Steve Inness, April 2010

Steve Inness at world record bike parade event in March 2007, photo by Ted BuehlSteven Lowell Inness  (1960-2015) was a full-time member of the Davis community.  He was born in Vancouver, B.C., Canada on June 2, 1960.

A brief digression.  Steve had twin sisters. Sherrie A. Inness (1965-2014) and Julie C. Inness (1965- ).  Sherrie was born in Palo Alto, was a professor who wrote numerous academic books, and died of Huntington's Disease and Julie, also a professor wrote a famous privacy book in the early 90s that is still in use in many law school classrooms.   Sherrie and Julie co-authored at least one article on being academic twins (paywalled).  Here's another co-authored article by his sisters (paywalled).

Steve attended Palo Alto High School from 1975– 1978. He was a teacher who left an impact on his students in the 1980s at America's first computer camp, the National Computer Camps in Connecticut.  He worked in Nebraska in the 90s.  He was a primary designer of one of the early touch screens, back in the day: he told a story of how he and one other person worked to make sense and put into practice the ideas the third person would scribble onto a napkin.  He co-taught Electronics for Artists at U.C. Davis with Professor Jesse Drew and volunteered for the Davis Bike Collective and Davis Bicycles!, was involved with  Davis Makerspace, was an important long-time coordinator of Food Not Bombs, and, presumably, much more.

Steve plus bike at Central Park (via Facebook)

Steve was also a member of the original Homebrew Computer Club. Yes, that Homebrew Computer Club where Steve Wozinak was inspired to create the first Apple Computer, and where other early tech luminaries such as Bill Gates cut their teeth before the personal computer industry existed.  Steve was also a friend and business partner of the legendary phone phreaker Captain Crunch (John Draper).

Steve and I were at that Fall 1976 Homebrew Computer Club meeting at SLAC when those other famous Steves brought in the prototype Apple I computer on a piece of plywood with an old B&W TV. (Always wish I'd invested back then). Steve told me he could build a better one - then a month later he built a better computer in his room and later scrapped it for parts. - Jeff M Keegan

Steve Inness and the Whymcychildren (via Facebook, 2014)

Steve believed that there were five things one could focus on in life:

  1. Knowledge
  2. Romance
  3. Money
  4. Health
  5. Happiness

He once said that he had spent his life focused on knowledge at the expense of everything else.  Steve attended on- and off-campus lectures on a huge variety of topics and was a true polymath.  And true to fashion, he had made a point of trying every dry bulk product at the Davis Food Co-op (and said there wasn't a bad one).

Steve at a DavisWiki BBQ, 2009.As one illustration of his passion for both teaching, learning, and electronics, here's a quote from hisLinkedIn page:  "Since I became a mentor for the Citrus Circuits FIRST robotics team (1678), they have become the #2 team worldwide -narrowly missing the [2012] world championship."

Steve died on the morning of Wednesday, September 30, 2015 at the age of 55.  The Yolo County Coroner's Office contacted Steve's family and they will be handling his arrangements.   In the words of Joe Krovoza, former mayor of Davis:

Brilliant, insightful, kind. Interested and interesting. I loved him, and this town still more because of him. He will be missed by me forever. RIP, Steve. Take good care and know you touched so many. Davis couldn't ask for a more conscientions and generous citizen. The bike community won't be the same without you, nor campus lectures, nor council meetings needing perspective and progressive thought, nor the HS robotics team. Your rest has been earned.

Steve being Steve. (From Facebook via Vanguard)Steve at the 2010 Cool Davis Event admiring Peter Wagner's bicycle train.

Steve's 1978 Palo Alto High School yearbook photo.

