The Mac Experience

A conversation with Steve Wozniak

In an exclusive two-part interview, Apple Computer's co-founder discusses Steve Jobs and the company's roots

First of two parts

Though out of the spotlight since leaving Apple Computer Inc. in 1985, Steve Wozniak remains revered for his integral role in helping Steve Jobs establish the company in 1976. He is credited with single-handedly designing the Apple I and Apple II machines.

A native of San Jose, Calif., Wozniak was introduced to Jobs in the mid-1970s by a mutual friend, Bill Fernandez.

Wozniak, who had dropped out of the University of California at Berkeley to get a job, was five years older than Jobs, who was in high school. He later received his degree from Berkeley.

Since leaving Apple, Wozniak has dabbled in several unsuccessful technological ventures, such as a wireless universal TV remote control company called CL-9, while devoting much of his time to educational causes.

In January 2002, Wozniak announced the formation of a startup company, Wheels of Zeus, to design and build "new consumer electronics wireless products to help everyday people track everyday things." The company has yet to announce any products.

Wozniak, 52, was in Baltimore last week for the silver anniversary celebration of the Maryland Apple Corps. He received a standing ovation before beginning his remarks.

In an interview, Wozniak discussed Jobs, the first Apple and the 1999 cable television movie, "Pirates of Silicon Valley," which depicted the showdown between his colleague and Microsoft Corp. founder Bill Gates.

The Mac Experience will feature more excerpts next week.

How did you and Steve Jobs meet?

I think it was my second year of college. I finally got some parts from a company that I had worked for, so I could build a computer of my own design. It was the first computer that I had ever built in my life. It was a minimal one. It couldn't do much, but it had switches and lights and it ran.

We built it down in Bill Fernandez's garage. He lived down the street, a few streets down. And Bill introduced me to Steve. That's my recollection.

Steve thinks we met much earlier, but I don't think so. Bill said: "There's this guy you've got to meet, because he likes electronics and he pulls pranks. You two have so much in common." And we did.

What was Jobs like? Was he like how he was portrayed in "Pirates of Silicon Valley"?

He was very much like he was portrayed there. He was sort of a free-floating hippie who could go a lot of different ways. He ate a lot of nuts -- and walked around barefoot or in sandals. He could get a job at Atari as a technician-engineer who could take designs and finish them. And then he'd go out for a few months and work on spreads in Oregon, or go over to India, bathe in the Ganges River. Then he'd come back.

I was very much the opposite -- just real stable. A settled, middle-type person, feet on the ground, have a normal life and a family and a home.

Has he changed much over the years?

No. Those values are very much unchanged. But his head was always looking toward business. Always. Even in those days. The questions he would ask: "With this design, could you ever put a disk drive on it?" "Could you ever have multiple users on it, sharing it?"

It's funny that, way back in time, these little questions he was asking, they're things that he keeps making sure Apple does to this day.

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