Woz? More like Was, am I rite?!
October 3, 2006 3:44 PM   Subscribe

What's the appeal of Steve Wozniak?

He's everywhere these days and many nerds love him. To me, he seems like manboy who has managed to ride his Segway Polo-playing well beyond his 15 minutes of fame. He preoccupies himself with toys, is an awkward conversationalist (see here) and generally resembles a larger, mouth-breathing version of The 40 Year Old Virgin.

Seriously... what's the deal?
posted by basicchannel to Computers & Internet (92 answers total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: blue box
posted by whatitis at 3:47 PM on October 3, 2006

Best answer: Are you kidding? He's adorable.
posted by joannemerriam at 3:48 PM on October 3, 2006 [3 favorites]

Best answer: He invented personal computing pretty much and every nerd (especially mac nerd) loves him for it.

I agree he's an extraordinarily goofy man though. But he's always been like that.
posted by mathowie at 3:48 PM on October 3, 2006 [1 favorite]

Well, he's famous because he invented the Apple-1, the first personal computer with a screen (only a few switchboard units had been sold before that). I don't think being a good "conversationalist" really figures into it.

Plus, if you're an apple fan he fits into the whole apple mythos as well.
posted by delmoi at 3:50 PM on October 3, 2006

He was the original hacking spirit of Apple. Jobs was the showman, Wozniak was the brains. They phreaked, they hacked, and then they became uber rich selling an open, easily extendable piece of hardware, the Apple II.

Granted a lot of that was in the early 80's, but it still has a place in many geeks' hearts.
posted by zabuni at 3:50 PM on October 3, 2006 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I should add, I'm a huge Apple fan and, to me, he represents nothing of the actual Apple mythos aside from playing an overstated role in the company. The Macintosh is what made Apple, at least insofar as spirit and philosophy.

I can just picture Jobs getting a call from Woz and trying hard to be nice as if the school nerd just called the cool kid to hang out at A/V Club after school.
posted by basicchannel at 3:53 PM on October 3, 2006

What? Dude ignites the personal computing revolution in the 1970s, then spends millions working with kids while enjoying life and you grumble cos he's not great on TV?
posted by bonaldi at 3:55 PM on October 3, 2006 [9 favorites]

I can just picture Jobs getting a call from Woz and trying hard to be nice as if the school nerd just called the cool kid to hang out at A/V Club after school.

Yeh, the nerd he ripped off for a cool 50% of the money Atari was giving them for Breakout. And still Woz breezes on.
posted by bonaldi at 3:56 PM on October 3, 2006

Best answer: He's a largely self-taught genius who embodies the hacker ethos.
posted by drew3d at 3:58 PM on October 3, 2006 [4 favorites]

What's the appeal of anything? Obviously the woz has some significant accomplishments under his belt while being part of an company that is adored and loved by millions. Its not like he lacks the credibility for his fame, like say Paris Hilton.

I think you may be judging him on the wrong level. He's not some silvertongued salesman like Jobs, he's a big nerd like Linus. Expecting him to have this glowing wit, fit body, and 5,000 dollar suit to win some kind of BS credibility is missing the boat.

You might like this piece on him over at wired.

posted by damn dirty ape at 4:03 PM on October 3, 2006

Response by poster: Yea, but it's not the 70's anymore? That's what I don't get... how long can one push their fame? Especially for a goofball. That's not entirely an insult, most great minds scarcely get their 15 minutes at the time of their greatest hour, let alone 30 years later.

Thanks for the comments though! Yall have, as usual, succinctly explained the appeal for others if even it still makes no sense to me.
posted by basicchannel at 4:04 PM on October 3, 2006

You might also notice that San Jose has a "Woz Way" but no street for Jobs. We do like our local heroes.
posted by tkolar at 4:10 PM on October 3, 2006

Woz isn't trying to push anything. One attraction of the man is that he has always been true to himself. After he got fed up with Apple, he spent years working as a grade school teacher. He didn't have to; he was a millionaire. But it was what he wanted to do.

Yeah, he's goofy. And he likes himself that way. He isn't trying to live up to anyone else's opinion of what he should be; he is comfortable in his own skin. I like that in a man.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 4:10 PM on October 3, 2006 [8 favorites]

Err, I feel my reply was a bit dismissive. I will admit that I liked the woz (and others I've admired from afar) much more until I saw them on television. They're never speak or act like you expect and the goofy nerd stereotype is more than bit grating at times. On top of this no one ages well. Look at Vonnegut or even well-aged prettyboy Paul McCartney. Everyone is so much cooler in print.
posted by damn dirty ape at 4:19 PM on October 3, 2006

how long can one push their fame?

