I’m reading Michael Malone’s book ”Bill & Dave”, subtitled How Hewlett and Packard Built the World’s Greatest Company (see blogs June 22, July 2).
Steve Wozniak was a young technician hired at Hewlett-Packard’s Advance Products Division in the early 70s to work on the HP 35 and HP 65 calculators.
Wozniak: "It was just something magic. Designing the products, laying them out, doing the software work — and we were all part of the same thing, working together. And we knew while we were working together that we would take care of each other — and boy that sure influenced my thinking."
As did his involvement with the Homebrew Computers Club that met once a month in Silicon Valley. This legendary club was a hotbed of innovation in the mid-70s and Wozniak developed a reputation as the go-to guy for really tough design problems. He was also working on his own rudimentary computer.
Steve Jobs, a childhood friend, saw the work and sensed a business opportunity. The book’s author does not appear to be a fan of the Apple co-founder, describing him as "manipulative, brilliant, obnoxious and a born entrepreneur."
By the end of 1975 Wozniak had finished the Apple I prototype.
In January 1976 he approached Hewlett Packard along with a co-worker Myron Tuttle and another technician, to present the product.
"Boy did I make a pitch. I wanted them to do it. I had the Apple I, and I had a description of what the Apple II could do. I spoke of color. I described an $800 machine that ran BASIC (an early computer language), came out of the box fully built and talked to your home TV. And Hewlett-Packard found some reasons it couldn’t be a Hewlett-Packard product."
Tuttle remembers the meeting this way.
”It was one of those informal meetings. It wasn’t a big deal. We just sort of asked for five minutes and showed Woz’s board. We were told, ‘HP doesn’t want to be in that kind of market’."
[Steve Jobs has quite a different take on events in this renowned quote.
"So we went to Atari and said, 'Hey, we've got this amazing thing, even built with some of your parts, and what do you think about funding us? Or we'll give it to you. We just want to do it. Pay our salary, we'll come work for you.' And they said, 'No.' So then we went to Hewlett-Packard, and they said, 'Hey, we don't need you. You haven't got through college yet’."]
In April Wozniak filed a formal memo to Hewlett-Packard’s legal department requesting the release of his technology (as he was required to do under his employment contract). It was granted and Wozniak left the company, sold his HP 65 calculator, (Jobs sold his VW), and that seed money, along with the Apple I prototype, was the beginning of Apple Computers.
There is one more blog on the book here