Steve Jobs: The Unauthorized Autobiography - J.T. Owens X - ebook

Get a unique insight into the mind of visionary and creative genius Steve Jobs, the iconic entrepreneur and founder of Apple.One of the most significant innovators and inventors in history, responsible for ringing in the digital age.Hear his story from his early childhood to revolutionizing the personal computer and handheld industry with the Mac, iPhone, iPad and more..

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Steve Jobs: The Unauthorized Autobiography

J.T. Owens X

Published by J.T. Owens X, 2014.

While every precaution has been taken in the preparation of this book, the publisher assumes no responsibility for errors or omissions, or for damages resulting from the use of the information contained herein.


First edition. September 28, 2014.

Copyright © 2014 J.T. Owens X.

ISBN: 978-1310926266

Written by J.T. Owens X.

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Table of Contents

Title Page

Copyright Page






What is a Computer?

Silicon Valley

Hewlett Packard


Blue Box

Early Seventies





Apple I

Personal Computers

Apple II



Xerox PARC









New Venture







Rotten Apple

Toy Story

Place in History

Selling NeXT

Get Back



Think Different

Apple Core

Getting Better






Digital Hub


Apple Retail




iTunes Store


New Campus

Personal Life

5th Avenue




Apple DNA


Post PC

Life Lessons

One last thing...


* Here’s to the dreamers of dreams *


I was born in San Francisco, California, USA, planet Earth, February 24, 1955. I was adopted at birth. My biological mother was a young, unwed graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption.

I had a pretty normal childhood. I grew up in Silicon Valley, my parents moved from San Francisco to Mountain View when I was five. It was nice growing up there. I mean the air was very clean; it was a little like being out in the country. I grew up fairly middle-class, lower middle-class. It was the suburbs, on a block with lots of kids. It was like most suburbs in the U.S. It was really the most wonderful place in the world to grow up.

I was very lucky. My father, Paul, was a pretty remarkable man. He joined the coast guard in World War II and ferried troops around the world for General Patton; and I think he was always getting into trouble and getting busted down to Private I think is the lowest rank. He was a machinist by trade and worked very hard. He was kind of a genius with his hands.

He had a workbench out in his garage where, when I was about five or six, he sectioned off a little piece of it and said, "Steve, this is your workbench now." And he gave me some of his smaller tools and showed me how to use a hammer and saw and how to build things. It really was very good for me. He spent a lot of time with me . . . teaching me how to build things, how to take things apart, put things back together.

He could fix anything and make it work, and he could take any mechanical thing apart and get it back together. If we needed a cabinet, he would build it. I thought my dad’s sense of design was pretty good, and he even cared about the look of the parts you couldn’t see. He loved doing things right. When he built our fence, he gave me a hammer so I could work with him, and he said, “You got to make the back of the fence that nobody will see just as good looking as the front of the fence. Even though nobody will see it, you will know, and that will show that you're dedicated to making something perfect, for you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, has to be carried all the way through.”

He was not an educated man, but I always thought he was pretty damn smart. He didn’t read much, but he could do a lot. My father’s father was an alcoholic and whipped him with a belt, but I’m not sure if I ever got spanked.

One of our neighbors  across the road was a real estate agent, he wasn’t that bright, but he seemed to be making a fortune. So my dad thought, ‘I can do that.’ He worked so hard, I remember. He took these night classes, passed the license test, and got into real estate. Then the bottom fell out of the market. You had to suck up to people to sell real estate, and he wasn’t good at that and it wasn’t in his nature. I admired him for that. I try to be as good a father to my children as my father was to me.

We had an Eichler home, Joseph Eichler did a great thing, his houses were smart and cheap and good. They brought clean design and simple taste to lower income people. They had awesome little features, like radiant heating in the floors. You put carpet on them, and we had nice toasty floors when we were kids.

I can go into a lot of details about my youth, but I don't know that anybody would really care about that too much. I remember the late 50's and early 60's. I grew up at a time where we were all well-educated in public schools, a time of peace and stability until the Vietnam War got going in the late sixties. It was a very interesting time in the United States. America was sort of at its pinnacle of post World War II prosperity and everything had been fairly straight and narrow from haircuts to culture in every way, and it was just starting to broaden into the 60's where things were going to start expanding out in new directions. Everything was still very successful, very young. America seemed young and naive in many ways to me, from my memories at that time.

