In this success story, we are going to share the life story of Steve Jobs, an American inventor, entrepreneur, and industrial designer. He was the CEO and co-founder of Apple Inc., CEO and majority shareholder of Pixar Animation Studios, CEO founder and chairman of NeXT Inc., and a member of The Walt Disney Company’s board of directors. His bold ambitions revolutionized six industries: personal computing, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing, and digital publishing. His mysterious charisma, persistence, and intellectuality made him convincing and massively inspiring to people around him. Upon his passing, many hailed him as the greatest inventor and entrepreneur of our time – comparing his achievements to those of Thomas Edison (see also: The power of the mind – Thomas Edison).
The distinctive personality traits of Steve Jobs are perseverance, passion, ambition, rebellious nature, confidence (sometimes arrogance), and far-sighted vision.
The Schieble family lived on the outskirts of Green Bay, Wisconsin, where Arthur Schieble and his wife, Irene Schieble, ran a milk farm and worked in various businesses including real estate, and photoengraving. They were Catholics of German descent, and Arthur strictly wanted his daughter Joanne to follow the same path. Joanne Carole Schieble (born 1932) attended the University of Wisconsin and fell in love with a Syrian teaching assistant Abdulfattah “John” Jandali (born March 15, 1931). Her father threatened to cut her off entirely due to her Jandali’s Muslim background.
Jandali’s father was a wealthy businessperson. He owned oil refineries, large holdings in Damascus and Homs, and was at one point in total control of the price of wheat in the region. His mother was a traditional Muslim woman and a housewife. After finishing school, Jandali pursued an undergraduate degree at the American University in Beirut. There he involved himself in political activism and even spent some time in jail. He went on to the University of Wisconsin to get a doctoral degree in political science, and that is where he met Joanne.
The couple was deeply in love, but their relationship was looked down upon by Joanne’s father. Jandali described him as a ‘tyrant’ whose religious views prevented them from marrying. Joanne became pregnant after her visit to Jandali’s homeland in Syria. Her father’s health had begun declining by then, and she was secretive of her pregnancy for his sake. Jandali and Joanne didn’t have many options to consider. The dangers of having an abortion in 1954 and the firm stigma against raising a child as a single mother left adoption as the only rational choice. Without involving Jandali in the process, Joanne moved to San Francisco, and there she found a doctor who sheltered women with similar stories and helped them deliver their babies.
Though Paul Reinhold Jobs (1922–1993) grew up with an often abusive alcoholic father, he developed a personality that was calm and gentle. He dropped out of high school and wandered around the Midwest working as a mechanic at various places before ending up in the Coast Guard. Paul Jobs earned commendations due to him being a good mechanic, but his inability to swim and tendency to get into trouble always kept him at the rank of a seaman. One day, when he and his crew arrived in San Francisco after their ship had been decommissioned, Paul made a bet to his buddies that he would find himself a wife within two weeks.
Clara Hagopian (1924 – 1986) was born in New Jersey and moved to San Francisco as a child. Her family sought refuge in the United States while fleeing the Turks in Armenia. Clara’s only secret was that she had been already married and her husband never came back from war. Her first date with Paul Jobs was partially a result of her desire to start a new life. Also, the fact that his mates had a car and hers didn’t. Surely his handsomeness, robust body build, and slight resemblance to James Dean had nothing to do with it.
Ten days had passed since Paul asked Clara out, and they were already engaged and about to start a happy relationship that would last over forty years.
Paul’s abilities as a mechanic made them decent money. He bought, restored, and sold old cars. Clara convinced him to move to San Francisco, a city she loved since she was a child. There, Paul got hired as a “repo man, ” and his job was to pick the locks of cars whose owners failed to pay their loans, and repossess them for the company. After being together for some time, the couple decided they want a baby. Clara was unable to have one due to an ectopic pregnancy, which left her infertile. This situation caused them to consider adoption.
Steve Jobs’ birth
Steven Paul “Steve” Jobs was born on February 24, 1955, in San Francisco to Joanne Carole Schieble and Abdulfattah “John” Jandali. Joanne chose adoptive parents for his son who was well educated, Catholic and wealthy. However, they changed their mind and adopted a girl instead.
When Joanne learned that her son would be placed with Paul and Clara Jobs, none of whom went to college, she refused to sign the adoptive papers and even took the matter to court. Paul and Clara convinced Joanne to change her mind after promising that they would pay for the child’s college education.