I think a big part o fthe reason folk like him is that he doesn't push his fame, and in fact takes pains to point out that he happened to be in the right place at the right time (and not in the usual faux-bashful celebrity way).
posted by jack_mo at 4:22 PM on October 3, 2006

Woz isn't trying to push anything

Well, at the moment, "he's everywhere" because he's pushing his new book iWoz.
posted by smackfu at 4:23 PM on October 3, 2006

Coming up with even a single genius idea is so astronomically, mind-blowingly hard that the very few select people who almost never achieve another. Tim Berners-Lee as made a career out of being "the inventor of the www." Marc Andreesson made a career out of the slightly more profitable title "the inventor of the web browser." Even Bill Gates' entire career can be traced to an even more profitable, yet single, title, "the inventor of the software license" [simplification, but for a long time software was considered a freebie you got with the machine. His move to license (and thus keep closed his source code) rather than sell MS-DOS to IBM changed everything.] The point is, people like this should be celebrated, not denigrated, because the managed to reach out and touch the face of genius; an experience very, VERY few humans get to have. When you consider the number of very smart people working on similar things as the guys I just mentioned who utterly failed, their accomplishment becomes that much more impressive.

When you start talking about people who can more than once do something as astonishing as invent the PC or the web or the browser or the software industry more than once in their lives, you are talking about once-a-generation type of people. You are talking about Witten and Einstein, Picasso and Warhol, Schoenberg and Miles Davis, Heidegger and Derrida. You are talking about demi-gods.

Is Steve Wozniak one of those people? Probably not. But even still, he must be considered a massively important person, as he did fundamentally change the world we live in, and even though he managed to do this only once, that is still an incalcuable achievement and something that deserves honoring for at least as long as you and I are alive.
posted by ChasFile at 4:36 PM on October 3, 2006 [15 favorites]

'The History of Hacking' (50 min. google video documentary) highlights his experience with phone phreaking, Capn Crunch (personally for gods sake), the homebrow computer club and finally Apple. A very good primer on Woz.

I'm not an apple fanboy myself, but Im a Woz fan because he was the anti-steve: in it for the knowledge and fun - not entirely money.
posted by datacenter refugee at 4:43 PM on October 3, 2006 [2 favorites]


That interview is fucking amazing.
posted by jdroth at 5:04 PM on October 3, 2006

It's the purity and genius, a rare combination. Are you asking why he came out with a book? Maybe he needs the money.
posted by craniac at 5:38 PM on October 3, 2006

The man has integrity. You get rich, so you go and teach primary school. Is he bitter or jealous of Jobs? No. Does he just get on with the business of being Woz? Yes. This is what many, many people aspire to.

What criteria are you judging him by? He doesn't care, whatever they are.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 6:11 PM on October 3, 2006 [3 favorites]

Whenever I see people who've made a ton of money, and they're still working, I think "why?".

If I had millions of dollars in the bank, no way would I show up to an office, sit on a board of directors, do all that boring business stuff. I wouldn't even try to make more money. I'd just spend the rest of my life having fun and buying cool toys. Not in an bored-asshole-rock-star way either, in a genuinely-having-fun way.

Gates, Jobs, Ellison, whoever, it doesn't seem like they're actually having that much fun, does it?

So, short answer, I like Woz because he's what I think millionaire-me would be. He got a ton of money and now he just has fun all the time.

Even shorter answer? People say "money doesn't make you happy", but I think it could.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 6:37 PM on October 3, 2006

When I was a kid I taught myself assembly language, and learned how computers work, by reading his comments on the Monitor ROM listings in the back of the Apple ][ reference manual. To a first approximation, he wrote that computer's entire OS by hand.

What you may not know about him is that he suffered severe brain damage in a plane crash in 1981. He was arguably a genius before that head injury, but afterwards he was not.

However, he continued to distinguish himself with his unfailing good humor and his dedication to worthwhile philanthropic causes. That's pretty impressive and inspiring in itself. I don't recall the last time I ever heard about Woz badmouthing anything or anybody.