I remember John Kennedy being assassinated. I remember the exact moment that I heard he had been shot. I was walking across the grass at my schoolyard going home at about three in the afternoon when somebody yelled that the President had been shot and killed. I must have been about seven or eight years old, I guess, and I knew exactly what it meant. I also remember very much the Cuban Missile Crisis. I probably didn't sleep for three or four nights because I was afraid that if I went to sleep I wouldn't wake up. I guess I was seven years old at the time and I understood exactly what was going on. I think everybody did. It was really a terror that I will never forget, and it probably never really left. I think that everyone felt it at that time.


School was pretty hard for me at the beginning. My mother taught me how to read before I went to school, so when I got there I really just wanted to do two things. I wanted to read books because I loved reading books and I wanted to go outside and chase butterflies. You know, do the things that five year olds like to do.

I encountered authority of a different kind than I had ever encountered before, and I did not like it. They really almost got me. They came close to really beating any curiosity out of me. Both of my parents knew the school was at fault for trying to make me memorize stupid stuff rather than stimulating me.

I was pretty bored in school, and I turned into a little terror. You should have seen us in third grade, I had a good buddy, Rick Farentino, and the only way we had fun was to create mischief. We’d get into all sorts of trouble. Like we made little posters announcing ‘Bring Your Pet to School Day.’ It was crazy, with dogs chasing cats all over, and the teachers were beside themselves. We basically destroyed our teacher. We would let snakes loose in the classroom and explode bombs. One time we set off an explosive under the chair of our teacher, Mrs. Thurman. We gave her a nervous twitch.

I remember there was a big bike rack where everybody put their bikes, maybe a hundred bikes in this rack, and we traded everybody our lock combinations for theirs on an individual basis. Then we went outside and switched all of the locks, and nobody could get their bikes. It took them until late that night to straighten things out. We got kicked out of school a lot.

Things changed in the fourth grade, though. They were going to put Rick Farentino and I into the same fourth grade class, and the principal said at the last minute: "No, bad idea. Separate them." So this teacher named Imogene Hill, who is one of the saints in my life, said, "I'll take one of them." She taught the advanced fourth grade class and thank God I was the random one that got put in the class.

She got hip to my whole situation in about a month. After school one day she said, "Steven, I'll tell you what. I'll make you a deal. I have this math workbook and if you take it home and finish it on your own without any help and you bring it back to me, and you get it 80% right, I will give you five dollars and this” and she pulled out one of these lollipops that seemed as big as the world, and she held it out in front of me. And I looked at her like, "Are you crazy lady?" Nobody's ever done this before and of course I did it. I handed it back within two days. She basically bribed me back into learning with candy and money, and what was really remarkable was before very long I had such a respect for her that it sort of re-ignited my desire to learn. I just wanted to learn and to please her. In my class, it was just me she cared about. She saw something in me.

I know that if I hadn't encountered two or three individuals that spent extra time with me, I'm sure I would have been in jail. I'm 100% sure that if it hadn't been for Mrs. Hill in fourth grade and a few others, maybe even especially her, I would have absolutely ended up in jail.

She got me kits for making cameras. I ground my own lens and made a camera. It was really quite wonderful. She kindled a passion in me for learning things. I think I probably learned more academically in that one year than I learned in my life.

It created problems though because when I got out of fourth grade they tested me, and I scored at the high school sophomore level. They decided to put me in high school, but my parents very wisely wouldn’t let them. They said "He can skip one grade but that's all." Thank God. That was plenty enough.

I got bullied in seventh grade and I told my parents, I insisted they put me in a different school. When they resisted, I told them I would just quit going to school if I had to go back to Crittenden. So they researched where the best schools were and scraped together every dime and bought a house for $21,000 in a nicer district.

I went to Homestead High, It was designed by a famous prison architect. They wanted to make it indestructible.


There wasn’t such a thing as the silicon business back in the early '60s when I was between the ages of 5 and 10. There was electronics. Silicon, as a distinct item from the whole of electronics, didn’t really occur until the '70s.

Silicon Valley for the most part at that time was still orchards—apricot orchards and prune orchards—and it was really paradise. I remember the air being crystal clear, where you could see from one end of the valley to the other. But it was beginning to boom because of military investment.