The other reason why Joanne was reluctant at first was that she knew that her father’s condition was worsening, and it looked like he would not last long. She held out hope that when he passed away, she could marry Jandali and they could somehow have their child back. Joanne’s father died in August 1955, and the couple got married a few months later, but the adoption was already legally finalized. Joanne and Jandali had another child, who grew up to become a novelist, Mona Simpson (born June 14, 1957), the sister of Steve Jobs. After they divorced in 1962, Joanne embarked on a series of journeys that would inspire her to live a nomadic life. Mona Simpson documented her mother’s story in her critically acclaimed novel entitled Anywhere But Here (1986).
Paul and Clara Jobs were very open with Steve on his background. At one point when he was six or seven years old, he told a neighbor girl that he was adopted, and she responded by saying: “So does that mean your real parents didn’t want you?” Steve ran back home where his parents reassured him that they specifically chose him and that he was special. Although he grew up happy with Paul and Clara, some argue that Steve’s desire for complete control of his environment derives precisely from his abandonment at birth.
Steve Jobs’ childhood was typical 50s. The family adopted a girl named Patty when Steve was two, and a few years later moved to Mountain View, California – an area that was slowly becoming a center for electronics. Jobs then mentioned how the neighborhood featured slick houses designed by Joseph Eichler (June 25, 1900 – July 01, 1974) that greatly inspired him. He loved that when one could bring great design and simple capability to something that didn’t cost much.
Paul Jobs’ love for mechanics sustained, as he worked on cars and made various household objects. Steve admired his father’s craftsmanship, which made him eager to spend time with him. Eventually, Paul made Steve a workbench in his garage to pass his knowledge along to him. By the time that Steve was ten, he had already displayed a talent for creating things and made friends with every engineer in the neighborhood.
After the Soviet Union launched Sputnik in 1957, the United States plunged into the Space Race. The federal government invested billions into technology and electronics so that they could sprint into the future. If you were a nerd in the mid-60s, the Santa Clara County, just south of San Francisco, was the place to be. By the end of the decade, not many people referred to it with that name, as it became known as Silicon Valley. The name derives from a substance used in manufacturing radios, televisions, stereos, and computers.
Elementary and middle school
Before Steve started elementary school, his mother, Clara Jobs, taught him how to read. As a result, he wasn’t interested in his classes and often occupied himself by causing trouble. Steve Jobs developed a rebellious attitude at a young age as well as resentment towards authority. He and school friend Rick Ferrentino would always prank people. There was an instance when they hung posters around announcing ‘Bring Your Pet to School Day.’ The result was mayhem with dogs chasing cats all over the territory, and the teachers were unable to do anything about it. Another time they convinced some kids to tell them the combinations for their bike locks and went outside to switch them all up. Some children stayed until late night to get their bikes back. Steve and Rick became more experienced as they grew older and their pranks began featuring explosive devices that they set off under people’s chairs. When the two were about to enter fourth grade, the school decided to put them into different classes for obvious reasons.
Fourth grade is where Steve Jobs made his first money. While others may have dismissed him as a troublemaker and a brat, Steve’s fourth-grade teacher, Imogene ‘Teddy’ Hill, saw high intellectual potential. She caught his interest by bribing him with $5 bills to finish textbooks that she assigned, hinting at a world we would all love to live in. Steve quickly became hooked, and he would later recall that he learned more that year than in any other year in school.
By the end of fourth grade, Steve Jobs was scoring tests at a high school sophomore level. It was now clear to both his parents and the school that he was intellectually ahead of his age. To keep him challenged and stimulated the school proposed that he skipped five and six grades, and went straight to seventh grade. His parents decided that it would make more sense only to skip one class, so they put him at Crittenden Middle School, a few blocks away from his elementary one. Crittenden Middle School was in a neighborhood full of ethnic gangs. Fights were very common, and kids regularly brought knives to school to show off. It was so bad that halfway through seventh grade. Steve gave his parents an ultimatum: either they put him in a different school or he would not study. Paul and Clara Jobs were struggling financially at that time, but they managed to put all of their savings together and move to a better district.
Relocation to Los Altos
In 1967, the family bought a three-bedroom home on Crist Drive in Los Altos, California for $21,000. This home would be declared a historic site in 2013 as the place where Apple Computer was born.
Steve finished middle school in Cupertino Junior High where he befriended Bill Hernandez. In 1968, both of them began to attend Homestead High School which had strong ties to Silicon Valley. Steve and Bill lacked an engineering background, so they decided to enroll in John McCollum’s “Electronics 1.” Steve Jobs by then had grown out his hair and became associating himself with the growing counterculture.
Steve Jobs’ thoughts on religion
Steve Jobs’ parents wanted to their son to have a religious upbringing, although they never imposed their view on him. He went to the Lutheran church most Sundays, but it all quickly came to an end. On July 12, 1968, Life magazine posted a shocking cover depicting two starving children in Biafra. Jobs took the cover to church and used it to confront the pastor.