I admire him, and I wish I could be like him, and I wish there were more people like him around. Is that good enough for you?
posted by ikkyu2 at 7:42 PM on October 3, 2006 [6 favorites]

I've certainly long admired Woz and his early accomplishments, and his current commitments, but that Colbert interview was indeed nearly completely incoherent. I was all excited last week to see the interview, befuddled during, and now afterwards am somewhat saddened ...
posted by intermod at 7:50 PM on October 3, 2006

From Wikipedia's Blue Box article:
Some of the more famous pranksters were Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs, founders of Apple Computer. One of the more famous stories Wozniak tells is when he dialed over to the Vatican, and managed to wake up the Pope by impersonating Henry Kissinger, but instead of speaking with the Pope he spoke to the Pope's translator."
posted by pullayup at 8:26 PM on October 3, 2006

Woz is (or, taking his accident into account, was) a very clever engineer, though his skills became increasingly irrelevant as chip fabrication has improved. Read some of the stuff in the Apple II article on Wikipedia about the hardware design of the Apple II. You couldn't program that machine without feeling you were in the presence of a quirky genius. Woz was my first role model and I will always have a place for him in my heart.
posted by kindall at 8:43 PM on October 3, 2006

Rent Pirates of Silicon Valley
posted by banished at 9:43 PM on October 3, 2006

You can still write to Woz and if you make a significant point (as opposed to just fan chatter), he'll actually respond. Try that with Jobs or Gates. I've seen him praise the Linux and BeOS crowd, while remaining faithful to Apple. He bankrolled that concert ... basically just for fun. Ever see those pictures of him playing Tetris on the side of a building? How can you dislike someone who still retains that child-like glee? Woz is aces in my book.
posted by RavinDave at 10:47 PM on October 3, 2006

Woz is cool because not only does he value the power of play - he still plays.

Plus, apparently he's a rather nice and unassuming fellow, all things considered.
posted by loquacious at 11:08 PM on October 3, 2006

I just dropped him an email to various hopefully obvious addresses and pointed out this thread. (I couldn't find his listed email.)

I wouldn't be surprised if he stops in and says hello in-thread at some point. Undoubtably he has better things to do, but I wouldn't be surprised.

On preview update: Two of five attempted email alias bounced. No news is good news, so I'll assume the others went ping somewhere.
posted by loquacious at 11:17 PM on October 3, 2006 [2 favorites]

Final email update: Confirmation of one of the five guessed-at email addresses via Spam Arrest confirmation reply. (FYI if anyone got the hankering to mail him with something good. It's easy: First name + woz.org.)
posted by loquacious at 11:47 PM on October 3, 2006

For me, the appeal of Steve Wozniak is entirely in his engineering designs. I've never met him or heard him on radio or seen him on TV, and I have only the vaguest conception of what he's been up to since building the Apple ][, but I have seen very, very few engineering designs as cheekily OMG beautiful as his.

If Seymour Cray is Bach, Woz is Jimi Hendrix.

Steve, if you are reading this, I draw your attention to the SENDPKT and RCVPKT routines I wrote for this project, in the spirit of pure fanboy adulation.
posted by flabdablet at 4:17 AM on October 4, 2006

And if Woz seems a bit off these days, his Wikipedia entry, along with every other biographical resource on the man, does mention that plane crash he had. He lost his memory for a period of time and I'm led to believe it may have slightly changed his personality.

And yeah, flabdablet, what's the appeal of Hendrix? I mean, really?
posted by GuyZero at 6:23 AM on October 4, 2006

'The History of Hacking' (50 min. google video documentary) highlights his experience with phone phreaking, Capn Crunch (personally for gods sake)..

This reminds me of another reason Woz still gets the interest of the public eye -- while he may be a little conversationally clumsy, he's been active in society since his initial period of fame. Others, like John Draper, may have had pretty impressive accomplishments back in the day but fell out of view for a while. Or are kind of creepy in person.
posted by mikeh at 7:31 AM on October 4, 2006

I am very happy to read these posts. It's not easy to have notoriety and pretty much have accurate conceptions in the public mind. Virtually everything said her about me is accurate.

I never wanted a spotlight or fame. I built computers and handed out schematics. I at first said "no" to starting Apple because I loved my work at HP (Calculators) and could always design on the side.

I have always been an amateur comedian. I had this idea that what is fun for a child can be fun for an adult too. I am quirky (eccentric) and my second book may schock people. But fun doesn't take away from the serious stuff any more than graphics takes away from powerful computers.

I should have written a book 20 years ago. I had contracts but returned the money - lack of time. This book got started because Gina Smith implored me to do it. She was great to work with and a co-writer gave me the discipline to finish the project.

