8 Things You Don’t Know About Apple’s Steve Wozniak

Woz is an open book. Still, there are some little-known facts about the Apple co-founder and engineer that even the biggest fans might not know.
  • Woz

    With Silicon Valley icon and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak set to speak at Atlantic Design & Manufacturing, a conference and expo event this June hosted in New York by Design News’ parent company UBM, I’ve had the pleasure of speaking to Woz a few times in recent weeks as we ready for his fireside chat keynote.

    Woz says he’s an open book. Given that he answered every question thrown at him on our calls with truth and humor, I’d tend to agree. And, given that he actually wrote a book, New York Times bestseller “iWoz,” in which he shares details of how he went from computer geek to cult icon, really, he is an open book about his life’s failures and successes.

    Still, there are some little-known facts about Woz that even the deepest tech historians and his biggest fans might not know. Flip through 8 of these on the following pages.

  • hello my name is

    1. His Name Isn’t Steve

    Would a Woz by any other name still be as brilliant? Yes. Yes, they would.

    Most engineers simply call him “Woz” and fans sometimes call him the “Great and Powerful Woz,” both skipping the “Steve” and relaxing his last name. But his name technically is not Stephen Wozniak. It’s “Stephan Wozniak,” according to his 1950 birth certificate.

    Woz also went by the name Rocky Raccoon Clark when he returned to UC Berkley to complete his degree after founding Apple with Steve Jobs and Ronald Wayne. By that time, Woz’s name had become famous but his face had not. Using the pseudonym – a combination of the names of his dog and his then-fiancée’s last name – allowed him to complete his degree under the radar.

    (Image source: Flickr)

  • hollywood

    2. He’s a Hollywood Triple Threat

    When he’s not tapping his creativity to design world-changing devices, Woz has acted, danced, and even sung. His appearance on the Big Bang Theory  referenced his Fred Astaire-like moves on Dancing with the Stars, and during the 1982 US Festival – a massive Labor Day weekend event Woz coordinated that aimed to bring together music and technology – he joined the stage with country music singer Jerry Jeff Walker, belting out a tune for the crowd.

    (Image source: Pixabay.com)

  • Apple I

    3. The Apple I Was Not His First Computer

    It’s an often misconception that Woz’s first computer design was the Apple I, to be followed by the wildly successful Apple II. Woz’s first computer was the Cream Soda Computer, a small circuit board that allowed connectors to plug in and chips to be soldered in.

    The computer got his name from cream sodas he and a neighborhood friend would enjoy while they worked on the machine.

    (Image source: Ed Uthman/Wikipedia)

  • Lie truth

    4. Wozniak Can’t Lie

    Well, he could. He’s not Pinocchio, after all. But like many engineers, including his father who worked at Lockheed during the height of the Cold War and when the Space Race was the headline maker, dishonesty doesn’t come naturally to Wozniak.

    He states in “iWoz” that “… my dad believed in honesty. Extreme honesty. Extreme Ethics, really. That’s the biggest thing he taught me. … I never lie, not even to this day.”

    (image source: Pixabay.com)

  • ID

    5. But He Can Fib … for Fun

    Once when questioned by the Secret Service and asked for identification, Woz showed a fake ID he had made. It claimed he was the "Laser Safety Officer" at the "Department of Defiance" in an arc, in a font that looked like "Department of Defense" to the quick glance. On it was a photo of Woz with an eye patch.

    What was he questioned by the Secret Service for? A pad of $2 bills that he had (legally) printed and was attempting to pay with while in Las Vegas.

    (Image source: Pixabay.com)

  • 2 gears

    6. 2 Is ‘Prime’ for Woz

    Why bother with $2 bills? Because 2 is his favorite number, so it seems. He’s made references over the years to the power of 2 and its relevancy in binary.

    We’ve also heard rumor that Woz will play with the numbers and digits of a hotel room or flight, so that they equal 2. As example, if the flight number was 2046, 2+0+4+6=12, then 1x2=2.

    Two is also the only even prime number and, of course, was the number of the first mainstream personal computer, Wozniak’s Apple II.

    The Apple I, by the way was no slouch. Woz made history on it when on June 29, 1975, he typed characters on a keyboard and they showed up right there on the computer screen. That was a first!

    And, as we’re playing with numbers, the date could be configured to become “2.” June 29, 1975 = 6.29.1975, so 6+2+9+1+9+7+5=39, then 3+9=12, and 1x2=2.

    (image source: Pixabay.com)

  • Pay phone

    7. Woz and Jobs Were Once Held Up at Gunpoint

    You read that right.

    It’s well known that Wozniak enjoys a good prank, ones that don’t cause any real harm or endanger anyone. As you’d suspect, some of his pranks involve devices.

    With his buddy Steve Jobs, Woz once use a “Blue Box” to call to Vatican City and identified himself as Henry Kissinger, complete with German accent, and asked to speak to the Pope. (He and Jobs did not succeed in getting the Pope on the phone, who was asleep at the time.)

    Although Woz used his for pranks, he and Jobs sold these Blue Boxes for a while. Small devices that simulated an operator by generating the same tones employed by a telephone operator's dialing console and allowed for free and untraceable calls in the 1960s and 1970s, the boxes were a hot item.

    So hot that he and Jobs were once held up at gunpoint in a parked car for a box! Jobs handed over the Blue Box and no one was hurt.

    (Image source: Pixabay.com)

  • apple rainbow logo

    8. Apple Almost Never Happened

    Woz was very happy working at Hewlett-Packard in the 1970s. HP was one of the greatest places to be as an engineer. In his book, he describes how he was happy working on HP’s calculators and how he drifted a bit from computer design.

    We’ll ask him to tell the full story in NY, but in short, he had to be persuaded by Jobs, who reached out to Woz’s family and friends to also persuade him, to resign from HP and start Apple.

    (Image source: Apple)

We can’t wait to see what Woz has to say about Apple, the worlds of engineering, and promising technologies when he takes the stage at Atlantic Design & Manufacturing on June 13, at New York’s Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.

Before UBM opens his chat up to audience Q &A, Design News will be on stage, asking Woz his thoughts. What would you like us to ask Woz? Chime in with your questions in the comments section below. And be sure to register for the event to see Woz live on stage.


Atlantic Design & Manufacturing, New York, 3D Printing, Additive Manufacturing, IoT, IIoT, cyber security, smart manufacturing, smart factorySteve Wozniak will take the stage on June 13, in New York, during Atlantic Design & Manufacturing , the East Coast's largest advanced design and manufacturing event. The engineer and cult icon will discuss a range of topics that span his experience at Apple, as well as today's leading tech trends such as robotics, IoT, and wearables, among others. Register for the event here !


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I was in the Palo Alto Byte Club with the "two Steves" when he was building the Apple i and I used to have lunch with him about once a month for several years after that. Great guy!!!

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