A thirteen-year-old Jobs asked the pastor: “If I raise my finger, will God know which one I’m going to raise even before I do it?” The pastor replied: “Yes, God knows everything.” After that, Steve pulled out the Life cover and asked: “Well, does God know about this and what’s going to happen to those children?” The pastor also hesitantly replied yes to this question. After this, Steve Jobs never came back to church as he did not want to believe in such a God. Instead, Jobs would dedicate a lot of his years to practicing tenets of Zen Buddhism. He was more interested in Buddhism as it that emphasized spiritual experiences, instead of imposing some viewpoint and code.
Once Steve Jobs said: “I think different religions are different doors to the same house. Sometimes I think the house exists, and sometimes I don’t. It’s the great mystery.”
Homestead high school
At Homestead High School, Steve Jobs befriended the ‘smart kids’ who were into math, science, and electronics. Homestead is where Steve met Chris-Ann Brennan, his would-be first long-term girlfriend. He developed a love for walking and would walk fifteen blocks to the school every day. He also began hanging out with the seniors who were into LSD matters and the whole counterculture trip. By then, Steve’s pranks had gotten more serious and started involving electronics. He once built a control room in his closet and wired his entire house with speakers that also worked as microphones. He would listen into other rooms of the house until his father caught him and asked him to dismantle the system.
Steve would spend lots of time in the garage of Larry Lang, another one of his engineer friends who lived down the street. Lang got Jobs interested in Heathkits – unique “assemble it yourself” kits for making various electronic gear. Heathkits fascinated him as they let one have an understanding of how technology gets built.
In one of the interviews, Steve Jobs said: “I mean you looked at a television set, and you would think that I haven’t built those but I could… Things became much more clear that they were the results of human creation, not these magical things that just appeared in one’s environment that one had no knowledge of their interiors.” Heathkits gave Jobs inspiration and self-confidence, teaching him that one could comprehend seemingly complicated things through exploration and learning.
Hewlett-Packard explorers club
Lang also brought Steve Jobs to the Hewlett-Packard Explorers Club. It was a group of students who met in a cafeteria to talk to engineers from some of the labs about what they were doing. Steve once approached a laser engineer working for HP, who agreed to give him a tour of the holography lap. Steve Jobs saw his first desktop computer at Hewlett-Packard Explorers Club. It was the model called the 9100A, and it was a glorified calculator but also the first desktop computer. It was huge (around forty pounds), but Jobs found it beautiful and fall in love with it.
The kids who attended the HP Explorers Club were stimulated to work on various projects, and Steve took up the idea of building a frequency counter that would measure the number of pulses per second in an electronic signal. He was short on parts, so he cold-called Bill Hewlett – the CEO of HP, who had a twenty-minute chat with Steve Jobs. Not only did Hewlett give him the parts, but he also offered him a summer job in the plant where HP manufactured frequency counters.
At the age of fifteen, Steve Jobs began regularly dabbling with marijuana. It led to the only big fight he has ever had with his dad, who made him promise he would stop, but Jobs resisted. Eventually, his father bent to his will. By his last two years of school, he was into LSD, hash, and the mind-bending effects of sleep deprivation. These explorations caused him to develop intellectually as he found himself at an intersection between friends who were geeky and into electronics, and those who were into the counterculture, literature, and creativity. Steve got into classic literature such as Shakespeare, Plato, Dylan Thomas, and he even read Moby-Dick by Herman Melville. It inspired him to take creative writing classes in his junior year. He recalls his teacher being “this guy who looked like Ernest Hemingway” who often took his class snowshoeing in Yosemite National Park. Music would also be a huge inspiration, particularly the music and lyrics of Bob Dylan.
Jobs and Wozniak
Stephen Gary “Steve” Wozniak (born August 11, 1950) was an all-time favorite graduate student of John McCollum, who taught the Electronics class that Jobs attended. Wozniak was working on a calculator-computer project when Bill Fernandez told him that there’s someone at Homestead that he would love to meet: “His name is Steve. He likes to do pranks like you do, and he’s also into building electronics like you are.” And thus occurred the most important meeting in Silicon Valley since Hewlett-Packard. Wozniak and Jobs sat on the sidewalk next to Fernandez’s garage for hours talking about the pranks they’ve pulled and electronics they’ve designed. They understood, and instantly came to admire one another. Later, Steve Jobs commented: “I was a little more mature than my years, and he was a little less mature than his, so it evened out.”
