It’s difficult to imagine a world without computers.
A few quick clicks can lead us to virtually any answer we search for in today’s tech-driven and computer-reliant world. Though we’ve come to rely heavily on computers to complete daily tasks, our access to such convenience has only existed for a few decades.
Much of the progress we currently benefit from in computer technology can be traced back to the work of entrepreneur, programmer and National Inventors Hall of Fame® (NIHF) Inductee Steve Wozniak. His contributions to developing the personal computer (PC) forever changed computing as we know it.
Pushing Boundaries Early On
Although Wozniak grew up in San Jose, California — now the epicenter of Silicon Valley — his path to creating exceptional computer technology was not always clear-cut.
Following disciplinary probation for his involvement in computer pranks at the University of Colorado Boulder, Wozniak returned to the San Francisco Bay Area and briefly enrolled at the University of California, Berkeley. He worked at several small electronics firms before landing a position designing calculators at Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP). While working at HP, he met future Apple Inc. co-founder and NIHF Inductee Steve Jobs. Wozniak continued his pranking traditions when he designed the “Blue Box,” a device for hacking into the telephone network without paying for long-distance calls, which he and Jobs sold to other students.
In 1975, Wozniak began developing his first major project: the Apple I. One year later, he and Jobs co-founded their own company, Apple Computer, and began selling the rudimentary systems out of Jobs’ garage. The promise of this new microcomputer led Wozniak and Jobs to commit to designing a more refined product, known as the Apple II.
Creating Technology for the Future
The original Apple I would be difficult to recognize as a computer by contemporary standards, yet it was nonetheless revolutionary for its time. Essentially, the Apple I was a green circuit board separately connected to a keyboard and a video monitor. Wozniak designed Apple I with the capability to plug into any home television and use almost any computer keyboard. Though it lacked a power supply and casing, it introduced the foundation of the modern desktop computer.
As any great inventor knows, prototypes can be endlessly reimagined. The Apple II was introduced by Wozniak and Jobs in 1977, featuring a central processing unit, a keyboard, color graphics and a floppy disk drive. Its groundbreaking engineering combined with visual appeal propelled Apple Computer’s market value to record-breaking success.
Embracing His Call
The effects of Wozniak’s technological feats have left a lasting impression on numerous aspects of everyday life. The development of the PC radically pushed the computer industry forward while also transforming the way the public consumes and shares information.
Throughout his successful career, Wozniak’s dedication to creating useful, accessible technology has remained the same.
"[My father] told me that as an engineer, you can change your world and change the way of life for lots and lots of people," he said. "To this day, I still believe engineers are among the key people in the world."