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By Doug Zanger, Americas Editor

March 16, 2016 | 4 min read

It’s not every day that one gets a peek behind the curtain at Apple. Formative, a web series by Reddit in collaboration with Google Cloud Platform, with a nudge from the Reddit entrepreneur community, wrapped up with Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of the legendary company.

Launched last November, the short films aim “to explore one defining moment in a person’s life” and have included interesting people such as GoPro founder Nick Woodman, YouTube’s Casey Neistat and Khan Academy’s Sal Khan.

Opening the video, Wozniak dispelled the commonly held belief that he and Steve Jobs spent most of their time in the garage, pondering products.

"The garage is a myth, it is accurate to say we had a humble start. And when you have a humble start, and you have no money, your friends from high school are the ones doing it with you and you're in your house. We never once discussed a product in the garage, never conceived of a product, never talked about features of a product in the garage. We did them a lot of other places, but people thought we had a garage with people sitting around in it.”

The film is an interesting, albeit short, look at what built the foundation of the future for “The Woz.” Throughout the video, Wozniak discussed his inspirations — including how he wanted to become an engineer, just like his father, who worked for Lockheed’s missiles and space division — and how the beginning of his brilliance began with him building and becoming a ham radio operator.

A digitally-focused mind in an analog world, Wozniak discovered a a computing manual and began experimenting with “ones and zeros,” figuring out the numbering system.

“I said, ‘oh my gosh, this is easy,’ you don’t need higher-level math to know what a computer knows,” recalled Wozniak in the film. “(With) fifth grade math you can understand it all.”

When he was in sixth grade, Wozniak’s dad suggested that he try making a machine that plays tic-tac-toe. In two days, Wozniak had cracked that challenge.

“I understood it all, but I didn’t think I was that special,” said Wozniak.

A bit of a prankster, Wozniak’s electronics teacher sent him to a company, once a week, that actually had a computer, which proved to be another formative time. He would get manuals and got to the point where he could design a mini computer in two days.

“I felt proud of myself of knowing something other people didn’t know,” said Wozniak. “But I did not think I would ever have a job designing digital logic or computers because I didn’t think there were jobs. When you became an engineer, you were like my father — you built radios and televisions and guidance systems, all this analog stuff, so I didn’t think it was a job but I enjoyed doing it. I said ‘whoa, this is going to be my passion for life. And I stuck with it.”

Mischief would prove to be lucrative as Wozniak, in an exclusive clip for The Drum, shared how he and Jobs gamed the Bell phone system with Wozniak creating the “blue box,” a device that allowed people to make free phone calls anywhere in the world.

“Steve then said ‘we can sell this,” because he had so little money, zero money — he was always looking for any way to sell any of my stuff,” said Wozniak. “So that was our first little company and we sold quite a few in the (University of California) Berkeley dorms.”

The most important moment, however, was when Wozniak visited a computer club in his hometown (Jobs wasn’t in town yet) and learned about the microprocessor chip. Intimidated at first, he realized that the chip was exactly the same idea as when he was creating mini-computers in two days in high school.

After that discussion, Jobs said “we should start company.” Wozniak eventually made it to Hewlett-Packard (HP) and pitched the idea of the personal computer first, as a courtesy to his employer, and was turned down six times.

From there Jobs encouraged them to build a PC board and, after a first order of $50,000 from a local computer store, the Apple II was born and the rest was most certainly history.

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