Apart from being into electronics, they also shared a musical passion. Jobs later recalled how it was an incredible time for music, comparing it to the time when Beethoven and Mozart were alive. It was Wozniak who got Jobs into Bob Dylan. They soon developed a hobby of tracking down Dylan bootlegs that he had taped during his shows. They bought brochures of Dylan lyrics and would stay up all night interpreting their meaning. “Dylan’s words struck chords of creative thinking,” Wozniak said. Together they compiled more than a hundred hours of Dylan bootlegs, including the concerts from the ’65 and ’66 tour where Bob Dylan famously ‘went electric.’
In September 1971, on a Sunday afternoon, a day before Wozniak was to drive off to Berkeley, he read an article in Esquire magazine by Ron Rosenbaum entitled Secrets of the Little Blue Box. The article described how one could use a device that would replicate the tones that routed signals on the AT&T network to make free long distance phone calls. Wozniak immediately called Jobs, who shared his excitement for the device.
Steve Wozniak had designed a Blue Box, and at first, the two used it for pranks. One time they called the Vatican and Wozniak put on an accent pretending to be Henry Kissinger: “Ve are at de summit meeting in Moscow, and ve need to talk to de pope.” They never got the pope on the line, but they were close. Steve Jobs eventually realized that the Blue Box could be more than merely a hobby. He put together the rest of the components and calculated the possible pricing for this device, foreshadowing his role at Apple. The parts necessary to build the box cost around $40, and Jobs decided they could sell it for $150. They made themselves nicknames, like other ‘phone phreaks’ who toyed with similar devices, and proceeded to demonstrate the Blue Box at various college dorms. They made a hundred or so and used prank calls to spark interest in the customers. Very quickly, almost all the Blue Boxes they made were sold out. Jobs later commented on how this stimulated them by showing that they could compete on the market with creations they made.
Chrisann Brennan and Hippie Summer
Wozniak began his studies at Berkeley in 1971, and Jobs visited him a few times a week. He frequented the student union in Stanford University which was nearby. At Homestead, he and his friends put on light shows for the school’s avant-garde Jazz program. His friends described him as kind of a hippie, and kind of a brain, without ever fitting into either group. Jobs was too intellectual for the hippy community, which was all about just getting stoned. At the high school, everything rotated around what social group you belonged to and Steve Jobs was an outsider. One his friends described him as being an individual, in a world where individuality was suspect.
In the spring of 1972, Jobs started dating Chrisann Brennan towards the end of his senior year in 1972. She was highly attractive, and in a vulnerable position in her life due to her parents’ failed marriage. Not only did Jobs fill a space in her soul, but he also inspired her with his unorthodox lifestyle which she described as crazy. He experimented with compulsive diets, and long silences that ended with bursts of fast talking. Steve Jobs learned to stare at people creepily for a long time without blinking. Brennan recalls how he shuffled around like a madman and how he had a lot of angst and darkness in him.
In the summer of 1972, after his graduation from Homestead High School, Jobs announced to his parents that he and Brennan would move to a cabin in the hills above Los Altos. His father’s response
was “Over my dead body.” Steve just said goodbye and left the house. He spent most of the summer with Brennan in the cabin, writing poetry and playing guitar. Brennan spent her time painting.
In the mid-summer season, Jobs and his high school friend Tim Brown were driving on Skyline Boulevard in the Santa Cruz Mountains when his red Fiat caught on fire. Tim Brown noticed flames coming out of the engine and casually told Jobs to pull over as the car was on fire.
Despite their arguments, Jobs’s father drove out to tow the Fiat home. To make money for a new car, Jobs asked Wozniak to drive him to De Anza College where they found a job on the help-wanted bulletin board. For $3 an hour, Jobs, Wozniak, and Brennan dressed up in full-body costumes depicting characters from Alice in Wonderland to entertain children. Steve quickly realized it was a lousy job, and his impatient personality did not go well with the kids.
Student years: reed college
Back when Paul and Clara adopted Steve, they made a promise that he would go to college. They saved for a college some funds and could get him into an excellent school, but Jobs made everything harder. Steve Jobs initially refused to go to college until his parents pushed him to apply. He then declined to consider schools like Stanford and Berkeley, which were more affordable and more likely to give a scholarship. Instead, he insisted on going to Reed College in Portland. Reed is a liberal arts college, one of the most expensive in the country, which had a ‘hippie aura’ going on. Jobs felt like it was the right place to develop his artistic side, dismissing Berkeley and Stanford. While visiting Wozniak at Berkeley, his parents received an acceptance letter from Reed College. Paul and Clara Jobs actively discouraged it, as it was far more than they could afford. They eventually bent to his will, and Steve enrolled at Reed College in 1972.
