The bearded, teddy bear of a man known to all as Woz is the undisputed star of the technology. Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak charmed hundreds of fans with non-stop stories about the early days of the personal computer revolution and his relationship with Steve Jobs.
“The movies are so phoney about how the computer came to be, how Apple computer came to be, so phoney,” Wozniak said.
“People want to go back and make that great-thinking and spiritual Steve Jobs the leader of the whole idea behind Apple,” he said. “And I resent that a lot in movies.”
In the movie “Jobs,” there is a scene where Steve Jobs, played by Ashton Kutcher, takes Wozniak to a meeting of computer geeks that became the Homebrew Computer Club. In real life, it was the other way around, Wozniak said. He introduced Jobs to the legendary group.
“The computer club Steve Jobs had never been to had inspired me from day one, the first meeting,” Wozniak said.
“Stanford and Berkeley professors were talking about how society was going to be revolutionized once we had low-cost computers,” Wozniak said. “And I built my first computer because of that.”
Wozniak shared his designs with other club members and helped them build their own models.
“I was a hero at the club, showing off my computer,” he said. “Every two weeks, as I developed more and more of my computer language, Basic, I was a hero. I took Steve Jobs to the club to show him what it was about. And when he saw it, he said: ‘We should form a company.'”
After Apple was founded, Wozniak, Jobs and Markkula suddenly had lots of money. But accumulating a lot of money was not what Wozniak was in it for.
“I am not a money person,” he said. “I am against money, being superwealthy and the way it perverts your morals and your ethics.”
Wozniak gave money to museums, schools and rock concerts. He sent his children to public schools. And he remembered the influence and support of the Homebrew Computer Club.
“I went and gave $20 million in today’s dollars of my own stock,” he said. “I gave it to five other people who were kind of around us in those garage-type days before we had money.”
One member of the club was a woman who taught elementary school. She used to roll her homebuilt computer into classes, and show students how the machine worked. When the Apple I was launched, Wozniak wanted Jobs to give her one.
“For two hours, I tried to plead with him to give her the first Apple I computer,” Woz said. “And he wouldn’t do it. He made me buy it for $300, and I gave it to her.”
Wozniak also thought about Apple’s employees. He sold Apple stock to 80 employees at pre-IPO prices so they could share in the wealth and buy houses.
“Yeah, that’s how I think,” Wozniak said. “And as far as diversifying funds, it is really easy when you have three divorces.”
Wozniak also talked about his experience teaching public school. He said he realized giving a lot of money to schools was not that meaningful. So he gave of himself, and started teaching Grade 5 and Grade 6 students about computers. He taught Grade 7 students how to code.
He did it for eight years and insisted on no media attention.
“I got up to where I was teaching seven days a week, courses to expert students, courses to beginner students, and courses for teachers,” he said.
Wozniak’s father was an engineer at Hewlett-Packard. After studying at Berkeley, Wozniak eventually worked at HP as well. He left his job there when Apple was started.
Wozniak first heard about binary code, used to develop software, when he was in Grade 5. “I said: ‘This is fascinating.’ You don’t need any higher level math to understand ones and zeros,” he said. “A fourth grader can understand it. I was in fifth grade and I said: ‘Oh my God, this is going to be the thing I love for life, I am going to be good at.'”
When he was 20, Wozniak came up with his formula for happiness — food (the necessities of life), fun (entertainment) and friends — F-cubed for short.
“And when I was being inducted into my high school hall of fame, I told that to the students and they started laughing, and I had to embarrassingly go to a microphone and say: ‘There might be a fourth F,'” Wozniak said.
“What life is about is not your accomplishments, it is your happiness,” he said.