The following was written by Jarred Dunn.

In 1975, Atari founder Nolan Bushnell decided to make a single-player version of their popular game Pong, called Breakout. He tasked Jobs, then a low-level Atari technician, with designing the game.

Bushnell knew that Jobs would most likely recruit Steve Wozniak, who was known to the Atari leader as the better engineer. Jobs and Wozniak had been friends for the past four years, designing and building the computers that would become iconic around the world.

Bushnell offered Jobs a bonus for every chip fewer than 50 that he used when building the game.

Wozniak could not believe his luck when Jobs asked him to help. Jobs proposed splitting the fee, and told Wozniak it would have to be built in only four days, using as few chips as possible. Typically a job like this could take months.

However, Jobs hid two key details from Wozniak:

1 The bonus for using less than 50 chips.

2 The four day deadline was self-imposed by Jobs, as he wanted to get back to his commune farm to help bring in the apple harvest.

The two Steves stayed up all night, for four straight nights. Wozniak would work his day job at Hewlett-Packard, then toil nightly on his design. Jobs implemented the chips beside him.

Their herculean efforts succeeded. In four days, the assignment was completed using only 45 chips. The game was successfully delivered to Atari.

For the payment, Steve Jobs only gave Wozniak half the base pay. He kept the bonus money for himself.

Wozniak only found out about this ten years later. He is quoted in the Isaacson biography Steve Jobs, sourced below:

When he talks about it now, there are long pauses, and he admits it causes him pain.

“I wish he had just been honest. If he had told me he needed the money, he should have known I would have just given it to him. He was a friend. You help your friends.”

“Ethics always mattered to me, and I still don’t understand why he would have gotten paid one thing and told me he’d gotten paid another. But, you know, people are different.”

Wozniak, to his credit, did not hold this against Jobs in later years.

Tricking your friend into working all night long for several days, and then cheating him out of his paycheck, proved to be only the first salvo in a long litany of his penchant for pettiness and pointless cruelty.


Steve Jobs, biography by Walter Isaacson. Steve Jobs (Google Books excerpt)

Image source: (Photo by Reuters) Steve Wozniak on Breakout, Atari and Steve Jobs