Steve Wozniak’s mom saves the day

Most people know of an introverted Steve Wozniak, the technical partner of Steve Jobs who co-founded Apple Computer.

What most of us don’t know is that Wozniak had an early penchant for electronics and how the components all worked together. He would often disassemble radios and televisions just to put them back together with fewer parts — and they worked! Getting an interview with Wozniak back in 1993 was nearly impossible.

His assistant would say, “He doesn’t like to do interviews. We’ll call you when he’s ready.”

As the producer and director of what I hoped to be a comprehensive documentary on Silicon Valley, interviewing Wozniak was a must no matter what it took. Fortunately, Ward Winslow, one of my co-workers, served on a nonprofit board with Wozniak’s mom, Margaret Wozniak. When Ward asked Margaret if she could arrange an interview with Steve, she replied, “What time would you like to do it?” We were set up in his office the next morning.

Steve Wozniak was a social revolutionary and still is.

This is what he told us about
the year 1975:
“I loved to listen to everybody talking up this revolution about how we were going to change the world. We had this revolutionary spirit. It didn’t all turn out that way in the end, but the world was on the verge of a change.”

When Jobs approached Silicon Valley venture capitalist Don Valentine, Valentine sent Mike Markkula on a mercy mission to help Jobs and Wozniak. Markkula’s role at Apple was enormous.

“A person who eventually joined us as a partner and put in the money to build a thousand computers was Mike Markkula,” he said. “And Mike Markkula put together the whole company. He brought in people he’d been associated with in the past that he knew. He respected their thinking and their intelligence, their brains and what they could contribute to the company.”

For the dads out there, here’s what Wozniak had to say:
“My dad worked at Lockheed and got me interested in learning computers at a very young age. In sixth grade, I was building computer projects for science fairs, quite complicated, with lots of gates transitions and diodes.”

When I asked about his first meeting
with Jobs, Wozniak replied:
“Steve Jobs was someone that understood electronics. He liked to wire circuits together, build frequency counters, use chips and little displays of numbers, and make these gadgets that looked interesting.”

When asked about his notoriety:
“I’ll still run into people that start talking about a circuit I did and how they went through and analyzed it and it took them a long time and they just couldn’t believe how well it was done. When I hear that, it’s the best thing you could ever hear in the world — that people really understood what you did as an artist.” ●

John McLaughlin is founder and president of the Silicon Valley Historical Association.