Steve's sister, Sherrie A. Inness, in the 1980s with a kitten

Sherrie A. Inness


Online mentions of Steve Inness

See also:



2015-10-02 11:54:24   I love his gentle appearance (on photos), I'm sorry I haven't known him. —ConstantiaOomen

2015-10-02 12:49:41   "A man is not dead while his name is still spoken." - Terry Pratchett —Angel.York

2015-10-05 00:38:34   I know Steve from volunteering with him and Roger as part of the Davis Food Not Bombs for around 6 years (we'd get together almost every Sunday to prepare a meal for those in need).  He was a great guy and had a gentle heart.  He could definitely talk your ear off, but I feel it was part of what made Steve who he was.  He had a brilliant mind and a crazy thirst for knowledge.  He had most weeks mapped out so that he could either go to a lecture where he'd be able to get some free food, a "soup kitchen", or some other place where he'd get food as well as his meal with Food Not Bombs on Sundays.  I do believe that his greatest meals though were for his mind when he learned about complex topics through the lectures he attended.  He was also a lover of art and music.  His major barrier to doing most things is when they cost money because he'd rarely have money.

Yes, you might not know it or think about it, but Steve struggled with homelessness at the same time he helped others who were disadvantaged through his volunteer efforts at Food Not Bombs.  Just to be clear, Steve always stayed away from drugs and alcohol because he did not want anything that would alter his reality.  His pursuit of knowledge, in my opinion, is what kept him going.  He was very much for social justice and felt like the others in Food Not Bombs that food is a right and not a privilege and the amount of food thrown out while people go hungry is a disgrace.  He also felt everyone should have a home no matter what their income.  Steve told me that when he turned 18, his parents kicked him out of the house because they were not going to support him after the age of 18, and that's when he had to find his own life for himself.  His parents sounded very cold, but Steve had a warm personality.  I don't know most of his living situations while in Davis, but I do know at one point he was living with a crazy woman who would be a constant stress for him.  It is my feeling that he put up with a lot of unhappiness while living there because the alternative was to be out on the street.  He was finally kicked out and I know he had a very rough patch there for awhile and told us he'd been eating cat food to get by.  I was concerned about him and his health because it was my fear that he wasn't getting enough food.  He'd sometimes be light headed.  I told him he should see a doctor, but I don't think he ever did.  I gave him some financial help a handful of times because I felt he needed it.  He never ever asked for money, but was always grateful when given money.  I also tried giving him some job information.  I could never see Steve doing a desk job though.  He really needed a computer/electronics lab and a very flexible type job, but I don't think he'd be able to find what he really wanted.  He was opposite what the corporate world expected.  He was more along the lines of the eccentric professor.

I wish I could remember the details, but Steve had been living in some place like Minnesota or South Dakota when he did a radio show.  He said he played avant-garde experimental music and not a lot of people got what he was doing.  I didn't go to a lot of KDVS house shows, but I know Steve would go.  You could always see him biking around town.  He loved bicycles.  There are others who can speak better about his involvement with the bicycle collectives, the Linux Users Group Of Davis, etc etc etc that he was a part of or helped out.

I know I'm barely scratching the surface of who Steve was, but I just wanted to shine some more light on who Steve was and some of the things he struggled with.  You never know who you might meet and their background and what they are dealing with.  When you can, reach out to people.  Make things accessible to others because you never know who you might be excluding if you do not.  Give a hand when you can.  Even small gestures may mean a lot to some people.  It is my feeling that Steve would want you to keep learning, expand your mind, support education, do something to help those who are less fortunate than yourself, fight for social justice, ride a bike and help those who can't afford a bike to have one, check out and support local artists and musicians, use and support Linux, make something interesting others can enjoy, support the Really Really Free Market, support Food Not Bombs, support the Really Free School, and take an interest in your community.

Steve, you are my friend now and always.  You will be sadly missed.  Rest in peace Steve. —RiotInDavis