Once the book was done, I did what I do to others, like photographers. I take it into my head that it's not me, it's their project, their work, their key to a reputation. So I go out and do all I can to help them. it might be posing for hours. In this case, I let my 3 worldwide publishers have my calendar through December (and a bit beyond, but at my approval) and they have me on a busy book schedule. I would rather hide out but it wouldn't be fair to people who had a contact and believed in me.

I don't think you make $ with books, or I don't think that I'm in that category. I don't look at how much I got for the book. I couldn't even tell you closely how much I got as advances. I never looked at the checks. I go inside and make the right choices and then stay loyal to them. I also keep verbal deals as no businessman would. My splits with Gina I know, the percentages, because that makes right versus wrong.

I have so little time and haven't watch normal TV in decades. I do subscirbe to the Colbert Report along with The Daily Show but rarely watch it. I had an impression of Colbert as really messing up his guests, but I am very witty and can often take control, even of lawyers in depositions. I blurted out my goal to "take Colbert down' after a podcast interview and to my horror they included that. Well, I softened Stephen up backstage before the show, with some $2 bill pads that look phony a million ways. I also used other jokes on him as we met. I first shook hands and then exclaimed like an excited child how "I got to meet THE MAN himself.", as Colbert had done with Bush. Then I said "It's such an honor to meet you, Mr. Stewart." Some would call this quirky but it's a COMEDY network, right, and everyone got a good laugh. I put a phony professionally printed sticker in OSHA style and colors in the green room restroom that had a graphic of a butt and a poof and said "Keep the air clean" or something - I had lots made and carry them in my pocket along with "Do not flush over cities" for planes. That's me. Well, I did stymie Colbert a bit, maybe because I don't know what was expected of me but he got thrown off when I used "knife" and "plane" in the same sentence. Everything I said was totally true though.

I don't mind if people don't like me as long as it's for things I am. There's plenty to find there. I do try to remain the person I would have wanted to become, from when I was 10 and when I was 20. Even after something like Apple I managed to remain close to the same person, doing things I would have done had Apple never come about, like getting my degree and teaching and much more.
posted by stevewoz at 8:56 AM on October 4, 2006 [568 favorites]

The appeal of Steve Wozniak is that he is A Character.
posted by riotgrrl69 at 9:04 AM on October 4, 2006 [2 favorites]

stevewoz, you sound like a cool bean. If you're ever in Cleveland I'll buy you a beer.
posted by sciurus at 9:10 AM on October 4, 2006 [2 favorites]

If you're ever in Manchester, you can buy me one.
posted by Jofus at 9:11 AM on October 4, 2006 [10 favorites]

I am getting my very own MacBook in a couple of weeks. W00t and much love to the Woz!
posted by Lynsey at 9:52 AM on October 4, 2006 [1 favorite]

basicchannel better come back and mark that as best answer.

I'm really not sure I understand the question. Obviously as long as we're around and still living the computer revolution we all owe Woz a debt (pro-rated out to many others beyond Apple, of course) and so he will always be famous for that. It's not like inventing the pet rock that people forget about. Besides, as noted, he's eminently likable, a nerd's nerd.

Whenever I see people who've made a ton of money, and they're still working, I think "why?".

See Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Many people work just to feel useful. Many people work to stimulate their mind. Many people work because they need the challenge. Many people work because they don't know anything else.

I don't discount the idea that Woz is working when he's having so much fun. I think a lot of hackers are able to integrate these things better than other people, in fact.
posted by dhartung at 9:58 AM on October 4, 2006 [1 favorite]

He gave the Clash a bunch of money. And he had 888-888-8888 fior a phone number for a while, but a bunch of babies screwed it up.
posted by yerfatma at 10:12 AM on October 4, 2006

posted by fungible at 10:12 AM on October 4, 2006

In my experience, mostly with visual artists, but also with computer and other science folk, "quirkiness" is central to creativity. Difference, or openess to difference, is central to the creative mind. (I also have to say, that I remember the day my Dad -an engineer - brought home the Apple ][e as if it were yesterday.)
posted by R. Mutt at 10:13 AM on October 4, 2006

posted by mkultra at 10:13 AM on October 4, 2006

stevewoz: Thank you for being such a genuine guy, and not compromsing on what you really believe to be important. I learned to program on your computers and I look back on those times as some of the happiest of my childhood. I can hardly overestimate the effect that experience has had on the trajectory of my life.

