasion, on the phone and in a green room I think. Whew.

  19. martymankins

    Damn fine interview with Woz. Woz’s creation of the Apple II, work on the Mac and having the awesome US Festival in 1983 (which I had the fortune of being at) will be remembered as great things by this geek.

  20. DeDomenici

    Amazing interview! Thanks Dan. Thanks Woz. Does the technology of the Blue Box still work? I once managed to get a ‘the number you have dialed has not been recognised’ error message by playing a piano into a telephone handset. Maybe it’s time for an update!

  21. Eddie

    Great interview. It seems to me that now that Steve is gone Woz is speaking about his former partner more freely. Which is good and bad. Good that his answers are more honest. Bad, in that I am sensing some resentment reading between the lines. He inferred that Steve was happy being a monster at Apple. We all know he was tough, but c´mon. Not cool. Let´s face it, without Steve Woz would have been another great engineer (if that) that we would know of his existence only through wikipedia or the occasional discovery channel documentary. What Steve did was recognize the talent and exploit it. Without him, the world would be a very different place right now. How many people can have that kind of impact on humanity? What this world lacks is just that. Visionaries. Most of humanity is myopic.

  22. Douglas Hill

    Definitely the Apple II reference manual – still have mine. It came with schematics
    along with a print out of the firmware, special memory locations (page zero), etc.

  23. Willis

    From an outsider’s prospective, one certainly wonders if Jobs was a “good man” worth the hero worship lavished on him by the masses. Cheating his “partners”? Parking in handicapped places? Throwing the CL9 against the wall and declaiming his ownership of another human being in a fit of rage?

    On the other hand, the record is pretty clear that Wozniak is nothing short of a great man. Honest, open, generous, and (overly) optimistic about his fellow human beings. Not to mention that he is exactly what he wants to be: a brilliant engineer in his chosen field and an all around nice guy.

    In the wake of Jobs’ death, he has been lauded by the media ad nauseum as a “positive role model” for society.

    But there are those of us who – looking from the outside in – wonder at the price of success when the cost is your soul. Or, less dramatically, at the cost of becoming an absolute a-hole like Steve Jobs.

    I think it is a mark of how good a person Wozniak is that he still tries to speak positively about his relationship with Jobs. Given the public history between the two, if I had been Wozniak, I would have uncorked the most expensive bottle of champagne I could find when I heard the news. In public. While dancing naked.

    But then, I’m not the saint that Wozniak is.

    Woz, there are those of us who have always wanted to be what you were (and are), not what Jobs was. There are those of us who want to stand for all of the good things that you have stood for, not clamber over the bodies of our “partners” on the way to the top.

    I’m truly sorry you lost your friend, if friend he ever was.

  24. t-bone

    Right? Am I the only one that senses a simmering resentment toward Jobs? He says a lot of frankly unflattering things about him, and then tries to soften the blow by saying, “Oh…but I didn’t care…because I’m just such a gentle, magnanimous, and generous person. You know – unlike STEVE.”

    Seriously…this reads like a stealth hit piece. And just after the guy passes on, with no opportunity to respond to any of the allegations or one-sided anecdotes.


  25. Jason

    While Woz says that he and Steve Jobs were very similar, they were both very much opposite in many ways.

    One of the big questions that people seem to be considering, is was Steve Jobs a good or a bad person? He obviously did some bad things, like the CL9 thing and the oft quoted handicaped parking space, and the paternity of his first daughter. He was so driven to do what he did that he didn’t let anything get in the way. I guess I’m not saying this is right, just that I kind of understand it. I’m definitely not saying that any of this was OK, but he did a lot of good too. People are complex, they do good and bad things, and you can’t always decide if the good outweighs the bad.

    Now, Woz is one of the nicest people you will ever meet, probably to a fault. So one Steve is willing to step on people to get what he wants, the other is so generous that he disadvantages himself (and still think’s that it’s OK).

    Everything engineering wise that Woz has done is in the past though. I guess that shouldn’t be a problem, because you cannot doubt that his contribution was huge, and for many things. The floppy drive interface was pure genius, just seeing it you could understand it was something amazing. Woz’s design was like 6 chips, and required 22 less chips on the actual drive (I think), other designs were these huge cards full of chips, and they didn’t even work as well. Saying that Woz invented the personal computer is a bold and debatable claim, but it just may be true.

    Steve Jobs contribution early on was maybe not so important, although I do beleve that without Jobs, Woz would probably have never made a success of the Apple ][, it probably would never have been a business at least. But Steve Jobs matured into a person that had a huge influence over the world.

    So opposites again, Woz was brilliant at the start of his career, Jobs was grew to be brilliant at the end.