A guy who lived close by taught me how to be a good organic gardener and to compost. He grew everything to perfection. I never had better food in my life. That’s when I began to appreciate organic fruits and vegetables.

My father used to get me things I could take apart and put back together, and one of the things that he touched upon was electronics. He did not have a deep understanding of it himself but he'd encountered it a lot in automobiles and other things he would fix. He showed me the rudiments of electronics and I got very interested in that. I wasn’t that into fixing cars. But I was eager to hang out with my dad.

My college fund came from my dad paying $50 for a Ford Falcon or some other beat-up car that didn’t run, working on it for a few weeks, and selling it for $250 – and not telling the IRS. Every weekend, there’d be a junkyard trip. We’d be looking for a generator, a carburetor, all sorts of components. He was a good bargainer, because he knew better than the guys at the counter what the parts should cost.

Most of the dads in the neighborhood did really neat stuff, like photovoltaics and batteries and radar. I grew up in awe of that stuff and asking people about it.

Mountain View was right in the heart of Silicon Valley so there were engineers kinda all around. You had all of these military companies on the cutting edge. It was mysterious and high-tech and made living here very exciting. The guy next door to my parents place was doing some of the foundation research on solar cells.

There was a man who moved in down the street, maybe about six or seven houses down the block who was new in the neighborhood with his wife. What he did to get to know the kids in the block was rather a strange thing: he put out a carbon microphone and a battery and a speaker on his driveway where you could talk into the microphone and your voice would be amplified by the speaker. Kind of strange thing when you move into a neighborhood but that's what he did. I of course started messing around with this. I was always taught that you needed an amplifier to amplify the voice in a microphone for it to come out in a speaker. My father taught me that. So I raced home, and I told my dad he was wrong. ‘No, it needs an amplifier, it can work without an amplifier. There’s some trick’ he said, I kept saying no to my dad, telling him he had to see it, and finally he actually walked down with me and saw it. And he said, ‘Well I’ll be a bat out of hell’.

I got to know this man, whose name was Larry Lang. He was my model of what an HP engineer was supposed to be: a big ham radio operator, hard-core electronics guy. He was great. He spent a lot of time with me, teaching me stuff.

He used to build Heathkits. Heathkits were really great. Heathkits were these products that you would buy in kit form. You actually paid more money for them than if you just went and bought the finished product if it was available. These Heathkits would come with these detailed manuals about how to put this thing together and all the parts would be laid out in a certain way and color coded. You'd actually build this thing yourself. I would say that this gave one several things. It gave one a understanding of what was inside a finished product, and how it worked because it would include a theory of operation. But maybe even more importantly it gave one the sense that one could build the things that one saw around oneself in the universe. These things were not mysteries anymore. I mean you looked at a television set you would think, "I haven't built one of those but I could. There's one of those in the Heathkit catalog and I've built two other Heathkits so I could build that." Things became much more clear that they were the results of human creation not these magical things that just appeared in one's environment that one had no knowledge of their interiors. It gave a tremendous level of self-confidence, that through exploration and learning one could understand seemingly very complex things in one's environment.

I was very lucky, because when I was a kid both my dad and the Heathkits made me believe I could build anything. My childhood was very fortunate in that way.


I ran into my first computer when I was about 10 or 11. We had a local NASA center nearby, the NASA Ames Research Center.  I didn't see the computer, I saw a terminal and it was theoretically connected to a big computer somewhere on the other end of the wire. I fell in love with it.

No one had ever seen a computer, to an extent that they had seen them in movies, where they were these big boxes and for some reason they fixated on the tape drives as being the icon of what the computer was, or flashing lights somehow. So nobody had ever seen one, they were very mysterious, very powerful things that did something in the background. To see one and actually get to use one was a real privilege back then.

I got to use a timesharing terminal, it's hard to remember how primitive it was, there was no such thing as a  computer with a graphics video display, it was literally a printer, it was a teletype printer with a keyboard on it. So you would keyboard these commands in and then you would wait for a while and the thing would go, and it would tell you something out. But even with that it was still remarkable, especially for a 10-year-old that you could write a program, in Basic let’s say or Fortran, and actually this machine would sort of take your idea, and it would sort of execute your idea and give you back some results. And if they were the results that you predicted, your program really worked it was an incredibly thrilling experience.

I became very captivated by a computer, and a computer to me was still a little mysterious, cause it was at the other end of this wire, and I had never really seen the actual computer itself. And then I got tours of computers after that and saw the insides.