You really changed the world, or at least mine.

(sorry to fanboy!)
posted by sonofsamiam at 10:21 AM on October 4, 2006

Wow. Hi, Woz!

Love to see one of those biz cards in person. Please please? Email's in profile.
posted by dobbs at 10:22 AM on October 4, 2006

Wow... woz.
posted by splatta at 10:37 AM on October 4, 2006

Hi, Steve!

A lot of us owe you a debt - you created something not just in apple, but in the idea that computing, and the intellectual pursuits that computing enabled, should be open, that managed to speak to and empower us, even as children.

You gave us the personal computer, and with it we created our own little universes in green and black.

Thanks, man. Congratulations on all your success, and good luck with everything.

And when you start your next company, instead of naming it after a fruit, maybe you can consider naming it after, oh I don't know, a starch of some kind. Just running the idea up the old flagpole, as they say. Maybe a name like noodlebread or spaghettimuffin? Something along those lines. I'm sure a good one will spring to mind... ;)
posted by Pastabagel at 10:41 AM on October 4, 2006 [3 favorites]

My partner had a book about Woz as a child that was specifically aimed at kids -- in fact, we still have it, however many years later, and the thing is extremely well-thumbed. I suspect he's therefore always going to have that little-kid-hero-worship thing in the back of his brainwashed mind. I just don't get the same emotional "hit" when I think about Woz that he does.
posted by obliquicity at 10:47 AM on October 4, 2006

Looks like Woz is on tour for his book. If any Seattle MeFites want to thank him, he's doing three readings this week.
posted by mathowie at 10:58 AM on October 4, 2006 [1 favorite]

Woz, my hat is off to you.

basicchannel, do you feel the love now? The appeal is: he's famous for his own interesting achievements and merit, and he remains his own goofy self rather than being slicked-up in the way a weaker person would probably rush to be.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:01 AM on October 4, 2006

Thanks for your awesome reply, Steve.

And I, too, thank you for the Apple. Goodness knows where I'd be today if it wasn't for the Apple, Applesoft Basic and the hex programmer's patch.

No, seriously. Thanks. Not nearly enough can be said, and we all know it. Sure, it could have and would have eventually been someone else, but what a nice footing upon which to start the Micro/PC revolution with.

Stay nerdy. May you live in interesting tmes.

(Though I'm now marginally ashamed to admit in your virtual presence I've never actually had one. My family somehow ended up with a Franklin Ace 1000 - A system with a troubled, sordid past that Woz and Jobs are likely well familiar with. Hey, at least they too published the mainboard schematics and all that good stuff!)
posted by loquacious at 11:21 AM on October 4, 2006

I saw the Colbert interview with Woz and I think the disjointedness of it came from the fact that Colbert is lousy at interviews. He's playing a confrontational right-wing character dripping with irony and it just doesn't work well with getting to know his guests.

By the way, I'd *love* to get one of Woz's business cards. Those were brilliant.
posted by stevis at 12:38 PM on October 4, 2006

'lo, Woz. Great to see you again.

I'd point out that a "normal" person could never have gotten along so well with Jobs, especially back then. Apple could not have made it without Woz.

Not that I'm happy to see Apple become the smug parasite that it is now, but what the hell, I've worked at MS for 20 years. However, whenever I see the old "Think Different", I flash on various exposures to Woz that made me say, "Man, that guy is... different!"
posted by Dunwitty at 12:47 PM on October 4, 2006

I admire any person who makes sure they take time to have fun in their job.

Evidently his publisher doesn't think it is cost-effective to take the tour into the heartland or down in the Deep South. (And, no, Houston is not in the DS.) I guess I'll have to look for a podcast.
posted by ?! at 12:58 PM on October 4, 2006

**shrieks like a little...***

To answer the question: Nerds idolize Woz the way that car fanatics might idolize Henry Ford. Except that Woz is not an anti-semitic, racist jerk. Woz not only helped create a new industry that transformed people's lives, he is a genuinely good person. I think that it is unfortunate that the OP feels he has to reject Woz because Woz is a little quirky.

