Steve Wozniak, Credit Unions
and the birth of Apple Computer.

Iconic Innovator

Without his technical genius, there would have been no Apple Computer. And some four decades ago, as the information age was just taking shape, a small loan from a credit union that replaced Steve Wozniak’s stolen television set helped start a chain of events that made history.

At the time, Steve was working at Hewlett-Packard on projects that included an early movie system for hotel rooms. One day, he wandered into a bowling alley. Amid the pings, clangs and musical chimes of the ubiquitous mechanical pinball machines, he encountered something unprecedented. It was called Pong. And it consisted of a stark black-and-white TV display with two movable lines and a bouncing dot that invited players to challenge each other at table tennis – without the table. As soon as he saw it, “Woz” knew he had to have one.

A Vision in Search of a Screen

Steve was exceptionally talented at designing circuitry utilizing the increasingly affordable and versatile electronic chips already transforming the electronics industry. Knowing he could never afford to buy an actual arcade Pong game for himself, he set out to build his own. Figuring out how to create the circuitry was one thing. But to actually see the results, Steve was missing one critical component: a TV. Since his own set had been stolen from his apartment, he paid a visit to the most convenient place to get a loan. And his company’s credit union came through.

The Seeds of an Apple

It wasn’t long before Steve found something even more engaging to do with a handful of chips and a television screen. In this time before the era of mass-produced personal computers, only hobbyists with rudimentary, hand-assembled systems had the opportunity to explore the digital realm at home. On June 29, 1975, Steve tested the first working prototype of the Apple 1. And for the first time in history, a character generated by a home computer appeared on a TV screen.

Digital Power to the People

Less than a year later, together with Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak founded Apple Computer Inc. Introduction of the Apple II model soon followed. It was the first personal computer able to display color graphics. It also included a keyboard and floppy disk drive, as well as a built-in programming language and easy expandability. The Apple II offered just what was needed to make the leap from a hobbyist’s project to a useful tool for a wider consumer audience. And how that audience has grown!

Committed to Amplifying Innovation

Since leaving Apple in 1985, Steve has found new ways to enhance the lives of people in communities across the country. Making significant investments of both his time and resources in education, he “adopted” his local school district in Los Gatos, California, providing students and teachers with hands-on teaching, and donations of state-of-the-art technology equipment. He founded the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and was the founding sponsor of the Tech Museum, Silicon Valley Ballet and Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose.

When he received the prestigious Heinz Award for Technology, the Economy and Employment, the endorsement captured the scope of Steve’s accomplishments succinctly. It honors Woz for “single-handedly designing the first personal computer and for then redirecting his lifelong passion for mathematics and electronics toward lighting the fires of excitement for education in grade school students and their teachers.”

Not a bad record for someone who once needed a loan for a television to bring his own personal vision to life – and found the help he needed at the community-minded branch of his local credit union.

Could a credit union help turn your own personal or professional dreams into reality? Learn more at Why a Credit Union.