The first desktop computer I ever saw was at Hewlett-Packard. They used to invite maybe ten of us down every Tuesday night and give us lectures and let us work with a computer, and meet some of the researchers and stuff. I was maybe 12 the first time. I remember the night. They showed us one of their new desktop computers, which was really the first desktop computer ever made. It was called the Hewlett-Packard 9100A, and it was about as big as a suitcase, but it actually had a small Cathode ray tube display on it, and it was completely self-contained there was no wire going off behind the curtain somewhere. I got a chance to play with one of those maybe in 1968 or 69.

And I fell in love with it. You could program it in Basic and APL. I would just get a ride up to the Hewlett-Packard Palo Alto research labs, and just hang around for hours and spent every spare moment I had trying to write programs for it. I was so fascinated by this. And so I was probably fairly lucky.

So my introduction to computers very rapidly moved from a terminal to within maybe twelve months or so, actually seeing one of the first, probably the first desktop computer ever...ever really produced. I wanted one badly. I just thought they were neat. I just wanted to mess around with one.

What is a Computer?

Computers are actually pretty simple, it's just a simple machine but a different type of machine. The gears, the pistons have been replaced with electrons. The problem with computers is that you can't get your hands on the actual things that are moving around, you can't see them, so they tend to be very intimidating because in a very small space there's billions of electrons running around, and we can't really get a hold on exactly what they look like.

They are exceptionally simple, but they are really fast. Computers are very adaptive machines. We can move the electrons around differently to different places depending upon the current state of affairs, the result of the last time we moved the electrons around.

Let’s say we’re sitting on a bench in a cafe. Let’s assume that you understood only the most rudimentary of directions and you asked how to find the rest room. I would have to describe it to you in very specific and precise instructions. I might say, “Scoot sideways two meters off the bench. Stand erect. Lift left foot. Bend left knee until it is horizontal. Extend left foot and shift weight 30 centimeters forward ...” and on and on. If you could interpret all those instructions 100 times faster than any other person in this cafe, you would appear to be a magician: You could run over and grab a milk shake and bring it back and set it on the table and snap your fingers, and I’d think you made the milk shake appear, because it was so fast relative to my perception. That’s exactly what a computer does. The raw instructions that we have to feed these little microprocessors are the most trivial of instructions.—”Go fetch a number, add it to this number, put the result there, perceive if it’s greater than this other number” it’s the most mundane thing you could ever imagine—but executes them at a rate of, let’s say, 1,000,000 per second. At 1,000,000 per second, the results appear to be magic.

Now what we do is we take these very very simple instructions and by building a collection of these things build a higher level of instructions. So instead of saying: “turn right, left foot ..right foot..left foot..right foot.. extend hand grab milk shake” I can say : “could you go get a milk shake or could you pour a cup of coffee”.

We’re dealing with computers in higher and higher levels of abstraction but ultimately these levels of abstraction can get translated down in these stupid instructions that run really fast.

I remember reading an article when I was about twelve years old. I think it might have been Scientific American, where they measured the efficiency of locomotion for all these species on planet earth. How many kilocalories did they expend to get from point A to point B? And the condor won, came in at the top of the list, surpassed everything else. And humans came in about a third of the way down the list, which was not such a great showing for the crown of creation. But somebody there had the imagination to test the efficiency of a human riding a bicycle. A human riding a bicycle blew away the condor all the way off the top of the list. And it made a really big impression on me that we humans are tool builders. And that we can fashion tools that amplify these inherent abilities that we have to spectacular magnitudes. And so for me, a computer has always been the equivalent of a bicycle for our minds. Something that takes us far beyond our inherent abilities.

I think we've come only a very short distance, but already we've seen enormous changes. I think that's nothing compared to what's coming in the next hundred years. I believe with every bone in my body that of all the inventions of humans, the computer is going to rank near if not at the top as history unfolds and we look back. It is the most incredible tool we’ve ever seen. It can be a writing tool, a communications center, a super-calculator, a planner, a filer and an artistic instrument all in one, just by being given new instructions, or software, to work from. There are no other tools that have the power and versatility of a computer. We have no idea how far it’s going to go.

