IWoz : computer geek to cult icon : how I invented the personal computer, co-founded Apple, and had fun doing it

by Steve Wozniak

Hardcover, 2006

Status

Available

Publication

New York : W.W. Norton & Co., c2006.

Description

Once upon a time, computers looked like big, alien vending machines. They had large screens, cryptic switches, huge boxes, and odd lights. But in 1975, a young engineering wizard named Steve Wozniak had an idea: What if you combined computer circuitry with a regular typewriter keyboard and a video screen? The result was the first true personal computer, the Apple I. Widely affordable and easily understood, Wozniak's invention has been rapidly transforming our world ever since. His life--before and after Apple--is a "home-brew" mix of brilliant discovery and adventure, as an engineer, a concert promoter, a fifth-grade teacher, a philanthropist, and an irrepressible prankster. From the invention of the first personal computer to the rise of Apple as an industry giant, iWoz presents a no-holds-barred, rollicking, firsthand account of the humanist inventor who ignited the computer revolution.--From publisher description.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member captain_geek
A must read for anyone that grew up with an Apple ][ on their desk or in their school. Wozniak comes across quite well and he shows to be the geek's geek, sticking to his values and doing something sometimes just for the sake of doing it. Many of the younger crowd might be able to understand how the personal computer industry wasn't seen as the path to being rich back in the 70s and 80s by reading this take on how Woz's innovations came to be.… (more)
LibraryThing member mbotos
Interesting stories, though a bit self important and with horrendously choppy writing.
LibraryThing member johnkeyes
It was good to get a bit of an insight into Woz and how he got to where he is today. An easy read that was written in a light cheery manner. I enjoyed it.
LibraryThing member wbc3
This book is Steve Wozniak’s (Woz’s) autobiography. It stands in sharp contrast to Steve Jobs’ biography by Walter Isaacson, just as Woz and Jobs are very contrasting individuals. This book is not a great read (at least in part because Woz is not a great writer), but it is an interesting companion to Isaacson’s work. Woz is an unapologetic engineer and this book (from 2006) is his attempt to set the record straight. I came away amazed that he and Jobs were ever able to be friends. Woz comes across a brilliant and compassionate, but somewhat clueless. My guess is that I would much rather have spent time with Woz than Jobs, despite his penchant for sometimes cruel practical jokes. However, without Jobs, I don’t think what Woz would have amounted to much. I also think Woz probably would have been happier. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in seeing another side of the Apple/Jobs story.… (more)
LibraryThing member chipmason
Interesting read historically, and great insight into a genius. However, the book is written in a style that is hard to follow, almost as if it were a transcript from Woz telling stories of those years. If you are interested in history of personal computers, worth reading.
LibraryThing member markmobley
Steve should fire his ghost writer. The book is very conversational, almost simplistic. It was very interesting to hear Steve describe his influences and motivation that drove him to invent the Apple computer. However, the book broke down completely after that. Of course, so did Steve's life. He reveals very little grasp of life outside of the computer lab, so once he effectively quit inventing, the rest of the book is excuses and corrections for what was printed in the media. It would've been much better as a biography with insider access. Steve insisted on using his voice and ultimately, it is not an interesting one.… (more)
LibraryThing member Cauterize
Explanation about how he had an extraordinary aptitude from childhood with engineering and how that led to the creation the Apple computers. More technical than I thought it would be, but that was enjoyable. A little light on the dirt... doesn't go into the behind the scenes stuff at Apple. Pretends "ignorance" about how decisions were made at Apple and how Steve Jobs did his part. I don't know how believeable that is since Wozniak is a co-founder.… (more)
LibraryThing member addict
Yesterday, I took a long look at the new book by Steve Wozniak, iWoz. Personally, I'm intrigued by the science-based creativity that led to early Apple products, and also the psychologically-savvy thinking that went into making computers user-friendly.

The book will be interesting to a specialized audience. You need to be interested in the early history of personal computers (e.g., the legendary Homebrew Computer Club). You need to get a kick out of the amusing but sometimes unflattering lore that defined Apple's history and culture. You need to want to know about Wozniak's remarkably innovative engineering as well as Apple's entrepreneurship. You have to dig the views and personality of a successful but unusual and reclusive countercultural person. It probably helps if you resonate with Wozniak's personal style, and dream about making innovative contributions somewhere, somehow.