***resumes shrieking and jumping up and down***
posted by SteveTheRed at 1:35 PM on October 4, 2006

Just went I think that Mefi can't possibly get any fucking cooler.
posted by Bageena at 1:53 PM on October 4, 2006

posted by Bageena at 1:53 PM on October 4, 2006

I'll take the approach of discussing the problem with the fundamental question. Let's bring that sucker down into my post:

What's the appeal of Steve Wozniak? He's everywhere these days and many nerds love him. To me, he seems like manboy who has managed to ride his Segway Polo-playing well beyond his 15 minutes of fame. He preoccupies himself with toys, is an awkward conversationalist (see here) and generally resembles a larger, mouth-breathing version of The 40 Year Old Virgin. Seriously... what's the deal?

Unlike yourself, I've met Steve Wozniak on a few occasions: Standing out near the US's largest Tetris Game down at Brown University, at a couple of Vintage Computer Festivals. I've also been collecting literately hours and hours of the man's speeches, works, and so on for a while now, towards a possible project I'm considering. I'm saying here, I'm not just going off the cuff. (As an additional disclaimer, I'm the author of this biography of him.)

Your question has two parts: a question as to what people find appealing in Steve Wozniak, and then a multi-sentence character slam, followed by a reiteration of the first question.

Most of your question, therefore, can be scooped out of its heart since your statement might be true (you percieve him as a manboy mouth-breathing awkward-speaking fame-hound/has-been), but it's conclusion is not true at all (he is not a manboy mouth-breaking awkward-speaking fame-hound/has-been).

The question as to what appeals to people about Steve Wozniak has, I hope, been answered here, and you seemed to acknowledge that: his place in history, his strong statements about education and trying new things, his success in helping to jump-start the personal computer industry which now pervades the lives of many, and so on. Without any doubt, he has accomplished much.

You slip in a common fallacy: that Warhol's statement of "In the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes" somehow actually is a firm rule applying an allotted time period of worldwide fame to any and all figures achieving such. If you respond that you were just being coy, then congratulations, you've attained the level of tabloid troller.

In fact, a person's fame may, depending on their accomplishments, extend many decades past the actual event. Very few people might, for example, be inclined to assault Neil Armstrong's appearances in the public eye many decades after being on the moon. If Neil Armstrong decided, recently, to write a book and then be involved in its promotion, would it be considered the work of a has-been touting his horn?

Personally, I think Woz has earned my attention and respect for the rest of his natural life, and anything he contributes to the world from this point on is both welcomed, and a bonus.

You, however, who would so easily dismiss his contributions and appeal, will require a reload of my browser to recall what your handle was.
posted by jscott at 3:34 PM on October 4, 2006 [11 favorites]

"He's playing a confrontational right-wing character dripping with irony and it just doesn't work well with getting to know his guests."
posted by stevis at 6:38 AM AEST on October 5

I respectfully disagree. I strongly suspect that Colbert is liked by the vast majority of his guests. The left-wingers love him because he's one of them and he slyly pokes fun at the other side. The right-wing loves him because they think he's one of them and are often too stupid to realise otherwise.

In respect to the question at hand, what's Steve Woz' appeal? Well, I think I'm in a good position to answer that.

Before today, I had never heard of the man. I only came to this thread because it got side-barred and I wondered wtf it was about. I read Steve's reply to the thread and I thought it was interesting but I still didn't know shit about him. So I watched the Colbert interview and, in the space of that 5 minutes, I liked the guy. He seems clever, funny, affable and he is, as the side bar suggests, a nerd like me.

Really, what can't you like about that combination? As jscott has said, Woz has earned my attention and respect for the rest of his natural life, and anything he contributes to the world from this point on is both welcomed, and a bonus.
posted by Effigy2000 at 3:48 PM on October 4, 2006

jscott: Holy crap. That succint little bio got to me. Well done.
posted by loquacious at 4:04 PM on October 4, 2006

Succinct, even. Semi-related self link pondering the cult of Apple among other things: I bought a Mac.
posted by loquacious at 4:09 PM on October 4, 2006

I'm really just going on the Pirates of Silicon Valley TV movie and a handful of history of computing articles I've read here or there, but the Woz really plays off as the most humble and personable of the personal computing pioneers. He also gets bonus points for actually creating something from scratch, as opposed to the rest of the group who begged, borrowed or stole their most successful products. Compared to Woz, every one else just seems like a middle man.

He also seems like the Jimmy Carter of the group. Instead of just peaking at the end of his term of office and retiring or throwing his money around, he went out and did hands-on altruism.

Also, I think it's pretty awesome that this chatfilter at best, flamebait at worst AskMe turned into what it did.

