William Shatner doesn't know who invented the iPhone

The actor best known as Capt. James T. Kirk of "Star Trek" fame kicks off his Silicon Valley Comic Con appearance by putting Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak on the spot.

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Steve Wozniak takes the mic.

Sean Hollister/CNET

William Shatner's "Star Trek" character led the USS Enterprise, but on Friday night the actor didn't lead the way when it came to knowing about one of the most iconic devices of our time.

It happened at the first-ever Silicon Valley Comic Con, which takes place this weekend in San Jose, California. The event is the brainchild of Apple co-founder and electronics genius Steve Wozniak, who managed to attract guests as influential and diverse as Astro Teller (the head of Google's moonshot division) and Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia).

But Friday night was all about Shatner, best known for his role as Capt. James T. Kirk. And during the "Evening with William Shatner" event that kicked off the festivities, the actor started by introducing host Wozniak as the inventor of the Apple iPhone.

"Can you imagine inventing the iPhone?" Shatner asked the crowd, suggesting that Wozniak's accomplishments far surpassed his own. But while Woz did single-handedly design the very first Apple computer -- the Apple 1, built in 1976 -- he left the company a full 22 years before the iPhone was announced. I couldn't help shaking my head in disbelief that Shatner didn't know. Looking around the room, it seemed I wasn't the only one.

Still, Shatner scored some points on Saturday, when he made light of the slip on Twitter. I called him out on the gaffe, and he replied with a goofy emoji, saying Wozniak absolutely invented the iPhone but "just didn't get credit for it."

Following the intro Friday night, Shatner said he wanted to embarrass Woz by having the Apple co-founder, a longtime Shatner fan, ask him a question in front of the packed house.

If you've ever met Wozniak, you know he's one of the most approachable celebrities imaginable. He's a humble, down-to-earth guy who simply loves his gadgets and always seems surprised that he's a celebrity at all.

On Friday evening, he genuinely didn't seem ready to have a conversation with Shatner in front of the huge audience. Woz couldn't come up with a question on the spot. I sat five feet away from him, and I watched the sweat drip down his brow.

But Woz kept his cool, and as a result we witnessed a thrilling, awkward and genuine standoff between two of the world's greatest geek heroes.

The exchange included everything from a spacey philosophical discussion about human-to-horse communication to a confession by Woz that as a young "Star Trek" fan (and phone phreaker) he had Shatner's unlisted phone number.

The L.A. Explorer captured the whole back-and-forth on video:


The rest of the evening showed that Shatner can be humble and approachable too. Instead of regaling the audience with prepared jokes, he took questions from fans who were in and out of costume, including a number of young boys and girls.

"There won't be any glasses in the near future," he told one spectacled 13-year-old girl. "The awe and wonder of science and invention could be yours."

Silicon Valley Comic Con runs this weekend, March 18-20, at the San Jose Convention Center.

William Shatner honored Steve Wozniak at the Silicon Valley Comic Con, but it was for an accomplishment Woz had no part of.

Sean Hollister/CNET
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