Steve Wozniak was born Stephen Wozniak on August 11, 1950 in Los Gatos, California. His father was an engineer for Lockheed Martin and inspired Wozniak's love for science and technology. As a child, "Woz" also read a series of books about "Tom Swift", a fictional character who was a genius in technology.
Woz's father taught him all about electronics and mathematics while he was in elementary school and Woz was able to build a HAM radio station at the age of eleven. When he was thirteen, he was elected president of his school's electronics club. He also built a transistor-powered calculator for a science fair and claimed first prize. This led him to start building other simple computers that could play games.
After graduating from high school, Woz enrolled at the University of Colorado, but dropped out early. He started building a computer with his friend Bill Fernandez, which they dubbed the Cream Soda Computer. Subsequently, Woz was introduced to Bill's friend Steve Jobs and the two became good friends.
When they heard about the blue box in late 1971, Woz and Jobs started a partnership selling the device to phreaks. Woz would build the blue boxes and Jobs would find people to buy them at $150 a piece.
In the meantime, Woz enrolled at another university, Berkeley, but dropped out again in 1975. He came up with a design for a cheap, but versatile computer that could be built with readily available parts and set about raising money. Together with Jobs, he managed to round up $1300 that was used to build the first prototype of his computer idea.
The computer was dubbed the Apple I and was powered by a MOS 6502 microprocessor, which at the time cost only $25. On April 1, 1976, the pair formed Apple Computer Company and Woz quit his job at Hewlett-Packard to keep building computers for Apple. They soon had 25 computers that they sold to a local store for $666.66 each.
Wozniak continued to work full time on the Apple I, improving the design as other people were hired to construct the actual machines. The next revision, the Apple II, featured better graphics and could display pictures as well as letters. In 1978, he added a floppy disk controller to the machine and wrote a file system for the Apple.
By the end of the 1970s, they were selling thousands of machines a day. In early 1980, the company went public and Woz's stock skyrocketed, making him an instant millionaire.
In February of 1981, Woz was involved in a plane crash when a mechanical malfunction occurred on his private plane. After the accident, he had slight amnesia and could not recall the accident. He spent his free time playing computer games to help him recover and eventually his memory was restored.
After his full recovery, he enrolled at Berkeley again, finally earning his undergraduate degree in 1987. In 1983, he decided to return to Apple's engineering department, helping to develop the future Macintosh.
On February 6, 1985, he decided to leave Apple completely to start a new company called Cloud 9. Cloud 9 worked on developing a universal remote control and released the first such product in 1987. After that, he became a teacher and philanthropist for local charities.
In 1985, he was awarded the National Medal of Technology by the President of the United States. During the 1990s, he retreated from public life, but continued donating money to charitable causes. He has donated a lot of money to his local school in Los Gatos, technology museums, and universities. In 2005, he was given an honorary Doctor of Engineering degree from Kettering University in Flint, Michigan.