Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak once prank-called the Vatican, pretending to be Henry Kissinger asking for the pope.
In the early 1970s, a young Steve Wozniak — the future co-founder of Apple — was doing some casual “phreaking” in his college dorm room at Berkeley University. A portmanteau of the word “phone” and “freaking,” phreaking was a method through which technologically savvy ne’er-do-wells could hack into early telecommunication systems using a gadget called a “blue box.” The result? Free phone calls anywhere in the world. To test his newly acquired phreaking abilities, Wozniak placed a call to the Vatican, asking to speak with the pope. Putting on his best impersonation of Henry Kissinger (then-President Richard Nixon’s secretary of state), Wozniak nearly got the pope on the line until a high-ranking bishop caught him in the lie. The jig was up.
This wasn’t a one-off incident — pranks played a vital role in the history of Apple, which was founded in 1976. Steve Jobs, like Wozniak, also had a love for practical jokes. During his early school years, Jobs placed firecrackers under his teacher’s chair (no major injuries were reported), and switched all the combination locks on his classmates’ bikes. After Jobs and Wozniak understood the power of the blue box, the duo sold a homemade version of the gadget for $150 to fellow Berkeley students. Nearly 40 years later, Jobs’ love for pranks hadn’t faded. When he introduced the world to the iPhone in 2007, Jobs called a local Starbucks and ordered 4,000 lattes while on stage. Thankfully, he quickly let the unlucky barista off the hook with a lighthearted “just kidding.”
Although Apple wouldn’t exist without Steve Wozniak, the famous computer engineer hasn’t been actively involved with the company for nearly 40 years. Wozniak was vital in the company’s early days as the mastermind behind its first big commercial success, the Apple II. But after suffering a head injury in a plane crash in 1981, Wozniak began pulling away from the company, and eventually sold much of his stock in 1985 after growing friction with his fellow co-founder Steve Jobs. However, Apple kept Wozniak on the payroll as an “honorary employee” with a $50-a-month salary. Although that’s a pittance for such an important figure in Apple history, Wozniak made out just fine when Apple went public in 1980, and is worth at least $100 million today.