Computers make our lives easier. They do work for us in fractions of a second that would take us hours. They increase the quality of life, some of that by simply automating drudgery and some of that by broadening our possibilities. As things progress, they’ll be doing more and more for us. Besides that, you are giving people a tool that encourages them to be creative. Remember, computers are tools. Tools help us do our work better.

Silicon Valley

If you had to say what the seminal bud was of Silicon Valley, it was Stanford University’s Fred Terman encouraging Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard and the Varian Brothers not to go back east but to stay here. That was the germ. Then before World War Two, these two Stanford graduates Hewlett and Packard created a very innovative electronics company called Hewlett-Packard. Their main achievement was that they built a company. Nobody remembers their first frequency-counter, their first audio oscillator, their first this or that. And they sell so many products now that no one person really symbolizes the company. But what did symbolize Hewlett-Packard is a revolutionary attitude toward people, a belief that people should be treated fairly, that the differentiation between labor and management should go away. Hewlett and Packard started what became the Valley.

Then the transistor was invented in 1948 by Bell Telephone Laboratories. One of the three co-inventors of the transistor, William Shockley, decided to return to his home town of Palo Alto to start a little company called Shockley Labs or something. He brought with him about a dozen of the best and brightest physicists and chemists of his day. In a way it was very lucky that he turned out to be a terrible manager and businessman, because several of these people defected, headed by Bob Noyce who raised money from a big company out east called Fairchild Camera and Instrument to start Fairchild Semi Conductor. Fairchild was the second seminal company in the Valley after Hewlett Packard, and was the launching pad for every semi conductor company in the whole semi conductor industry, which build the Valley. Little by little, people started breaking off and forming competitive companies, like those flowers or weeds that scatter seeds in hundreds of directions when you blow on them.

The people who built Silicon Valley were engineers. They learned business, they learned a lot of different things, but they had a real belief that humans, if they worked hard with other creative, smart people, could solve most of humankind's problems. I believe that very much.

The valley was destined to become a technological metropolis and there are pluses and minuses to that. It’s very sad in a way because this valley was probably the closest thing to the Garden of Eden at one point in time. No more. Because now there are too many square miles of concrete and asphalt.

The Valley is positioned strategically between two great universities, Berkeley and Stanford. Two awesome universities drawing smart people from all over the world and depositing them in this clean, sunny, nice place where there's a whole bunch of other smart people and pretty good food. And at times a lot of drugs and a lot of fun things to do. They come here and fall in love with the area and they stay here.

There is a constant influx of new, bright human resources, a lot of human capital. Really smart people. People seem pretty bright here relative to the rest of the country. People seem pretty open-minded here relative to the rest of the country. I think its just a very unique place and its got a track record to prove it and that tends to attract more people. I give a lot of credit to the universities, probably the most credit of anything to Stanford, Berkeley and UC Cal.

There weren't many degrees offered in computer science. The world’s first degree in computer science offered by a university, which was the university of California at Berkeley, was a masters degree offered in 1968.

The people in computers were brilliant people from mathematics, physics, music, zoology, whatever. They loved it, and no one was really in it for the money. They looked at computers as their medium of expression rather than language, rather than being a mathematician and using mathematics, rather than, you know, writing social theories. That’s how Silicon Valley evolved into the heart of the electronics industry. Remember, the role models were Hewlett and Packard, so even though some people came out with neat products, if their company was perceived as a sweatshop or a revolving door, it was not considered much of a success. If you talked to some of the people in the computer business, they were very well grounded in the philosophical traditions of the last 100 years, and the sociological traditions of the '60s. There was something going on here, there was something that was changing the world and the Valley was the epicenter. It was probably closest to Washington during the Kennedy era or something like that.

Growing up, I got inspired by the history of the place. That made me want to be a part of it. My role models were the semiconductor guys like Robert Noyce and Andy Grove of Intel, and of course Bill Hewlett and David Packard. They were out not so much to make money as to change the world and to build companies that could keep growing and changing. These guys were all company builders, and the gestalt of Silicon Valley at that time, they made a big impression on me. They left incredible legacies. Dave Packard, for example, left all his money to his foundation; Bob Noyce was another. I'm old enough to have been able to know these guys. I’ve had an opportunity to meet a few great people in my life. And they all had one characteristic in common, which is that they treat everyone the same. Whether it’s the janitor or the president of the company, whether it’s the president of the United States or, you know, or someone in a rural slum. They treat them exactly the same. And if a question is asked, they will directly answer that question to the best of their ability. The look in their eyes is exactly the same.

