During his senior year he got a part-time job at Sylvania and had the chance to work on a computer for the first time.
He learned FORTRAN from a book and read the manuals for most of the systems of the day, starting with the Digital Equipment PDP-8.
Then he studied the specs for the latest microchips and tried to redesign the computers using these newer parts.
The challenge he set himself was to replicate the design using the fewest components possible.
Each night he would try to improve his drawing from the night before. By the end of his senior year, he had become a master.
"I was now designing computers with half the number of chips the actual company had in their own design, but only on paper."
He never told his friends. After all, most seventeen-year- olds were getting their kicks in other ways.
On Thanksgiving weekend of his senior year, Wozniak visited the University of Colorado.
It was closed for the holiday, but he found an engineering student who took him on a tour of the labs.
He begged his father to let him go there, even though the out-of-state tuition was more than the family could easily afford.
They struck a deal: He would be allowed to go for one year, but then he would transfer to De Anza Community College back home.
After arriving at Colorado in the fall of 1969, he spent so much time playing pranks (such as producing reams of printouts saying "Fuck Nixon") that he failed a couple of his courses and was put on probation.
In addition, he created a program to calculate Fibonacci numbers that burned up so much computer time the university threatened to bill him for the cost.
So he readily lived up to his bargain with his parents and transferred to De Anza.
After a pleasant year at De Anza, Wozniak took time off to make some money.
He found work at a company that made computers for the California Motor Vehicle Department, and a coworker made him a wonderful offer:
He would provide some spare chips so Wozniak could make one of the computers he had been sketching on paper.
Wozniak decided to use as few chips as possible, both as a personal challenge and because he did not want to take advantage of his colleague's largesse.
Much of the work was done in the garage of a friend just around the corner, Bill Fernandez, who was still at Homestead High.
To lubricate their efforts, they drank large amounts of Cragmont cream soda, riding their bikes to the Sunnyvale Safeway to return the bottles, collect the deposits, and buy more.
"That's how we started referring to it as the Cream Soda Computer," Wozniak recalled.
It was basically a calculator capable of multiplying numbers entered by a set of switches and displaying the results in binary code with little lights.
When it was finished, Fernandez told Wozniak there was someone at Homestead High he should meet.