Some observations:

1) When he claims to have "invented" the personal computer, he's not being too grandiose. He created some really beautiful early computers. The lore is that these contraptions were the first to have typewriter based keyboards; the first to be useable right out of the box; the first low-cost computers to have color, sound, hi-res graphics, and floppy disks. He developed software that changed industry standards. And to believe Wozniak is to believe that he was the origin of these ideas, surrounded by other creative geniuses like Jobs, Osborn, Marsh and others. Perhaps others shared in these innovations. But there's no doubt that Wozniak was one of the great "out of the box" thinkers of the Silicon Valley "revolution." In the book, Wozniak describes developing all of these things.

2) If you haven't looked at an Apple II in awhile, it might be worth doing so while you read the book. The electronic circuits and boards of these early Apple machines were works of art and genius. The components were arranged in ways that defied conventional wisdom. I found the motherboards in the Apple IIs to be simple, elegant and striking. Today, the technology is obsolete but the beauty endures. Wozniak's story is more interesting when you realize that he's primarily responsible for this great stuff.

3) The book helps elucidate Wozniak's personality and thinking style. He's the math-science-electrical guy who works privately in the back while he implements his (and others') visions of what a product can be. (If you've examined the electronics and layout of those old machines, then you have no problem believing that Wozniak was the science-math-electrical guy who was part scientist, part artist). In the book, Wozniak shares influences, anecdotes and pranks. This is not the guy who habitually seeks power, or the limelight. He's the guy who normally would toil in obscurity, surrounded by friends and thinkers who let him do his thing and appreciate his skillful vision (and nutty sense of humor). He was able to work among the corporate power brokers for a number of years, on his terms, but he's not the sort of person who will immerse himself in corporate culture for long. It may be that his `81 plane crash and brain injury signaled the end of his cutting-edge work at Apple. But it is hard to imagine someone like Wozniak shifting gears and living forever amongst the suits... even at Apple. I can believe that Steve Wozniak is a brilliant guy with a big heart and a wicked sense of humor. I can imagine how his sense of generosity, justice and creative thinking might make it hard to endure the growing pains of a company like Apple.

4) Wozniak offers his advice on what it takes to be a great engineer: Don't waver; see things in grayscale; work alone; follow your instincts. His thoughts on these matters are worth a look. Keep in mind that he's telling you about his way, which jibes with his personal style. There's no one right way.

5) Guy Kawasaki (former Apple employee) has written a review of this book. It can be found online. His take is different than mine, though he, too, offers a positive review.

6) There are plenty of other books, and even a movie, on Wozniak, Jobs and the PC revolution. There are other books that focus on Wozniak (e.g., Kendall, Lemke, Capps). Wozniak has a website that contains lots of autobiographical info. Then there's "Pirates of Silicon Valley", the movie. Personally, I'm not particularly interested in getting caught up in all the Apple/PC drama that has made its way to the media. But maybe you are...
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LibraryThing member LaurelMildred
The writing in this book is very disappointing and Steve Wozniak demonstrates rather considerable ego throughout; nevertheless it is a fascinating first-person account of true genius at the center of the technological revolution. Reading of his remarkable thinking, approaches and accomplishments made it worth wading through.
LibraryThing member TheMadTurtle
Steve Wozniak is without question one of the greatest innovators of our day. iWoz provides a good look into his personal life including how he was raised and how his passion led to the development of the personal computer.

The book is very interesting. The only disappointment I had was that not a lot of time was spent talking about the early days of Apple. It was there, to be sure, but I was hoping to get into more depth of what it was really like to work there when he worked there. Heck, the subject of the GUI interface at Xerox only took maybe two pages and it wasn't until the end of the book. Other books have gone into more depth here, I realize. I was just hoping to get it "straight from the horse's mouth", I suppose.… (more)
LibraryThing member weloytty
This is a great, quick read by one of the founders of the computer industry. While Wozniak is overshadowed today by his more flamboyant co-founder Steve Jobs, at the start, Wozniak did most of the technical heavy-lifting. While he's not a particularly modest man, Wozniak has much to be proud of, and can probably be excused for being a bit proud of himself. He has a quirky sense of humor, and the book is full of great stories. It's not War and Peace, or even The Soul of a New Machine, but this is a wonderful book that was well worth my time.… (more)
LibraryThing member Marjorie
Refreshing outlook on life, good to read to encourage yourself
LibraryThing member RavRita
The first couple of chapters make you want to beat up the Woz in the playground. I found these chapters as annoying as parts of Forest Gump - so much insight, so little humility and consideration for anyone else. I read on and learned a few real things about the person and some things about computer hardware and software. I finally understand what machine code is - and I think I am more enlightened by it? This guy has done a lot of charity for the Bay Area - the Tech Museum, the Children's Museum, Shoreline Amphitheater and a bunch of other donations. I came away from this book with a different outlook on the Woz and would love to have coffee with him - a true Renaissance man. Kind of an odd duck, but then people probably say the same about me.… (more)
LibraryThing member Thogek
I agree with some other reviewers that the writing style/level is overly simplistic, even child-like, and Woz's descriptions of many of his past projects and accomplishments come off sounding... not arrogant, but like child-like bragging. I don't know if that's because he's truly that innocently child-like, or he just doesn't know how to express himself otherwise, and I did find it somewhat frustrating for much of the book. But the stories of his background managed to interest me enough to continue and eventually finish the book, and I do appreciate the experience.