There is an entrepreneurial risk culture in the Valley that is as key a reason why Silicon Valley exists as any other reason. The primary reasons are, the entrepreneurial risk culture of which role models is a very big part, the second is the Universities Stanford and Berkley, and third, certainly for the number of companies that start, is the financial infrastructure. And fourth is the beehive effect. You’ve got a lot of extraordinarily talented people, and the beehive effect says it’s a lot more efficient to have all those companies together.

Let me give you an example: when you want to start a company you need to hire some experienced people. You can’t just hire people out of school most of the time. So you’re going to ask somebody to leave a job, or maybe they have a family, and come to your place to work. If your company is in Montana, and they move their family, and your company fails, there is not an other company in Montana that they can go to work for most likely. So they have to move again. Where as if all you have to do, is convince them to turn left instead of right down the road to go to work in the morning, they keep their same house, their kids don’t have to change schools etcetera, you have a much more higher probability of recruiting them. If your company fails they can get a job in a week at some other company. That’s the beehive effect. Those four things together is why I think Silicon Valley is today what it is.

When you think of the innovation that's come out of this area, The whole Bay area, Silicon Valley and the whole San Francisco Berkeley Bay area, you've got the invention of the integrated circuit, the invention of the microprocessor, the invention of semi-conductor memory, certainly the invention of the hard disk drive, the invention of the floppy disk drive, the invention of the personal computer, invention of genetic engineering, the invention of object oriented technology, the invention of graphical user interfaces at PARC, followed by Apple, the invention of networking. All that happened in this bay area. Isn't that incredible?

Hewlett Packard

When I was 12 or 13  I called up Bill Hewlett, who lived in Hewlett Packard at that time. There was no such thing as an unlisted telephone number then, so I just looked in the Palo Alto phone book, and he answer the phone. He was real nice and I said, “Hi my name is Steve jobs, you don't know me but I'm 12 years old and I'm building a frequency counter and I would like some spare parts” and he chatted with me for like 20 minutes. I'll never forget it as long as I live. He didn’t know me at all, but he ended up giving me some parts and he got me a job that summer working at Hewlett-Packard on the line, assembling frequency counters. Assembling may be too strong. I was putting in screws. It didn’t matter; I was in heaven.

Out in the back, near the bay, they had a fenced-in area with things like Polaris submarine interiors that had been ripped and sold for salvage. All the controls and buttons were right there. The colors were military greens and grays, but they had these switches and bulb covers of amber and red. There were these big old lever switches that, when you flipped them, it was awesome, like you were blowing up Chicago.

I remember my first day, expressing my complete enthusiasm and bliss at being at Hewlett-Packard for the summer to my supervisor, a guy named Chris, telling him that my favorite thing in the whole world was electronics. I asked him what his favorite thing to do was and he looked at me and said, “To fuck!”. I learned a lot that summer. My dad would drive me in the morning and pick me up in the evening.

It had a remarkable influence on me, Hewlett-Packard was really the only company I had ever seen in my life at that age, and it formed my view of what a company was by how well they treated their employees. At that time they didn’t know about cholesterol but they used to bring a big card full of donuts and coffee out at 10 o'clock every morning. Everybody would take a coffee and donut break, just little things like that. It was clear that the company recognized that it’s true value was it’s employees. I was very influenced by Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard. I think it is fair to say there wouldn't have been an Apple if there hadn't been a Hewlett-Packard.


So that was the early days, and I met Steve Wozniak around that time too at a friend’s garage. He was about 18. I was a little more mature than my years, and he was a little less mature than his, so it evened out. I was around 14 years old, he was about five years older than I. Woz was very bright, but emotionally he was my age. We immediately hit it off, he was the first person that I'd met that knew more about electronics then I did at that point. I liked him a lot and we became best friends because we shared an interest in computers and we had the same sense of humor.

We pulled all kinds of pranks together. Normal stuff. Like making a huge flag with a giant middle finger on it. The idea was that we would unfurl it in the middle of a school graduation. Then there was the time Woz made something that looked and sounded like a bomb and took it to the school cafeteria.

He had gone off to college and gotten kicked out for pulling pranks and was living with his parents. He was going to the local junior college and we started doing projects together.

