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Monday, December 06, 2010, 07:25 pm PT (10:25 pm ET)

Apple co-founder offered first computer design to HP 5 times

During a guided tour of a newly renovated computer museum, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak highlighted the fact that he had offered his original design for the Apple I personal computer to his former employer, HP, 5 times, but was turned down each time.

Wozniak was invited last week by the soon-to-reopen Computer History Museum to give a guided tour to the press. During the tour, Wozniak waxed nostalgic on several early devices, including his own Apple I and Apple II designs, that were influential to the development of the personal computer and other modern devices, MarketWatch reports.

Reiterating comments he made in London at a recent auction of a rare Apple I computer in excellent condition, which sold for $174,000, Wozniak told reporters that he hadn't designed the original Apple I computer to "make a lot of money." "I gave away my designs for free," he said.

The Woz, as he has come to be known, sees the iPhone as the current culmination of computing progress. "As expensive as it looks," he said of an early adding machine, "we wouldn't have our iPhones today if we hadn't started with devices like this." "In our past, there were applications for computers that made an iPhone worth a trillion dollars, and those applications caused these machines to be built, which took us on the path that led to today's iPhone," Wozniak continued.

When asked what new device he expected to see in the Computer History Museum, Wozniak told All Things Digital, "We've got to approach the iPhone someday. That was really the start of smartphones done the right way."

During the tour, Wozniak related the story of one of his first collaborative projects with Apple CEO Steve Jobs. After Wozniak built his own version of Pong, one of the earliest video games, Jobs then took the game to Atari and got a job. "They had Steve working at night so he wouldn't be around other people," joked Wozniak.

"Then he got us a job," Wozniak continued, "I designed the first Breakout game for Atari. So I didn't really work there. They tried to hire me, but I said 'Never leave Hewlett Packard, I love my company, I'm loyal.'" Wozniak added that it took them 4 straight days and nights to design the game. "We both got the sleeping sickness, mononucleosis," said Wozniak.

His loyalty to Hewlett Packard made him reluctant to leave the company to start Apple with Jobs. Wozniak reminded reporters last week at the Computer History Museum that he had proposed his idea for the Apple I computer to Hewlett Packard, but they "turned him down 5 times."

According to a 2008 interview with The Telegraph, Wozniak originally thought he owed it to HP to stay, until Jobs persuaded Wozniak's family to convince him to do it.

Regarding the missed opportunity, HP co-founder Bill Hewlett reportedly said, "You win some, you lose some."