Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak is turning 70 on Tuesday. To celebrate, his wife, Janet Hill, is throwing him a giant online party. And we’re all invited.
Virtual guests include: opera singer Andrea Boccelli, country crooners Brad Paisley and Emmylou Harris, actors Ashton Kutcher and William Shatner, comedians Chris Rock, Jay Leno and Drew Carey, magician Penn Jillette, former basketball great Shaquille O’Neal, and Jewel, who is hosting the event.
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A special “11 days of Wozdom” scavenger hunt will begin the next day.
Beyond the party, Woz’s website (he prefers to be known as simply “Woz”) is hosting the scavenger hunt “featuring creative challenges” related to happiness, creativity, ingenuity and fun, according to the organizers.
Winners receive Apple products, autographed by Woz, and purchased by him at retail prices. He says he qualifies for a 10% off employee discount from Apple, but chooses not to flaunt his celebrity.
Wait a minute. An employee discount? The co-founder, who was said to have stepped down temporarily from Apple in 1981 after a traumatic airplane accident, and then officially in 1985 to do new things, actually never left?
“I’ve received a small paycheck from Apple every week ever since we started the company,” he tells USA TODAY, with amusement.
He expanded on his website: “I never left Apple’s official employee list, but I left direct work inside on a few occasions. After a plane crash, I took a year off to finish college and then sponsored a couple of rock concerts. I came back to Apple and worked as an engineer. Eventually I wanted the fun of the early days and left to create a universal remote control. But I always sort of represent Apple when I make appearances or give interviews.”
Wherever he goes, “I represent Apple directly and indirectly,” he says. “I do it out of loyalty.”
It was 45 years ago, roughly, that Woz met up with Steve Jobs and they started Apple Computer in 1975. As he recalls it, Woz was just so entranced with computers that he wanted to give them away, until Jobs suggested otherwise.
“My visions were what computers could do for humanity,” he says. “That’s all I cared about. Making money was secondary. I just wanted to be good engineer.”
Today, what a computer can do today is beyond any of his wildest dreams back then.
“When we started Apple the amount of memory that would hold a song would cost a million dollars.”
What computers have enabled is for young people to reach out to Woz, which he freely dispenses on his website.
“I just give them advice,” he says. “It just comes from my own experience. Here’s what I believe, and here’s a good good way to approach it.”
As for turning 70, “I love it,” he says. “After my 40th, it was so great, and I thought, wow, this is getting old. Then the 50th, I just smiled, because after 50, it doesn’t matter what you say or do, you don’t have to be politically correct. People just accept it. Then 60, my wife Janet threw me a great surprise party.”
There are surprise elements of the 70th as well, “but it couldn’t be a total surprise, because I’m participating, right?”
Happy birthday Woz!
Follow USA TODAY’s Jefferson Graham on Twitter (@jeffersongraham)