Hi Woz. Hope you stick around. AskMe is like the Genius Bar, except for everything!
posted by Skwirl at 4:52 PM on October 4, 2006

I think Woz's lasting appeal can be summed up in the fact that he is a very famous, very rich man, but he comes and makes an account on Metafilter and writes a post just because you ask him to!

I'd like to see that from Bill Gates or Stevie Jobs! :)
posted by ranglin at 5:12 PM on October 4, 2006 [3 favorites]

woz is the man. when i was a kid i'd look at the schematics for the apple ][ instead of paying attention in class. thanks to his example i became a computer hardware engineer and did alright for myself. i cant imagine doing any other job.

so thanks for the inspiration, and keep on being woz!
posted by joeblough at 5:16 PM on October 4, 2006

You'd not expect that a question like this one could have any best answer other than the one proffered by its subject, but jscott -- you came verrrry close.

Also, what ranglin said. stevewoz: very cool, man. Thanks for stopping by.
My only comparable brush with such fame was a flame exchange with Marc Andreesen on USENET while Netscape 1.0 was still in beta.
posted by dhartung at 5:33 PM on October 4, 2006

Wow. Woz. Maybe "Ask Metafilter" should start throwing out more questions to "the big guys."

If Woz is still around or peeking in, I'm wondering what sort of innovations he foresees or hopes for in the coming two decades.

The internet is absolutely throwing a spin on the way things used to be done.
posted by rougy at 5:39 PM on October 4, 2006

I love that you became a teacher - primary school, iirc - after making your bajillions. That is simply awesome and gets all my respect.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:15 PM on October 4, 2006

Here's my .02: As I began my day, I read all the comments in this thread, smiling and chuckling.

The last comment in the thread this morning was the one prior to Woz's.

Therefore, I was reading - and chuckling - over my fellow MeFites shared affection for ye Woz at the same time as HE WAS!
posted by mwhybark at 9:36 PM on October 4, 2006

"And when the dealing's done, when the Two Steves shuffle off the mortal coil and receive the accolades, writings, speeches and remembrances of an industry they helped create and the millions of people their work affected, one thing is for sure: they'll remember Jobs, but they'll cry for Woz."
posted by Thoth at 9:52 PM on October 4, 2006

(this is awesome)
posted by aerotive at 10:32 PM on October 4, 2006

Yeah, another wow for jscott's bio. Wonder what Woz would say about this:

When Steve Jobs worked at Atari, the company was working on creating the arcade game Breakout, which required 80 Integrated Circuits (ICs). The less ICs there were, the cheaper the games would be to produce, so Nolan Bushnell (Atari's president) offered $100 for every IC that could be knocked out of the design. Jobs brought Woz the challenge, and over four days and nights at Atari they put together a design that only required 30 ICs. Bushnell gave Jobs his $5000 bonus, which Jobs "split" with Wozniak by telling him it was a $700 bonus, giving him "half," or $350. Woz was delighted, but years later found out the truth. And cried.

This little story really does show the difference between the two founders: Wozniak, the classic hacker, facing challenges and improving a project so that people like himself could enjoy it, and Jobs, the goat fucker.

posted by mediareport at 10:35 PM on October 4, 2006 [1 favorite]

"Jobs, the goat fucker"

We've had Woz in here to comment - think Jobs will show up to offer his two cents on this?

Hi, Woz.
posted by sharpener at 11:07 PM on October 4, 2006

Fuckin'-A! that's cool!

Hi Woz!
posted by small_ruminant at 11:15 PM on October 4, 2006

So Woz Was Here.

Strange times, when gods walk among humans. Back in early 80s Apple was already a legend, we, proto-geeks, learning to code in our Sinclairs used to envy the rich boys with Apples.

Wozniak is a great guy, admired and respected by anyone who does his homework and learn HOW everything begun.

You know, Macs and Dells were evolved, they were not intelligently designed- wait a minute...
posted by cardoso at 1:42 AM on October 5, 2006

Yeah, another wow for jscott's bio. Wonder what Woz would say about this:

If I may be so bold, extensive reading of Woz's website where he has graciously given his thoughts and responses to hundreds of questions about the past indicate he would never approve of such a base insult of one of his longest friends.

I wasn't and am not so constrained.
posted by jscott at 3:24 AM on October 5, 2006 [1 favorite]

Cloud 9 also had the coolest phone number, ever (long since gone): 1-800-999-9999. When Cloud 9 finally choked it down, Wozniak did what Wozniak does: give the number away to a teen runaway line, where desperate youth could grab any payphone and press the 9 key over and over until someone could speak to them.*

I remember those commercials from the late 80s. Jon Bon Jovi standing at a payphone, looking into the camera and imploring anyone who might need help to "just keep dialing 9s."

