Most of you are probably reading through these blog posts on some form of a laptop or a computer. Moreover, you are all using some deviation of either a Mac or a PC. Regardless of how much you knew about computers, in the early 2000’s, it was a hot debate topic to argue which computer was better. Some of you may even remember an ad campaign that Apple ran, dedicated to this very question.
However, this ad campaign, and the entire debate over the two computers, would have never occurred without the work of the man behind the original Apple Computer, Steve Wozniak.
On two separate occasions in class, we have watched a clip of Steve Jobs delivering a speech at a college graduation, and it makes sense. Up until his death, Jobs was the face of the Apple brand, and the man behind the wonderful little computers most of us carry around in our pockets today. And while it is true that he was one of the driving forces behind the iPhone, his early partner, Steve Wozniak is arguably a major contributor to the computes that we have today. Woz was introduced to Jobs during his time at the University of California at Berkeley. The two went on to develop the early computer prototypes, form Apple Computer, and market and sell a robust personal computer to the general public. An impressive list of accomplishments from two men who had the tendency to work out of a garage.
Wozniak is an excellent example of a creative personality, and he exhibits a number of dichotomies though his work. From an early age, Woz was fascinated with electronics, and constantly questioned how they functioned. He would often try to construct a number of small electronic projects growing up, completely from scratch. That childlike manor, constantly questioning the world around him, was carried into his career as an adult. He was able to push the boundaries of current knowledge on computing by questioning the limits of his work. For example, he helped to design the circuit board for the Atari game Breakout. Woz questioned if he could reproduce that same basic animation using software. This led to the design of the Apple II, including a built in programming language, BASIC, which was revolutionary at the time. And contrasting his childlike questioning was his incredible wisdom. His work speaks for itself; he singlehandedly designed and then built the Apple I Computer. His intelligence was once in a lifetime.
Woz could also have a wild imagination, but with his profession, he was forced to constantly stay grounded in reality. His work was constantly constrained by the realities of the technology. He pushed the boundaries to their absolute limits, but could only stretch them so far as the electronics would allow him 30 years ago. But it was his wildly creative imagination that led him to those boundaries in the first place. And even after the success of the first computer, it was his imagination that led to even more innovations in the second generation of Apple Computers, including the first computer with the ability to display color graphics.
With all the technological advancements that frequently occur in our time, it can be easy to take all of this for granted, and lose track of the humble beginnings of these powerful machines. We often think of Steve Jobs in relation to the Apple machines that we use today. But the origins of Apple are really due to the efforts of both men working as a team to revolutionize the computer industry. And we should all take the time to thank the lesser remembered but still equally vital, Steve Wozniak.
And if you're interested in seeing how the original Apple computer ran, check out this video! It's amazing to see how technology has evolved.