When he was in eighth grade, Steve Jobs, later the co-founder of Apple Computer, telephoned William Hewlett, president of Hewlett-Packard. "Bill answered, and I said, 'Hi, you know, uh, I'm 12 years old and I'm trying to build a frequency counter,' " Jobs recalls. Hewlett, a symbol of entrepreneurial success in the Santa Clara Valley, chatted graciously with Jobs for 20 minutes. When it was over, the kid got not only the Hewlett-Packard parts he needed but a summer job at the company as well.
A few years later Jobs was introduced to Stephen Wozniak, who at 13 had built a surprisingly sophisticated calculator. Wozniak and a friend, Bill Fernandez, had been working on a primitive forerunner of the personal computer. Jobs and Woz dropped in and out of each other's lives over the next few years. But in 1975, Woz completed a much improved version of his computer. He took it to Hewlett-Packard, where he worked as an engineer, and Atari, where Jobs was working. Neither company saw much demand for a "personal" computer. But Jobs did and insisted that he and Woz start a company.
They wound up in the Jobs family's garage, where Jobs's father removed his beloved car-restoration equipment and helped the boys by hauling home a huge wooden workbench that served as Apple's first manufacturing base. "It was just the two of us, Woz and me," said Jobs as he returned to that garage with FORTUNE recently and peered into its now empty space. "We were the manufacturing department, the shipping department . everything." A yellowed, 1980 Apple ad that hangs on the wall reads, "What Is a Personal Computer?"
Wozniak now teaches in elementary school, while Jobs has gone on to found Next
Inc. and Pixar Animation Studios. Jobs gets phone calls from kids, aspiring
entrepreneurs as bold as he once was. "Sure I speak with them. I always
try to," Jobs says. "That's the only way I can pay Bill Hewlett back."