2015-11-13 22:02:45   I spoke briefly at the Steve Inness Memorial about donating books written by Steve's sister, Sherrie Inness, to local Yolo County libraries in honor of Steve's memory (and his passion for learning). We have arranged with the Library Collection Development Department to place memorial book plates in 3 books. The plates are 3 inches wide by 4 inches tall. We can compose a tribute to Steve that the library can print on the book plates. Books written by Sherrie Inness are: Kitchen Culture in America: Popular Representations of Food, Gender, and Race; Geek Chic; Secret Ingredients: Race, Gender, and Class at the Dinner Table; Action Chicks: New Images of Tough Women in Popular Culture; Disco Divas: Women and Popular Culture in the 1970s; Cooking Lessons: The Politics of Gender and Food; Dinner Roles: American Women and Culinary Culture; Pilaf, Pozole, and Pad Thai: American Women and Ethnic Food; Running for their Lives: Girls, Cultural Identity, and Stories of Survival; Tough Girls: Women Warriors and Wonder Women in Popular Culture; and Millennium Girls. Please email me ( to assist with obtaining library quality books and to compose the tribute to Steve. William (Bill) Horn —bibliophile2

Facebook comment from Chris Congleton on October 13, 2015 reposted with permission:

One of my friends has left this world, seemingly by his own volition. Steven Inness was a creative genius with a vision and commitment to a better world. Although credited as a primary developer of the touch screen and no stranger to the biggest and earliest names in tech history, Steve did not profit from his innovative contributions to the tech world. Sometimes homeless, always articulate, Steve carried a sense of humor and irony even through his darkest times. He sometimes volunteered at the Davis Bike Church and then Davis Bike Collective helping teach people how to build and repair bicycles. Attending Kat Meler's art show during her graduation, Steve was able to read her morse-encoded poetry outloud to the astonishment of onlookers. During the 15 years I knew him, he contributed to countless technical projects within the university and the city, providing guidance and support to student and community projects of all kinds. I share the hope, with many others, that we can develop economies that can value and integrate the contributions of people like Steve. He had a vision of having a cyclostat at the main bicycle path entrance to UC Davis at the intersection of 3rd and A St. The cyclostat would count the daily influx and outflow of bicycle traffic to UC Davis, and display a running total of the number of bicycle trips and other statistics demonstrating cycling rates in Davis over time. His vision of a cyclostat was never realized, but maybe a few of us could get together and see if UC Davis, the City of Davis, and other sponsors could support some folks to make it happen.

Facebook comment from Jeff M Keegan on October 2, 2015 reposted with permission:

Many good memories with Steve. I am heartened to read his passion and interest in others was unwavering. Steve and I grew up in Palo Alto in the 1970s and we first met in Junior High. His room at his Palo Alto home looked like Edison's lab; wires, phones and components everywhere. I enjoyed my conversations with Steve. Even then, his eccentric genius vibe and intent listening was present, but at a higher level. I was amazed at his 70s phone phreaking skill. He was excited to show us his advanced natural understanding of all things electronic. Steve and I were at that Fall 1976 Homebrew Computer Club meeting at SLAC when those other famous Steves brought in the prototype Apple I computer on a piece of plywood with an old B&W TV. (Always wish I'd invested back then). Steve told me he could build a better one - then a month later he built a better computer in his room and later scrapped it for parts. He said he never had or wanted a driver license. People gladly drove him places before he found a home in Davis' bike culture. Steve was a quiet man who walked / biked his own path. Inventor, business creator, innovator. He self made (and spent) his first millions before age 25 from his creation of an early infrared remote control for TVs (he just had no use for the money or convention). He'd visit me years later and reprogram my remotes, calling them cheap imitations of his own design. I will miss him. Godspeed Steve. I'll end this the way he did with his resistor signature: --/\/\/\--

Jeff also supplied Steve's high school yearbook photo.

Facebook comment from Dave Quick on October 2, 2015 reposted with permission:

Steven was my teacher during the summer camps of the National Computer Camps in CT. He was in a word - incredible. Endlessly fascinated by seemingly endless challenges - he was a tinkerer and a creator - his enthusiasm and raw energy for all things learning, playing, and discovering inspired me. I thought of him all the time - I still today, 25 years later, have the business card he gave me back then. He is the reason I went into computers as a living and the reason I was able to bring a open mind to all sorts of new challenges. I had not seen him in those 25 years but we talked a couple times in email - but that is how powerful a spirit and personality he was - that I could and do cherish even the short time I spent with him and he impacted me that much. So glad to have had some of him rub off on me.


I wrote a small post remembering Steve today. I hope others are still thinking of him.