  26. Ocalasportsman

    In the words of Bill & Ted “Excellent” As a long time…ie. Since Apple II fan, I know SJ had a huge impact on my life, and many of the lives of those I care about. I have only begun to comprehend the extent of it since his passing.

    Thanks for sharing, SW.

    Live long Woz.

  27. Willis

    Allegations and one-sided anecdotes? Those one-sided anecdotes have been floating around for years and have been repeatedly confirmed by the principle players and the people that know them.

    Like the one about Woz doing all the engineering on the original Atari Breakout games. Atari was offering a $100 bonus for every IC that could be taken out of the original design, which required 80 ICs. Jobs came to Wozniak with it. In a weekend Woz knocked out a design with only 30 ICs in it – $5,000 worth of bonus.

    Jobs “split” the bonus with Wozniak – except he told Woz it was a $700 bonus and gave him $350, and pocketed the rest.

    I read about this years ago, wish I could remember where so I could cite you a source. Seriously… given the public history and Job’s publicly documented behavior as a giant asshole.

    Stealth hit piece it was not – anyone who knows anything about the history of Apple or the PC knows that Jobs was the worlds largest asshole.

    Successful, yes.

    Good human being, not so much.

  28. Dick Heiser

    It was a big red book with listings and interfaces, very nice.

    I was impressed when Inside Macintosh came out similarly, simultaneously with the machine.

  29. Nelson Rosado

    Woz is a very interesting person to know. This interview clarifies his point in some of the loose stories that are read on the internet and we doubt that by this or that point. Steve Jobs was the best that could have arisen in the technological world. It marked the starting point for many other ideas. Woz has always seemed like the nicest person in the family Apple always appear relaxed and always willing to make everyone happy without hurting susceptibilities. It is those people that everyone wants as a friend and can talk whenever they are discouraged. I was curious about his biography. One day I will read it and I think I’ll confirm my idea about it. See you around Woz.

  30. David Payne

    “Bad, in that I am sensing some resentment reading between the lines. He inferred that Steve was happy being a monster at Apple. We all know he was tough, but c´mon. Not cool.”

    What about bad that he didn’t feel free to express his opinions when Jobs was around to make him sorry he crossed him?

    You have chosen to believe the portraits of a tough but wise benign Jobs promulgated recently when Jobs was powerful. You either didn’t read or didn’t believe the earlier frequent portrayals of a grandiose vindictive conman made when folk had less to fear from Jobs. The later portraits don’t invalidate the earlier, but the earlier can also explain the later.

  31. David Payne

    I read the breakout story in “The Macintosh Bathroom reader” if I remember the title correctly. They attributed it to a Steven Levy book I think;- presumably “Insanely Great”.
    I’ve always regretted the way Levy’s documenting was warped by his idealisation of Apple. Now I read Wikipedia calling him a respected critic of Apple. Presumably respected because he still mythologized it, but even Mr Levy might be appalled by the recent Jobs canonisation. I delayed writing about this because SJ was ill but on his death the mass-media has quintupled their mis-information about Apple & computer history.
    Still, plenty of ass-holes were even more ruthless & destructive than Jobs, especially politicians like Hitler, Stalin, Che etc.

  32. David Payne

    Some of the “conservatives” who have cited Jobs as an example to us all probably didn’t know of his reference to LSD in John Markoff’s book “What The Doormouse Said” (Yes Door mouse seems to be correct).

    As that quote permeates we can watch some verbal wriggling. Like the mass media’s misstatements about “Personal Computer” history, it reveals that faced with deadlines & no background knowledge, media will repeat & possibly invent any nonsense that suits them. And a nice simple X invented Y or X is good, Y is bad answer appeals more than nuanced, arguable attempts to describe the real, complex world.

  33. David Payne

    BTW thank you to Woz & Dan for the interview. A pleasant change from the psuedo-journalism I referred to above. We can agree & believe or disagree & doubt any or everything Woz has said but it’s verbatim straight from the hacker’s mouth, not a precis of a precis of a “well written”, poorly researched article.

  34. matt

    The following phrases may need looking at:
    Who has the spirit for who computers change humanity.
    I don’t know everyone is talking about “Apple

  35. Mario


    “asked me why that was and I sad,”
    should be “ask me why that was and I said”

    “who computers change humanity”
    should be “how computers change humanity”

    “I was so non political”
    should be “I was so non-political”

  36. DM

    Steve Wozniak is a lovable teddy bear who I would like to squeeze.

    I wonder if he has kept up to date with programming over the years, and if properly motivated still churn out innovative stuff.

  37. Sarah

    Sounds like this pair has been through a lot! I never would have thought the two Steves would have tried to sell blue boxes. I remember having to buy phone card australia to make cheaper long-distance phone calls, when these two were making it free for people.

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