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A Tech Mogul's Castle Is His Home -- Unless There's No Cell Signal

February 13, 2003|David Colker | Times Staff Writer

Apple Computer Inc. co-founder and wireless entrepreneur Steve Wozniak is moving out of his famed, castle-style mansion in Silicon Valley.

The problem: He can't get a digital cell phone signal.

"When I moved in, the only cell phone that existed was the Moto brick," Wozniak said Wednesday in an e-mail, referring to the landmark Motorola Inc. telephone of the mid-1980s. "It was the size of a small lantern."

He and his then-wife moved into the home, in the lush hills above the tony town of Los Gatos in 1986. Wozniak added on rooms and fanciful medieval features, such as hidden tunnels, for his children.

But Wozniak, known to all as "Woz," dispelled a rumor about the scale of the fantasy world he had built inside the house.

"There's nothing like a volcano," he said.

The house grew to five bedrooms and six bathrooms and currently has an assessed value of $1.7 million, according to property records.

The only hang-up was that Wozniak could not get his cell phone -- which uses the global system for mobile communications standard -- to work there.

"It just doesn't receive GSM," he said.

That just wasn't acceptable to Woz, who last year co-founded a wireless-equipment venture called Wheels of Zeus (note the initials).

So he's moving into a nearby home he already owns that looks far more modest -- from the front.

Wozniak lived there in the early 1990s, just long enough to add a personal touch. The backyard, according to published reports, features a 6,000-square-foot man-made cave, complete with dinosaur footprints. And, of course, there is crystal-clear digital cell phone reception.

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