Playful Pranks From Apple's Founder

Steve Wozniak isn't just known for being a tech innovator. He's also widely-known for playing pranks at the launch of new Apple products — like ordering 4,000 cups of coffee from Starbucks during the launch of the iPhone.

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E: a couple of naughty tales from the two Steves, the first one from Mr. Wozniak, the second from Mr. Jobs.

ROBERT KRULWICH: It was 1970 something, the early 1970s, and Steve Wozniak, the future inventor of the Apple One computer was then at Berkeley, and he was how old?

STEVE WOZNIAK: Let me think about this. I'd say I was 20.

KRULWICH: And one day, he told me at the 92nd Street Y in New York City, he picked up an Esquire magazine and he read about a guy named Captain Crunch - not his real name - who had figured out how to make international phone calls for free by whistling a certain tone into the phone. It was a high E.

WOZNIAK: Yes. You could dial any call anywhere in the world just by that method. Now, this guy...

KRULWICH: Well, hold on, you whistle this high E into the phone and then you'd get a free line?

WOZNIAK: Well, you whistle...

(SOUNDBITE OF SINGLE WHISTLE)

WOZNIAK: That's a one. If you whistle...

(SOUNDBITE OF TWO WHISTLES)

WOZNIAK: That's a two.

(SOUNDBITE OF THREE WHISTLES)

WOZNIAK: Three of them, it's a three. So, you get...

KRULWICH: So he makes free long distance calls by mouth, in effect.

WOZNIAK: That's correct.

KRULWICH: Well, Steve decided he had to meet this guy, the whistling guy, so he called one of his best friends and future Apple partner, Steve Jobs. At this point, Jobs was still in high school. And together, they figured out that Captain Crunch actually lived pretty close by.

WOZNIAK: We found the main phone freak, Captain Crunch, who discovered that the little whistle given away in Captain Crunch cereal, if you blew it, you got that high note that seized the phone line...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

WOZNIAK: At your command, and he was not caught yet by the FBI. They didn't know who he was, and we stumbled onto him. Yeah, Steve and I did.

KRULWICH: What's more, Wozniak asked the Captain over to his college dorm room.

WOZNIAK: He actually came to the door at my dorm in Berkeley, and everyone wanted to see what this guy looks like. The suave engineer who's smarter than the phone company enters and I open it up, and here's this guy with his hair all strangley and he's got a smell and he's missing a bunch of teeth, and I was a little shocked. I was expecting something different. And I said, are you - ? And he says, I am he, Captain Crunch.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

KRULWICH: So, Captain Crunch taught the Steves how to do the whistles using a device called a blue box, which they built. And once they had their own blue box, they wondered...

WOZNIAK: Should we try the technique that Crunch just taught us to make calls on a pay phone?

KRULWICH: Mmm.

WOZNIAK: Yeah. Let's try it. We got to learn.

KRULWICH: And learn they did. Soon they were making calls everywhere for free.

WOZNIAK: You dial calls through satellite, to country, to another country, around the world, to the phone next to you, and it's just so amazing and intriguing. And you'd like to show it off to people who don't know it's possible.

KRULWICH: So because they could and because they were now very good at it...

WOZNIAK: Well, we're in college and we're young, and this is not too far away from when we would do Apple Computer, yeah.

KRULWICH: Steve Wozniak decided to go all the way.

WOZNIAK: One time I called the pope, and I said, this is Henry.

KRULWICH: Wait - one time you called the pope. Why did you think of the pope? I mean, that's kind of a tough call.

WOZNIAK: I don't know how I thought of it. I just thought of it.

I got called Italy inward(ph), I asked for Rome inward(ph), I got to the Vatican. I asked for the pope. I said, this is Henry Kissinger calling on behalf with Richard Nixon at the summit meeting in Moscow. And I didn't even...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

KRULWICH: Did you use an accent?

WOZNIAK: Not at first. But I was talking to an operator, and she said, well, till 5:30 here in morning. Why don't you call back in an hour? So I called back in an hour.

KRULWICH: Oh, my God! Well, do you mean did you think that you were actually maybe going to be able to speak to the pope?

WOZNIAK: Oh, absolutely. I thought I might get there. Yeah, sure. Amazing things happen, you know, when you're coming with a different...

KRULWICH: Had you planned any - had you planned what to tell him had he gotten online?

WOZNIAK: No, I don't know. I probably would have just said, oh, is this really the pope?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

KRULWICH: An hour later, Wozniak did call back to the Vatican.

WOZNIAK: And I got to the bishop who was going to be the translator. And this is like the top bishop. And I said - I used a Henry Kissinger accent by then - and I said, can I talk to the pope? And he says, you're not Henry Kissinger. I just spoke to Henry Kissinger.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

WOZNIAK: I guess they had called to check up on my story.

KRULWICH: So the Vatican very gently hung up on Steve Wozniak. That was about 37 years ago. But it's not like Wozniak or his old partner Steve Jobs had ever stopped their pranks. At a MacWorld meeting a couple of years ago in 2007, Jobs was introducing his now famous iPhone.

(SOUNDBITE OF MACWORLD MEETING)

STEVE JOBS: What I'm going to do is I'm going to go look for something. I'm going to certainly want a cup of coffee afterwards.

KRULWICH: And to demonstrate how his phone worked right there, live, he picked up the iPhone, punched in some instructions to locate nearby coffee shops.

JOBS: So I'm just going to look for Starbucks, right?

KRULWICH: And he tapped the keys and up came a map showing all the nearby Starbucks.

JOBS: There's all the Starbucks.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

KRULWICH: Then he chose the closest one.

JOBS: And there it is. And let's give them a call.

(SOUNDBITE OF PHONE RINGING)

: Good morning. Starbucks (unintelligible). Can I help you?

JOBS: Yes, I'd like to order 4,000 lattes to go, please - no, just kidding. Wrong number. Thank you. Bye-bye.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE)

JOBS: OK.

KRULWICH: The thing is, there is something about playing with telephones that for four decades now has made both Steve Wozniak and Steven Jobs just a little bit crazy. Robert Krulwich, NPR News.

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