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I had the pleasure of attending Macomb Center for the Performing Arts fall exhibit series  featuring speaker Steve Wozinak a.k.a. Woz who shared his life experiences leading up to as co-founding Apple Computer.  He also discussed the importance of creativity and innovation in education in nurturing entrepreneurship. The arena was sold out, full house, well over 800 people!  John Peterson External Affairs for AT&T  took the stage,  AT&T  was sponsoring this event.  He said that ATT is averaging 2 new inventions a day. He introduced Mike Wendland and Woz.

Mike Wendland known as PC Mike (also a member of MacGroup Detroit) said that the Woz’s grandparents are from Michigan.   Woz also has other Michigan connections he has an honorary degree from Kettering University Flint, MI, and he has spoken before our Mac user group.  He also mentioned his God Puppy who I happen to know belongs to a long-time Woz friend/MacGroup-Detroit member Carol Goodell who initiated his very first honored guest/honored speaker appearance in 2000 for our group.  Also unknown to me was that Woz like myself, is a licensed ham radio operator.  Steve has loved to tinker since he was 10 years old.  He attended science fairs, and in high school took an electronics class.  His teacher was an ex military guy and he built test equipment, he arranged for Steve to go program computers one day a week.  His first program he wrote was Knights Tour of Chest.    

Steve admits to being a social outsider, shy, didn’t want to go to parties since all they did there was take drugs and he didn’t want to take drugs.  He also didn’t want to be a follower, he was independent.  His father was an Engineer and he attended a Catholic school.  His dad’s brother was a priest.  Steve’s dad taught him to see both sides of the issue and never told him what to do, it was all about choices.  He had him test things and come to his own conclusions.     


Steve wanted to be a 5th grade teacher.  He had found a journal in a hall closet that changed his life path.  Steve couldn’t afford parts to build his own computer so he did it on paper.    

After he had 2 years of college, his first year he was into computers and he had a graduate course in first year, his project ran the class 5 times over budget.    

His 3rd year of college he got a job programming computers wanting to pay for his own education.  He fell asleep in the car at night and crashed the car the night he and Jobs met Captain Crunch (John T Draper).  Captain Crunch was a phone phreaker who had a cereal box whistle that could toot out 2600 hertz tone to simulate money for a pay phone.  When the cop asked him what the blue box was he told him an electronic music synthesizer, the cop told him Moog beat you to it.    

Steve Jobs what was he like?  Woz designed on paper since he couldn’t afford the parts to build things, Jobs had a chip company connection, so he introduced Woz to his friend.  Down the road was another guy who makes digital electronics and pulled pranks who went to the same high school Steve Jobs.  Jobs was a free thinking hippie and Woz was different he was not into drugs.  He sat in his tent for a week in his dorm first week of college at Reed College Oregon.  

Steve would always tell Woz “I can sell it”.  They decided to go into business together, Woz wanted to be an engineer for life at HP he didn’t want to leave the company.  He proposed his computer idea to HP and ran it by them 5 times and they turned him down. Jobs called him up and Woz sold his calculator for $500 Jobs came up with $250 he still owes Woz $250 they were in their young 20’s with no experience, and Jobs called Woz up with an order for 100 computers for $50 each.  Woz’s salary was $24,000.  He was scared to leave he loved that company.  But this was $50,000. He decided not to start Apple since he loved HP so much.  

3/4 years of college he worked for Hewlett Packard HP designing computers.  He saw the Pong game and Atari hired Steve Jobs to work nights.  He would design with as few parts as possible in 4 days hardware that would take months to develop.  This would be Breakout for Atari after 4 days of working on it he got mono.    

Woz never raised a hand in their computer club, he was too shy. He wanted to be famous like Bill Gates who was also in their club, (Home Brew Computer Club) so he designed the basic.  Got parts on 30 days credit, built the computers and drove them the Apple I computer the Apple II came along in 3 months.  He was without sleep for 4 days and night at Atari and thought he saw color on the screen.  He added color to the Apple II, Jobs knew this was a hot product with 1/2 as many parts, twice as fast, games, pixels, incredible machine they were not giving this one away.  They could sell 1,000 of them,  Commodore and Atari turned them down.  Woz said the market was a million since there were a million ham radio operators.  Mike Markkula invested $250,000.  Woz had to leave HP,  they gave him until Tues. to decide he told Jobs he couldn’t do it, finally one friend said the right thing .. You can be an engineer start a company and become a manager and get rich or you can start a company and remain an engineer,  and get rich. That is all he had to hear, you can still be an engineer but don’t have to run the company like a businessman, Woz claims to be a passive person.  He doesn’t like conflict.  


Matt Rouch of WWJ radio had questions from the audience:

What are some of his favorite gadgets? 

His nixie tube watch, a notebook computer, an iPhone, iPad

What about the role of Michigan in high tech with the bad economy? 

Woz told us to use the most advanced tools that we can, robots are the future.  To be advanced.  R&D, inventors, need to stay close to the company, and close to it’s customers.     

What about net neutrality?  

At first he was against it, but now he sees that they “screwed us”  (charging for every little thing on the net) the audience applauded, space should be free.     

Does he watch television?

Never used to but now does watch Dancing With The Stars which was the most fun thing he claims he has ever done in his life (he was one of the dancers) and Big Bang Theory (applause).   He believes in innovation, making something do more with less.

What is his relationship with Apple these days? 

Loose.  He still receives a tiny paycheck out of loyalty to the company to be able to say he was there since day one and yes, he still talks to Steve Jobs.    

What is he doing now? 

He works for a company that he does not own, Fusion I O in Salt Lake City. He is the chief scientific officer of the electronic software company.  

Who were his mentors? 

Besides Tom Swift, his father.  Also, his electronics teacher in High School. Some of his big failures? He laughed, his marriages, some of them had longer intent. 

His start up company to track pets failed also.  He is presently married to Janet  Hill who works at Apple.   

God Puppy Apple Sparkle of Merry Hearts she was named Apple because of Carol’s friendship with Steve.  This photo was taken at Carol’s house when he stopped to visit on his way back to Flint to catch his flight back to CA at DTW.  This was when he spoke at Kettering in 2006 and received an Honary Ph.D. in Engineering from Kettering.    


For Christmas what does he want? 

He said his wife got him the best present ever a music August rush guitar, k mallets for his Segway team, and a surprised birthday party 2 weeks after his birthday.  Janet told him to come see the exhibit at Apple that she worked on and there was a Big Boy Burger Cake he looks forward to seeing her family in Kansas for the holidays which makes him the happiest.    

Steve Wozinak will be tentatively (his schedule permitting) returning to the Detroit area in August 2011 to celebrate with MacGroup-Detroit for their 25th Anniversary meeting! 

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