Steve Wozniak’s Favorite Gadget Isn’t His iPhone, But His Transistor Radio

Steve Wozniak’s Favorite Gadget Isn’t His iPhone, But His Transistor Radio

Woz compares every gadget he owns to his transistor radio.

My favorite gadget is most certainly my iPhone… or my iPad. I have a tough time choosing between the two, but it’s definitely one of those devices. And I’m sure many of you feel the same way about your smartphone or tablet, after all, we use things every single day for all kinds of tasks.

But for Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple, it isn’t either of these things. His favorite gadget is his aging transistor radio, which was given to him by his parents when he was eight years old.

In an interview with Forbes, Woz said that even to this day, he compares every gadget he owns to his transistor radio.

I view every gadget in terms of that: How well it fits in your life. I remember that radio so well! It was so important to me.

You might say, “all it was was a radio.” But I don’t know. I think it touched me because it brought me music—any time, day or night. To me, a gadget has got to be entertaining first to be the best.

Although he was only around eight when his parents gave him that radio, Woz says he was already building gadgets himself. In elementary school, he was already building computers — with hundreds of transistors soldered together — that could play tic-tac-toe. But not even these compared to his radio.

But this radio—it brought music and life! That’s a finished product that I want forever. And I kind of judge all gadgets by that: good gadgets are personal. I own them. They’re in my hand. They’re like my radio: I can turn them on when I want to.

Woz recounts that radios back than were only capable of tuning into AM stations, and that there were only around three stations for kids to listen to.

You’d pick up the far-away stations that played at night. That was so amazing! I heard a station that was really weak and it was in Idaho—it was an amazing discovery.

Woz recalls asking his father for a $500 chip “what would do about as much as a light switch.” “I need that chip so I can make better radios,” Woz told him. But his father insisted the chips were only for the military, and that that’s why they cost so much.

Even though Woz loved his transistor radio, he felt said that “the most important thing” in his life was simply “surplus junk to what the industry had really been trying to create in transistors and then in chips.”

I was so hurt that throughout my life, I always cared more about the consumer, the average guy in his home, having enjoyable products in his house.

Woz notes, however, that the tables have now turned.

Eventually, the state of the art in chips came to personal computers. Then it went to making chips for games. So the most powerful processors in the world are made for games! Now the military uses technology developed for playing games on computers!

What’s your favorite gadget?

  • uhmorphous

    Woz’s smile in that photo just made my day.

  • crateish
    I used a transistor radio around the house until the iPhone came out. The speaker is loud and clear enough to enjoy. And it has access to tens of thousands of radio stations.
    Now I pocket my iPhone and carry my Jambox from room to room.
  • SkolVikes88

    I know how he feels – but being 50, I’m in the same generation as Woz.  I got a small transistor radio from my Dad as a kid – a Sony.  It was a small, plastic chromed unit that used a 9-volt battery.  I took it everywhere and it was indeed freedom.  I got myself and my son one a few years back on ebay – NOS.  I use it some nights by my bed – bad reception and all.  Hard to explain it, but I get it.

    And yes, priceless pic.  A man living the dream…

About the author

Killian BellKillian Bell is a staff writer based in the U.K. He has an interest in all things tech and also covers Android over at CultofAndroid.com. You can follow him on Twitter via @killianbell.

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