Most people think that Steve Jobs first business venture was Apple Computers in 1975 when he partnered with fellow engineer Steve Wozniak at Job’s parent’s garage to create the first prototype.
This is actually false. The pair had worked on another project in 1971 before successfully coming up with Apple.
The idea came up in 1971 when Jobs was still in high school in California. Woz had read an article in the Esquire magazine about the hackers who had created a “Blue Box”, a device that could replicate tones used by the telephone companies and allowed users to make long distance calls for free.
Inspired by the article, Woz got to work. He strung together a series of diodes and transitions extracted from a radio shack and created his own prototype.
After using the prototype to prank call Vatican, Jobs was struck with an idea that this could be an actual business. He and Woz could manufacture loads of these and sell them at a profit. The inputs and material alone cost $40 plus factoring the opportunity cost of time. They figured out that they could sell it to the college dorms for prices as high as $150 and make decent money.
The plan was fixed and operations started but little did they know that such a strange unforeseen event would occur. Jobs and Wozniak were held at gunpoint by a man they believed was interested in buying the blue box.
This hostile encounter scared the hell out of the duo and they closed down the business. But this marks an important event in the formation of Apple as the duo had laid the foundation for future business partnership.
These excerpts from Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson proves the significance of this experience.
As Wozniak says in the book
“The caper gave the men a taste of what we could do with my engineering skills and his vision.”
“If it hadn’t been for the Blue Boxes, there wouldn’t have been an Apple. I’m 100 percent sure of that. Woz and I learned how to work together, and we gained the confidence that we could solve technical problems and actually put something into production.”
Jobs recalls in the book.