Apple: The early years - as told by Steve Wozniak

Summary:Woz on how he hoped Apple might one day sell 50 computers and how HP almost invented the PC...

Woz on how he hoped Apple might one day sell 50 computers and how HP almost invented the PC...

Today Apple routinely shifts tens of millions of PCs and consumer gadgets but according to the company's co-founder Steve Wozniak, when he started the company with Steve Jobs in 1976, his ambitions were slightly more modest.

Steve Wozniak

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak had to ignore the legions of naysayers in the early days of ApplePhoto: Robert Scoble

Wozniak, speaking at the IP Expo conference in London today, told how during the company's early days building Apple I computers out of a garage in Los Altos, California, he had hopes that Apple might be able to sell 50 computers.

Despite his low targets when it came to sales, those early days were exciting times for him and Jobs, Wozniak said.

"Sitting in a garage designing those first little products, I was inspired by ideas of people talking about a revolution where everybody is going to have a computer in their home and going to become technology geeks like us," said Wozniak, chief scientist for storage company Fusion-io.

In the first days of Apple, Wozniak said, he and Jobs had to hold their nerve and not listen to the naysayers, particularly after the criticism that greeted the first Apple Mac upon its release in 1984.

"Sometimes there are monkeys that are beating you down and trying to stop you from getting in with a new approach that might be cheaper, simpler and get a lot more done for people," he said.

"We had a lot of those monkeys along the way at Apple, saying 'It's just not done this way', especially when we came up with the Mac."

The Mac was criticised, Wozniak said, for shipping with a graphical user interface at a time when most computers were controlled by typing in commands.

"All of the geeks writing their formulas on their computers would say, 'It is a toy', 'It can't do big jobs because it has pictures'," he said.

"There were all these deniers for about three years, and then all of a sudden they were swayed over. If you have the right formula, eventually they will come over to your side," he said, joking "now every computer in the world is a Macintosh".

Even Jobs regularly told Wozniak he was amazed at how successful Apple eventually became.

"Steve always said, 'Can you believe that our company got so incredible from just that little start?'."

If history had played out differently it could have been HP and not Apple that...

Topics: Hardware


Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic UK. He writes about the technology that IT-decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

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