Interestingly, it was that last chapter that shifted my opinion of much of the book and its writing style. I feel as though the first nineteen chapters were almost just establishing his background and accomplishments and such so that he could build up the authority to say what he really wanted to say in chapter twenty, which is to encourage the young to follow their dreams and talents, to be unafraid of others' expectations and discouragements, to go forth and do. I have to wonder, then, if the seemingly childish writing style was intentional, meant to reach those very youngsters that that last chapter seemed meant to address. I don't know. At least that would give more sense to the style that frustrated many of us. If so, it might have served better to say something to that effect early on, to reframe expectations with that in mind.

In any case, with that in mind, and just accepting that I found his mode of expression to be somewhat childishly clumsy, I did appreciate the core of the his stories, anyway, and ended up appreciating the book as a whole by the time I'd finished it more than I'd thought I would along the way. At the same time, I can easily see how that same story-telling style would drive some adult readers away long before then.
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LibraryThing member scottcholstad
I loved this book! I loved Woz! He seems like a really cool guy. So I was shocked -- shocked -- at the many instances of overt hostility toward this book by so many reviewers. Man, they hate it! They think the writing is terrible, even though it has a professional co-author. They think he's arrogant and conceited. They think he over-inflates his worth. I couldn't disagree more. I enjoyed the writing. I thought it was intentionally conversational and easy to read. What do people want -- a damn textbook??? It makes tech easy for anyone to understand and I think that's good. As to his arrogance, when you've done the things he has done -- and very few people have -- you have a right to be arrogant, in my opinion. He was the youngest HAM operator is the world, quite possibly. He very likely invented the personal computer and changed everyone's lives forever. He built, solely, one of the greatest computers ever -- the Apple II. He invented the universal remote. And he's not entitled to be proud of his achievements? Give me a break! If I had done this, I'd sure to tooting my own horn, that's for certain. And as for the few dissenters claiming he didn't invent the personal computer, it's plausible there were earlier personal computers, such as the Altair, but hobbyists had to put them together themselves, they didn't have keyboards or screens -- just lights and buttons. He really did create the personal computer as we know it. Of course, he didn't get where he got without the help of Steve Jobs, but if anyone was ever an egomaniac, it was Jobs, not Woz. Jobs was the biggest narcissist ever seen, I believe. I don't know how Woz could have worked with him for so long. I enjoyed reading about his upbringing, about his early phone phreaking, about constructing and selling blue boxes, about his educational efforts, about his reluctance to start a new company, about his desire to remain a geek forever and never go into management, his thoughts about other people both in and out of the Apple world. I loved this book! I again just don't understand why so many people hate it. It makes no sense to me. This is what I want out of an autobiography -- a reader-friendly, true life account of an interesting person's life and exploits. Excellent. Strongly recommended.… (more)
LibraryThing member joeyreads
Good light airplane fare. I was struck by how closely Woz's childhood experiences with technology were the same as mine (playing with continuity, diodes, building crystal radios), and how when mine diverged it was partly due to his work.
LibraryThing member Traveller1
A good read, an interesting life. A nuts and bolts account of the early era of the personal computer 'revolution'. The life of Woz, the guy who created Apple computers, and many other devices and ideas we associate with technology.

What I noted was his near aversion to material success, desiring to be 'just' an engineer. Also his humanity, and generosity.… (more)
LibraryThing member antao
Well, as far as a biography goes, there isn’t all that much and what there is, is only adding to the impression of a somewhat disjointed personality.

The impression this book left me was an attempt to set the record straight, which is never a good thing in a biography.

Writing-wise the book is awful. Repetition ad nauseam, boasting, etc. We don't really get to know the man behind all those achievements, that is, the universal remote control, Apple I, Apple II, Apple III (Ahem, sorry, my mistake, this one was "invented" by a committe lead by Steve Jobs, ah ah).

