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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 October 2006, 10:17 GMT 11:17 UK
I think, therefore I Woz
By Mark Ward
Technology Correspondent, BBC News website

Steve Wozniak, Getty
In his biography Mr Wozniak talks about Apple's early days
Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple Computer, is on tour promoting his biography, in which he talks about the history of the company and his approach to hardware hacking and the formula for happiness.

If you want to understand the forces driving popular use of the net, study Google and how its two founders took the company from a garage to the gargantuan offices in Mountain View, California.

If you want to understand the forces that drove the early computer revolution, you could do worse than study Apple and how its two founders took the company from a garage to - well, you get the idea.

In 2006 Steve Jobs is the man most people associate with Apple, but in the pioneering days of the mid-70s Steve Wozniak was the man everyone lauded.

He was the engineering brains behind Apple and his fame in Silicon Valley stems from his creation of the Apple I and II home computers.

Club class

The Apple I was built to impress Mr Wozniak's friends at the Homebrew Computer Club, where many of the guiding lights of the personal computing revolution first met.

The machine must have shocked Homebrew regulars, as it was made out of cheap components, used a keyboard and could display characters on a TV screen.

By contrast the Altair 8800, that many Homebrew members were familiar with, was programmed by flipping switches and its output was a few blinking LEDs.

"It looked like an airplane cockpit," says Mr Wozniak.

For an engineering prodigy like Steve Wozniak the Apple I was not a stretch. He had built an even simpler computer five years earlier - aged only 20, by which time he had already notched up a decade or so as a hardware hacker.

Apple II, Getty
The Apple II was the main earner for Apple in its early days
Mr Wozniak, in London to promote his biography, said engineering was in his blood because it was his father's profession but it was also a way for a shy boy like himself to socialise.

"Being afraid to ask questions, I only had a couple of ways to socialise," he says. "One was by playing pranks; the other was when I designed something which in school would mean people would come up and talk to me."

"I could have conversations about something I was truly interested in," he says. "It was a very important part of what made me."

Machine made

It was an important part of what defined Apple too.

This was most clearly seen in the Apple II which, says Mr Wozniak, was so popular because he made it easy to use by anyone.

"It was never intimidating, it looked like familiar objects, it looked friendly," he says.

"It was so open," he says. "I presented it the way I learned about them and I learned by seeing what other people did, not by a course, I wanted it to be that way for everyone."

"The human element is more important that the technology," he says, adding that the iPod shows the truth of this as it is built to fit the human hand and have its controls in reach of fingers and thumbs. Its reward, just as with the Apple II, has been huge success.

And, just as with the Apple II, the iPod is now responsible for much of Apple's revenue. Commentators have pointed out that iPod sales in one quarter are now more than the whole company earned in 2001 when the music player was launched.

Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs, Apple
I'm happy to give Steve Jobs the majority of the credit for creating the business
Steve Wozniak

In the early days and in recent years Steve Jobs has been the man driving Apple - something Mr Wozniak has no problem with.

"I'm happy to give Steve Jobs the majority of the credit for creating the business," he says. "The only credit I want is for making something beautiful."

Mr Wozniak never had any desire to be involved in the hiring, firing and running of the company. He says: "Designing a computer is a lot easier than convincing people that this machine fits your home or that these belong in your home."

The success of Apple has made Mr Wozniak wealthy and let him stay what he has always been - an engineer. Though he admits that his fame does have its downside.

He would love, he says, to be able to wander the halls at trade shows and ask questions of the small, smart start-ups to find out what they are working on. But, he says, that's now impossible.

"I can't do that because if I get interested in a company, it suddenly becomes important to everyone."

What he has retained though, is his appreciation of human values, that he says he worked out long before Apple got going.

"I was happy before Apple came along," he says, "that's what lasts, not how many yachts you have."




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