I had no idea that was Wozniak's work as well.
posted by grabbingsand at 5:52 AM on October 5, 2006

Metafilter: Woz Wuz Here
posted by thinkpiece at 7:01 AM on October 5, 2006

I know it's nerd-hip to love Woz and bash Jobs, but there would still be no Apple without Jobs. From the bio:

Wozniak basically created the Apple I and Apple II computers by himself, with a small group of friends helping here and there. Jobs demanded and put a pretty plastic case on it.

Authorial tone aside, if there were no pretty case, Apple would never have made it out of the Homebrew Club, and Woz would have been just another brilliant nerd. As much of a prick as Jobs was/is, his ability to make technology accessible to the masses was the perfect yin to Woz's yang.
posted by mkultra at 7:15 AM on October 5, 2006

mkultra: no doubt that Jobs' presence and vision contributed mightily to Apple's success then, and now (witness the non-Jobs years).

However, it shouldn't be too much to ask that Jobs properly recognize who put the butter on his bread, so to speak.

It should have always been, and even now (IMHO) should be, the Steve and Steve show.

I bet we'd have our damn iPhone by now.
posted by Ynoxas at 10:02 AM on October 5, 2006

Alas, 999-9999 went to Covenant House who had the bad luck to be run by Father Bruce Ritter.
posted by baylink at 12:44 PM on October 5, 2006

What does Woz's sign language here (second photo) mean? Jerkin' it to devil-horns?

I just know he's pranking the photo. He'd have to. The temptation, too great.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:43 PM on October 5, 2006

posted by cellphone at 5:50 PM on October 5, 2006 [1 favorite]

I've always wondered as to the truth of the Atari story as well. Now I've found this on Woz's site.

Woz blows it off, kind of, but I still think Steve Jobs is a Gates league asshole.
posted by landis at 6:10 PM on October 5, 2006

Thank you, Woz, for your elegant reply.
posted by songfta at 9:38 AM on October 6, 2006

Woz! I'm in awe.

Thank you so much for everything you have done to help this computer revolution. A thousand thank yous for being who you are.
posted by MythMaker at 5:01 PM on October 6, 2006

Woz, I love you. Hands down you are the coolest.

*cries happily*
posted by Dantien at 12:22 PM on October 10, 2006

Holy Crap. The mind f*ck*ng boggles.

That's what I don't get... how long can one push their fame?

If you think that Woz has outlived his "15 minutes" then you really don't understand the concept of fame and achievement.

Unlike useless freaks like the Lohans, Hiltons and others of their ilk Woz has actually done something to earn his fame. The idea may confuse the hell out of you as we're constantly bombarded with "news" about "celebrities" who don't do anything to earn the attention they get but there are actually people on this planet that through their work and accomplishments have garnered attention and fame.

As others have mentioned he helped to create the personal computer industry.

Isn't that enough on its own?

If was because of work by people like Woz that you have a nice PC at home to ask this sort of stupefying questions.

Jeez. And that doesn't even begin to look at his charity work and work in education.

Why not ask why some waste of air like Paris Hilton is still in the news and leave people who actually did something with their lives the hell alone.
posted by pixelgeek at 9:49 AM on October 11, 2006 [1 favorite]

Man I'd love to see a series on History television or something that went over the accomplishments of a different engineer every week. Engineering is so under appreciated unless someone dies it would be inspiring to see some of the stuff that worked out and some of the truely brilliant minds that did the working.

Mostly I can't believe there is anyone who didn't know who the Woz is yet several people said they'd never heard of the guy in this thread and the Meta. That's just not right.
posted by Mitheral at 10:21 AM on October 17, 2006

He's an great hardware designer (look at that floppy controller!). And he's a really nice guy. For example - this thread. It was started with a rude misspelled question, followed up with further insults by the poster, and Woz still posted in it. Without a flame.

to me, he represents nothing of the actual Apple mythos

Then you need to learn something about the history of the company you claim to be a 'huge fan' of.
posted by bitmage at 2:41 PM on October 17, 2006 [2 favorites]

As a sidenote, I'm currently listening to the audiobook of IWoz, and it is fascinating. I recommend it to anyone, but particularly those with a techical interest.
posted by inigo2 at 7:51 AM on July 10, 2007

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