If you're really interested to know the Wozniak's personal take on the "invention" of the personal computer, go ahead and read it. If not, there's already a all bunch of information on the web, where the record is already straight... Stick to it.
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LibraryThing member Razinha
Enjoyable read...particularly the engineering parts where he talked about creating his computer and figuring things out way ahead of the curve. i always appreciate economy of design and coding and it sure seems that Woz did too. And unlike Steve Jobs who had less than no redeeming qualities at all, Steve Wozniak is an actual human being who cares and it comes through in his narrative...didn't blame Jobs for his myriad flaws, though he certainly coukd have.

Hats off to the man who single-handedly designed and built the last good computer Apple ever made (that would be the Apple II)...nice story.
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LibraryThing member laze
Woz is the man and while I really enjoyed this book and his insights in some ways, two things really got to me: the writing style (it came off very... elementary... in many places) and the audiobook narration. Holy crap, was it annoying. I would much rather have heard it read by Woz himself.
LibraryThing member MattCembrola
This is my first review on Goodreads. I was very lucky to win a copy of “iWoz” as part of the First Reads giveaways. I may not have read this otherwise, but I really enjoyed it and am glad I won! Perhaps my biggest impression, what I remember most, is that I learned a lot about electrical engineering and how computers are put together and function. Wozniak presents a very logical layout of the development of electronics, and how he met technological needs – often in an overnight marathon (though after writing out or printing on paper beforehand, until it was all memorized). He had the vision to anticipate what people would want to use in the future. His sense of humor is always present, though some of his pranks did not seem to be such good ideas. The dial-a-joke and other phone-related hacks were amusing, though these are probably not going to be around much longer. He is an example of what one might do when they have more money than they know what to do with, like creating a music festival from scratch, but also giving to other philanthropic causes.
The Apple I and especially the Apple II computers seemed to be his biggest accomplishment, and he explains why these were a success, while other products (like the Apple III) were not. He also tells what it was like to work for different companies (such as HP), and to start one (for making a universal remote control). His experience with anterograde amnesia was interesting, as a biological rather than technological problem. I thought he made it clear that he is very honest, yet still with human flaws, like not being able to keep a marriage together. He seems like a very good person in any case, and has used his knowledge and production for good. Now, too, the record may be set straight on a few legends surrounding Apple and the Home Brew Computer Group. This was an easy-to-follow book (at one point the reader is reminded this is a “family” book), and it is well-paced, probably thanks in large part to Gina Smith. It is always interesting to hear people tell their stories, and this gives a solid background on the foundations of much of the technology we use today.
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LibraryThing member MattCembrola
This is my first review on Goodreads. I was very lucky to win a copy of “iWoz” as part of the First Reads giveaways. I may not have read this otherwise, but I really enjoyed it and am glad I won! Perhaps my biggest impression, what I remember most, is that I learned a lot about electrical engineering and how computers are put together and function. Wozniak presents a very logical layout of the development of electronics, and how he met technological needs – often in an overnight marathon (though after writing out or printing on paper beforehand, until it was all memorized). He had the vision to anticipate what people would want to use in the future. His sense of humor is always present, though some of his pranks did not seem to be such good ideas. The dial-a-joke and other phone-related hacks were amusing, though these are probably not going to be around much longer. He is an example of what one might do when they have more money than they know what to do with, like creating a music festival from scratch, but also giving to other philanthropic causes.
The Apple I and especially the Apple II computers seemed to be his biggest accomplishment, and he explains why these were a success, while other products (like the Apple III) were not. He also tells what it was like to work for different companies (such as HP), and to start one (for making a universal remote control). His experience with anterograde amnesia was interesting, as a biological rather than technological problem. I thought he made it clear that he is very honest, yet still with human flaws, like not being able to keep a marriage together. He seems like a very good person in any case, and has used his knowledge and production for good. Now, too, the record may be set straight on a few legends surrounding Apple and the Home Brew Computer Group. This was an easy-to-follow book (at one point the reader is reminded this is a “family” book), and it is well-paced, probably thanks in large part to Gina Smith. It is always interesting to hear people tell their stories, and this gives a solid background on the foundations of much of the technology we use today.
… (more)
LibraryThing member purplefugue
I bought iWoz by Gina Smith but put it aside after the first 2 chapters. It is the biography of Steve Wozniak, one of the founders of Apple and has got to be one of the most irritating reads ever!! I wish I could give it 1/2 star but 1 star is the least...Drats!

The story of Apple's founding and growth is the stuff of legend but only if you can get past Steve's bragging and constant 'look at how amazing I am' pronouncements. It wore thin after a while. I kept putting it down after a couple of pages; had to drink some water to stop the gagging reflex! I just hope Steve Jobs gets around to writing one himself or at least authorises someone to write for him some day. The Apple story is screaming to be told.… (more)

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