Steve Wozniak, who started Apple Inc. with high-school friend Steve Jobs in a California garage more than three decades ago, said news of his partner’s death struck him just like the shootings of John Lennon and John F. Kennedy.
“I’m just totally awestruck, a bit shocked, a bit surprised,” Wozniak, 61, said in an interview today with Bloomberg Television’s Susan Li on the “Asia Edge” program. “I did not expect it. It felt a lot like you just heard that, you know, John Lennon got shot, or JFK, or Martin Luther King.”
Jobs, 56, who resigned as Apple’s chief executive officer in August, died yesterday, the Cupertino, California-based company said. He was diagnosed in 2003 with a neuroendocrine tumor, a rare form of pancreatic cancer, and had a liver transplant in 2009.
Wozniak teamed up with Jobs, whom he met in the early 1970s, and the two started working together on projects, with Wozniak being the tech genius and Jobs the brash idea man. The pair demonstrated the Apple I and Apple II personal computers at gatherings of the informal Homebrew Computer Club in 1975.
“He was one of those cool guys,” Wozniak said. “He knew technology, he understood it. We talked about the philosophies of the day -- the counterculture was strong, the hippie movement, words in songs -- and went to concerts together.
‘‘It was a strong friendship. The technology was happening on the side.’’
They founded Apple Computer on April 1, 1976. The company’s first investor, Mike Markkula, bought a 33 percent stake for $250,000 and later served as president and chairman.
Twelve months later, the company introduced the Apple II. It was a hit and became the first widely used home computer. Company sales reached $117 million in fiscal 1980, the year Apple went public at $22 a share.
Jobs left the company in 1985 after a dispute with the board and Chief Executive Officer John Sculley before returning in 1996. Five years later, Apple introduced the iPod.
‘‘I got to watch the whole growth in him,’’ Wozniak said. ‘‘Coming from a young kid to starting a company and having success and trying to find ways to manage things and have his own control and power. Going off from the company, coming back very learned, knowledgeable about how to watch the operations.’’
‘Normal Self Again’
The company dropped the word ‘‘computer’’ from its name in 2007 after entering the smartphone market with the iPhone. More success came with the introduction of the iPad, which dominates the global tablet-computer market with almost 75 percent market share.
Burgeoning profits and record sales of phones, computers and tablets helped Apple become the world’s most valuable company for a time earlier this year. It remains the world’s most valuable technology company, trumping long-time rival Microsoft Corp.
‘‘Steve, the last few times he talked to me, was having all these strong reflections of those early days and how much they meant and how much fun,” Wozniak said. “He would even say things like, ‘Did you ever think this would happen?’
‘‘‘Look how great, big Apple got as a technology company.’ He was really getting excited about these things. He was kind of like his normal, young self again.’’
‘Hard to Sleep’
Wozniak said his last conversation with Jobs scared him because he could tell that his friend’s health wasn’t good.
‘‘He sounded a little weak in the character and the voice and the motivation,” Wozniak said. “I was a little bit scared on the phone. He didn’t sound as strong as he did the conversation before.”
Wozniak said he had “so many memories” of Jobs, who was fired by Apple’s board in 1985 after a power struggle. Apple’s purchase of NeXT software in 1997 brought Jobs back to the company and he became a “confident manager” knowing what he needed to do to make a profit, Wozniak said.
“And that’s what led to the great products,” he said. “Most people are going to miss the great products. And they’ll just see Steve in them forever.
‘‘That’s why we’re stunned so much. It’s going to be hard to sleep tonight.”