Getting shocked was a badge of honor for Woz
Getting shocked was a badge of honor for Woz.
He prided himself on being a hardware engineer, which meant that random shocks were routine. He once devised a roulette game where four people put their thumbs in a slot; when the ball landed, one would get shocked. “Hardware guys will play this game, but software guys are too chicken,” he noted.
During his senior year he got a part-time job at Sylvania and had the
chance to work on a computer for the first time. He learned FORTRAN from a book and read the manuals for most of the systems of the day, starting with the Digital Equipment PDP-8. Then he studied the specs for the latest microchips and tried
to redesign the computers using these newer parts. The challenge he set himself was to replicate the design using the fewest components possible. Each night he would try to improve
his drawing from the night before. By the end of his senior year, he had become a master. “I was now designing computers with half the number of chips the actual company had in their own design, but only on paper.” He never told his friends. After all, most seventeen-year-olds were getting their kicks in other ways.
On Thanksgiving weekend of his senior year, Wozniak visited the University of Colorado. It was closed for the holiday, but he found an engineering student who took him on a tour of the labs.
He begged his father to let him go there, even though the out-of-state tuition was more than the family could easily afford. They struck a deal:
He would be allowed to go for one year, but then he would transfer to De Anza Community College back home. After arriving at Colorado in the fall of 1969, he spent so much time playing pranks (such as producing reams of printouts saying “Fuck Nixon”) that he failed a couple of his courses and was put on probation.