Affectionately known as the Woz by Apple fans, Steve Wozniak has been a bit of a joke lately. There was his relationship with Kathy Griffin. There are all of the photos of him riding everywhere (including to the bathroom) on a Segway. He always gets an interview or two in at Apple events and waits in lines with other Apple fans to be the first to have an iPhone. Imagine that, one of the founders of Apple waiting in lines with fans.
That is just Woz not taking himself too seriously.
But the guy, in his time, was one of the best hackers around. He basically built what would become the gold standard in personal computers, the Apple // (with all due respect to the Altair 8800).
His past adventures and quirky personality have created a legend. However, in 1981, still in the heyday of the Apple //, Woz, crashed his airplane and suffered some serious head injuries. According to Wikipedia,
...Wozniak did not have a "high performance" endorsement (making him legally unqualified to operate the airplane), and had a "lack of familiarity with [the] aircraft." The cause of the crash was determined to be a premature liftoff, followed by a stall and "mush" into a 12-foot embankment. As a result of the accident, he had retrograde amnesia and temporary anterograde amnesia. He had no recollection of the accident and, for a while, did not even know he had been involved in a crash. He also did not remember his hospital stays or the things he did after he was released: he followed his previous routine (except for flying), but could not recall what had happened. He would walk into rooms and forget why he was there and couldn't even remember which day it was. For example, he would go to work on Sunday, or stay home on a Wednesday, thinking it was the weekend. He began to piece together clues from what people told him. He asked his girlfriend, Candice Clark (an early Apple employee who worked in the accounting department), whether he had been involved in an accident of some kind. When she told him about the event, his short-term memory was restored.
Although he did return to Apple, and technically remains an employee to this day, his development work was mostly over. Over the years Woz has done many other, mostly philantropic activities
Today, that all changed. He took his first technical position since leaving Apple as the Chief Scientist with a Salt Lake City storage company called Fusion-io.
As far as I understand, Fusion-io takes a bunch of high speed flash memory, puts it together in a small box and connects it to a server through the PCI bus directly rather than through traditional ports such as USB or SATA. That way it is much faster and more efficient than other products out there. They seem to be way out in front of their competition.
Seems like a great idea for the cofounder of Apple and a great way to get back into the technology world.
"I have a pretty quiet life, and I like to watch technology evolve. In this case, I like the people and the product, and said I would like some greater involvement."
While no one expects this venture to be anywhere as exciting or as lucrative as Apple, you have to wish the guy good luck, especially after all of these years. It would be easy to continue to ride the Segway around town living off of Apple royalties. Taking another chance on technology is the more interesting lifestyle choice.
Fusion-io also would seem to benefit from Woz's celebrity. The name recognition alone is probably worth the price they paid for him.
This story, "The Woz Goes to Work" was originally published by Computerworld.