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The cynic in us says that no one can become a huge success without making some enemies. Well, our inner cynics should meet Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple computers. He is widely known to be the brains behind the early technology that made the company what it is. Yet, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who has mean things to say about him.
Woz, as he is popularly known, is a geek’s geek. He started off as a white hat hacker, tinkered around with electronics all his life, and has never lost the joy of technology – no matter how rich and famous he got
There’s an everyman quality to him. And at the same time, given who he is, his words and actions carry a lot of weight. If you want to know about him in detail, I highly recommend reading his autobiography iWoz, which is a must-read for any Steve Jobs and Apple fan. But if you can’t be bothered to go through all that, here’s a quick look at seven times that Woz was just awesome.
When He Explained Why He Never Sought Power
A lot of people wonder why Wozniak isn’t as revered as Jobs if he’s supposedly the brains behind the operation. It’s difficult to fathom the lack of ambition, but the truth of the matter is, Woz is a nice guy and he knows it.
“I really didn’t want to be (the leader) because I was afraid of politics, people talking behind your back, pushing you out. I’m so soft and nice, I’d get pushed out. I’ll do engineering. If I do engineering nobody can kick me out, because I’m too good,” he told the Australian Financial Review.
There’s a simple lesson here. Find what you are passionate about and do it. Forget about the rest.
When He Waited In Line for New iPhones, Like Everyone Else
Woz loves Apple. He owns millions of dollars in stocks and is one of the company’s co-founders. If he wanted to, he could just call CEO Tim Cook and get the latest iPhones and iPads hand-delivered to him. But the geek in him wants the childlike joy that comes from unwrapping a new toy.
“Apple probably would give me any free hardware that I wanted, but I prefer to buy it and be one of the regular people. It keeps me better informed as to what customers are really going through… It keeps me real to have to buy things like everyone else,” he explained on his blog.
The long wait begins. I'm first in line. The guy ahead was on the wrong side and he's pissed. (@ Apple Store) http://t.co/16in6G0p
— Steve Wozniak (@stevewoz) October 13, 2011
When He Gave Away His Own Money to Early Apple Employees
Businesses can be ruthless. Steve Jobs and the rest of the Apple board were businessmen. Woz, as he puts it, should be at the bottom of an organizational chart. But you know why people love Woz? It’s because of incidents like this one.
When the Apple board decided not to give early Apple employees stock options, a lot of them felt cheated. Apple’s 12th employee, Daniel Kottke, recalls how he tried to seek out Jobs to talk about this multiple times but Jobs refused to meet with him, and reportedly wanted to give Kottke nothing.
Wozniak thought this was unfair. So he dug into his own shares and distributed about $10 million worth of Apple stock among 80 early employees of the company in the fabled Apple garage days. Why?
“Because it was the right thing,” Woz says.
When He Spoke His Mind on Social Media and In Article Comments
We know about Woz’s stock sharing because of a reply to a Google+ post, and it’s not the first time Woz has said something controversial on the Internet. Much like you or me, Woz is happy to voice his opinion freely on social media and even in the comments section of articles.
When the Ashton Kutcher-starring Jobs movie was released, Woz jumped into the comments of a review on Gizmodo. He was brutally honest in how he assessed the film, and even recounted the aforementioned stock-distribution story there. And in case you’re wondering, he likes the new Steve Jobs movie.
And hey, he’s got great taste in TV shows:
save a great teacher http://t.co/CC7WM3S4wC
— Steve Wozniak (@stevewoz) September 11, 2013
When He Pwnd Tetris
You think you’re good at Tetris, the world’s most beloved puzzle game? Woz is so good at it that Nintendo Power stopped accepting his high score submissions – he just keep breaking records. Being the true geek that he is, he started submitting scores by reversing his name.
“It’s hard to describe in words what I’m doing,” he says while playing. “But my head knows what I’m doing.” Just watch the video above to see the master in action.
Woz loves Tetris so much that he even took it to a Nine Inch Nails concert. And he still plays the game today, on a GameBoy with a lit screen. He finds it relaxing, he says, even though his scores aren’t as high as they used to be.
When He Stood Up For Fellow Geeks
Recently, a 14-year-old boy, who loves building things and tinkering with electronics, was arrested. The #IStandWithAhmed hashtag and movement took the online world by storm. One of the most prominent voices to stand up for him was Woz:
In his autobiography, Woz comes across as a natural prankster, and is remembered by several friends and colleagues for his practical jokes. But standing up for a kid being harassed is just one example of why the world loves Woz.
When He Meta-Geeked on Big Bang Theory
What’s Your Favorite Woz Moment?
This is just a small list of many, many awesome Woz moments. What’s your favorite Steve Wozniak story?