When I was in high school, Woz and I, mostly Woz, made this little device called a TV Jammer. It was this little oscillator that put out frequencies that would screw up the TV. And Woz would have it in his pocket, and we would go into like a dorm at Berkeley where he was going to school. And a bunch of folks would be watching like Star Trek, and he would screw up the TV, and somebody would get up to fix it, and just as they had their foot off the ground, he would turn it back on. And they’d put their foot back on the ground he’d screw up the TV again. And this went on for the rest of the Star Trek episode.

It wasn’t just electronics and computers, either. Woz and I very much liked Bob Dylan’s poetry, and we spent a lot of time thinking about a lot of that stuff. It was an incredible time for music. It was like living at a time when Beethoven and Mozart were alive. People will look back on it that way. And Woz and I were deeply into it. We tracked down this guy in Santa Cruz who put out this newsletter on Dylan. Dylan taped all of his concerts, and some of the people around him were not scrupulous, because soon there were tapes all around. Bootlegs of everything. And this guy had them all. I had more than a hundred hours, including every concert on the ’65 and ’66 tour. Instead of big speakers I bought a pair of awesome headphones and would just lie in my bed and listen to that stuff for hours.

Besides Dylan, I was interested in Eastern mysticism, which hit the shores at about the same time.

I think Woz was in a world that nobody understood. No one shared his interests, and he was a little ahead of his time. It was very lonely for him. He’s driven from inner sights rather than external expectations of him, so he survived OK.

Woz and I are different in most ways, but there are some ways in which we’re the same, and we’re very close in those ways. We’re sort of like two planets in their own orbits that every so often intersect.

Blue Box

One of the things that Woz and I did was build blue boxes. I don't think it works anymore, but they were devices that you could build to make free long-distance phone calls.

We read about this story in Esquire magazine, about this guy named Capt. Crunch who could supposedly make free telephone calls. And we were captivated, how could anybody do this? and we thought it must be a hoax. The way it worked was you know how when you make a phone call in the background you hear... dud..dud.. dud.. dud.. dud? It turned out that that was the signal from one telephone computer to another, controlling the computers in the network. And AT&T made a fatal flaw when they designed the original digital telephone network, they put the signaling from computer to computer in the same band as your voice. That meant that if you could make those same signals you could put it right in the handset and literally the entire AT&T International phone network would think you were an AT&T computer. You could fool the entire telephone system into thinking you were a telephone computer and to open up itself and let you call anywhere in the world for free.

We started looking through the libraries looking for the secret tones that would allow you to do this. So one night we were at SLAC [the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center], and way in the bowels of their technical library, way down at the last bookshelf, in the corner bottom rack, we found an AT&T technical journal that laid out the whole thing. It was like, holy shit, and we kept saying to ourselves, ‘It’s real. Holy shit, it’s real.’ It was all laid out – the tones, the frequencies.That’s another moment I'll never forget, when we saw this journal we thought, my God it's all real.

We set out to build a box that emits those frequencies and that makes those tones. These were illegal I have to add. But in spite of that we were so fascinated by them that Woz and I finally after three weeks build a box like this that worked. I remember the first call we made was down to LA to one of Woz’s relatives down in Pasadena. We dialed the wrong number, we woke some guy up in the middle of the night and we were yelling at him like: “don’t you understand we made this call for free” and this person didn't appreciate that.

You could call from a pay-phone go to White Plains New York, take a satellite to Europe, take a cable to Turkey, take a cable back to Atlanta and you could go around the world five or six times, because we learned all the codes to get on the satellites and stuff. You could call the pay phone next door, you could shout in the phone and after about a minute it would come out the other phone, it was miraculous.

Woz build the best one, it was the first digital blue box in the world. I got together the rest of the components, like the casing and power supply and keypads, and figured out how we could price it. It took us 6 months of discovery to figure out how to build them, it was a tremendous process in itself. We put a little note on the bottom of them and our logo was “he’s got the whole world in his hands”.

We made a hundred or so Blue Boxes and sold almost all of them. We would give them to our friends and use them for ourselves.

We once called the Vatican and Woz told them he was Henry Kissinger, and they started waking people up in the hierarchy, Cardinal's and this and that. And they actually send someone to wake up the Pope in the middle of the night, when we finally just burst out laughing, and they realized we weren't Henry Kissinger. So we never got to talk to the Pope, but it was very funny.