Wozniak has a new role at a new company

By A. James Memmott

February 9, 2009 at 8:16am

The Woz is back.

Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple Computer and the man who helped launch the personal-computer revolution, has taken a new job.

Wozniak has signed on as the chief scientist at Fusion-io, a 3-year-old company in Salt Lake City that makes a module enabling computers to quickly retrieve stored data.

“I have a pretty quiet life, and I like to watch technology evolve,” Wozniak told The New York Times. “In this case, I like the people and the product, and said I would like some greater involvement.”

And when he isn’t watching technology evolve, Wozniak will also be a contestant on the upcoming version of “Dancing with the Stars.” The show’s eighth season begins March 9. Other contestants include Lawrence Taylor, the former NFL great, and Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson.

At his new day job, the 58-year-old computer engineer and investor will act as a “technical adviser to the Fusion-io research and development team,” according to a company news release.

And he will help in putting together a marketing strategy that leads to more global accounts.

According to the Times, the company says it has 300 customers for a product that is both cheaper and faster than current storage systems.

Wozniak is no stranger to startup ventures, as he and Steven P. Jobs began the company that is now Apple Inc. with very little money and no obvious business model.

The two California natives had met in 1972 when Jobs had a summer job at Hewlett-Packard where Wozniak was designing calculators.

In 1975, when they were both members of the Homebrew Computer Club in Palo Alto, the two men began building the personal computer that became the Apple I.

Early in 1976, they offered the computer to Hewlett-Packard, but the company wasn’t interested.

In April, Jobs and Wozniak, along with Ronald Wayne, who had worked with Jobs at Atari, formed Apple Computer and sold the company’s first 50 Apple I computers. (Wayne resigned soon after.)

Wozniak then designed the Apple II, which went on sale in 1977 and became the first commercially successful personal computer.

In 1980, Apple went public and Jobs, Wozniak and several other employees became instant millionaires.

Wozniak was seriously injured in 1981 in the crash of a small plane he was piloting. After recovering, he left Apple for a while and finished up his engineering degree at the University of California, Berkeley.

He came back to the company in 1983, but stopped working full-time in 1985, though he is still technically an Apple employee.

Since then, Wozniak has given away millions of dollars and taken part in some start-ups.

He has also taught elementary school children, sponsored rock festivals and written an autobiography, iWoz: From Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer, Co-Founded Apple, and Had Fun Doing It.

For a while, he dated comedian Kathy Griffin and appeared regularly on the fourth season of her television show, Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List. Wozniak is now reportedly married to Janet Hill.

He remains in contact with Jobs, who is now on medical leave as Apple’s CEO.

Wozniak told the Times that he might join Apple’s board, if asked, though he suggested it might not be the best fit.

“I think I have a better place at smaller companies looking at new ideas,” he said.

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