iWoz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer, Co-Founded Apple, and Had Fun Doing It by Steve Wozniak & Gina Smith
What I knew about Steve Wozniak prior to reading iWoz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer, Co-Founded Apple, and Had Fun Doing It (2007) could be summed up like so: he invented the Apple II, and he guest-starred on a video-game-themed cartoon called Code Monkeys, which was a program on the television channel G4 back in 2007. After reading his memoir, I can definitely say that I’ve learned a lot about the history and creation of computers, but I’ve also gained new insight into the mind of a person who literally changed the world.
iWoz is an interesting, reflective memoir which occasionally is bogged down by technical details. Luckily, the strength of the personal reminiscences and the easy familiarity of Wozniak’s narration save it from ever becoming tedious. It feels like an extended conversation, and on the whole, it’s an enjoyable read. Apparently, he and Gina Smith got together over many occasions in order for him to tell stories, which she recorded, and then later the two of them refined those stories into the paragraphs of each chapter. The easy, casual style is a great choice for conveying his laid-back attitude and overall personality.
The lack of simplified diagrams is a definite mark against the book — when descriptions get too technical, referring to the number of pins of a chip and various other engineering terms, I think readers would have benefited from easy-to-follow sketches so that non-engineers could visualize the components and follow along as confidently as someone who has seen the inner workings of a computer or calculator.
The subtitle lists two things Wozniak is famous for doing, but makes note of the fact that he had fun doing them, which is clearly very important to him. Throughout iWoz, he details various practical jokes that he pulled and his favorite memories of certain people throughout his life, and those moments take up more space than detailed descriptions of any project he ever worked on. This is a man who wants to enjoy his life, who loves teaching children, who loves having a good time, and that is evident on every page. Even the cover photo is evidence of that: he’s holding an Apple II like he’s playing a guitar solo, very much the antithesis of what people would expect an analytically-minded engineer to be.
The addition of photographs, while not strictly necessary, provides a glimpse into Wozniak’s life. We can see his parents and siblings, various devices he created, moments shared with Steve Jobs, and photos from Wozniak’s US Festival — but most importantly, these are all bookended by photographs of Wozniak himself, smiling.
Yes, a person can change the world — and Wozniak makes the argument that anyone can — but unless that person has a good time in the process, then what’s the point? iWoz is a fun, educational, and inspiring read, and an easy recommendation from me.
He spoke at my university a couple years ago. It was informative and entertaining.
I can imagine! He’s definitely someone I would love to hear speak in person, and he’s on my “people I would love to meet” list.