This is a strange story. I still can’t figure it out, but I feel I’m owed, at least an explanation.
It began when I i got an e mail from a New York Times tech beat reporter asking if I were the Ron Rosenbaum who wrote the story “Secrets of the Little Blue Box”? When I replied and asked why she asked, “Have you seen the new memoir by Steve Wozniak”?
It turns out there was a HUGE error in it involving my story. An error which the publisher W.W. Norton has corrected in new printings of Wozniak’s book, but remains uncorrected in the first edition.
I just can’t understand why Wozniak (or his co author) did this. The “Blue Box” story I wrote, about the original”phone phreak” networks that gave birth to hacker culture (it featured now-legendary hacker “Captain Crunch”) was the catalyst that brought Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak into a working parntership. Jobs first told me about it back in the ’80s; most histories of Apple, tech and hacker culture have repeated it.
But in his new book IWoz Wozniak gets one crucial thing wrong. He claims (in the now-corrected first edition) that the story was “labeled as a fiction article”.
Totally untrue. The story was never “labeled fiction”.The story was the product of months of diifficult, fact-checked reporting. But Wozniak (or his ghostwriter) goes on to turn this into a Sherlock Holmes type tale in which he and Jobs set out to find the truth behind the “fiction article.” He devotes a hwole chapter to it. And what do you know? Everything they check out in the “fiction article” turns out to be true, i..e. non fiction. No shit Sherlock. This is the error W.W. Norton, Wozniak’s publisher corrected.
But why would Wozniak do that? Did he even read it before it got into print? Could it be that he didn’t want anyone to get the impression that he and Jobs were engaged in trying to make a profit off illict devices (perish the thought, I certainly refuse to beleive that), and that rather, they were just doing some “investigative reporting”.
No, sorry. I did the original reporting. While, Norton, the publisher quckly moved to correct the error I haven’t heard an explanation or an apology from Wozniak, and there are all those erroneous first printing copies portraying my story as “labeled as fiction”. In an age in which some writers are in the spotlight for blurring the line between fact and fiction, I want to make clearwhat side of the line my story was on–that my story was the product of original factual research. You can read it, by the way, in %%AMAZON=0060934468 The Secret Parts of Fortune%%.
Let this blog post serve as an erratum slip for IWoz. Meanwhile isn’t Woz a bit ungrateful? My story, in effect gave him his start and he doesn’t seem to care about the way it was mischaracterized under his name? He should be proud of his association with hacker culture. It’s what gives him and Jobs, what gave Apple the street cred it’s cashed in on for so long.
What gives, Woz?