Later the same year, the counterculture movement and political activism were winding down. America’s involvement in the Vietnam War was coming to an end, and the youth was growing increasingly less radical and anti-establishment, with their focus and interest now being pathways to personal fulfillment. Jobs began exploring literature on spirituality and enlightenment such as Be Here Now by Baba Ram Dass. He speaks of how the book ‘transformed’ him and many of his friends. It was at Reed College where Jobs became friends with his roommate Daniel Kottke, who shared similar interests in music, literature, and psychedelics. Together they would journey to the East Coast On The Road style, talk about the meaning of life, attend love festivals at the nearby Hare Krishna temple, and frequent the Zen center for free vegetarian food.
Zen Buddhism and vegetarianism
Steve Jobs engaged in Eastern spirituality and Zen Buddhism quite intensely while studying at Reed College. Kottke described Steve as “very much Zen. It was a profound influence. You see it in his whole approach with stark, minimalist aesthetics, intense focus.” It was not just a passing trend for him. Later Steve Jobs recalled how the Buddhist emphasis on intuition greatly influenced him: “I began to realize that an intuitive understanding and consciousness was more significant than abstract thinking and intellectual, logical analysis.” The one thing he struggled with is his intensity which prevented him from fully achieving inner peace. Another inspiration during his freshman year at Reed College was the book Diet for a Small Planet by Frances Moore Lappé. It would stimulate him to continue pursuing his extreme diets including purges, fasts, or eating one or two fruits for weeks. Jobs later recalls this book as being the reason he gave up meat for good.
Jobs and Friedland
One day Steve Jobs needed to raise some cash, so he decided to sell his typewriter to a student at Reed College. He entered a student’s room and found him having sex with his girlfriend. When Jobs turned to leave, the student told him to stay and invited him to take a seat until they finished.
Thus started the friendship of Steve Jobs and Robert Martin Friedland. Kottke described that their relationship had a lasting impact on Jobs, as he was mesmerized by Friedland’s mercurial, dictatorial, yet incredibly charismatic personality. By Kottke’s account, it was Friedland who helped Jobs ‘come out of his shell.’ He was the type of character that one instantly notices when he walks into the room, and a real salesperson. The more he and Friedland hung out, the more these characteristics started to rub off on him.
Friedland also became interested in Eastern spirituality, and together with Kottke and Jobs, they set up a commune called the All One Farm, a meeting place for the like-minded. Soon it turned to sort of an “organic cider business.” Robert Friedland would have people organize feasts, chop and sell firewood, make cider and engage in commercial endeavors which went directly against the idea of a commune. It was supposed to be a refuge from materialism, yet Friedland turned it into a business without anyone getting paid. Eventually, Jobs left the farm, but he would still keep in touch with Friedland over the years. Jobs was disappointed as he always treated Friedland like a spiritual guru, but for Steve, he ended up just being a gold miner both symbolically and in reality. The traits that Jobs picked up from Friedland would help pace out his future as an entrepreneur.
College drop out
Wozniak came to visit Jobs at Reed College to find that Jobs was very unpleased with the college. He was angry at the fact that for its entire hippie aura, Reed still had strict course requirements. While feeling deep regret for his parents spending their entire life savings on an education that he did not deem worthwhile, Jobs made the decision to drop out.
As soon as he dropped out of the required classes, he started looking into the ones he wanted to take. Among them was a calligraphy class that fascinated Jobs. It appealed to his personality, as he considered it a combination of technology and subtle art. A crucial thing that he did at Apple has he pushed the idea of a friendly graphical user interface. The calligraphy class became iconic in that sense. He said famously in a commencement speech at Stanford: “If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces of proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it’s likely that no personal computer would have them.”
His time as a dropout was not all romantic. He did not have a dorm room, so he ended up sleeping on the floor in his friends’ rooms. He returned coke bottles for 5 cent deposits so he could buy some food, and walked 7 miles across town every Sunday to get a free meal at the Hare Krishna temple.
In mid-1972, Steve Jobs moved back to the San Francisco Bay Area where he rented his apartment. By this point, his relationship with his girlfriend Brennan had become complicated because neither of them could commit. They eventually separated, but remained in contact and had been involved with each other even while seeing different people.
In 1973, Wozniak designed his own version of the classic video game Pong and gave it to Jobs upon completion. Jobs took it down to Atari Inc., and they gave him a job. Nolan Bushnell, the co-founder, described Steve Jobs as being a difficult but valuable person to work with, commenting that he was often the brightest person in the room, and he would make sure everyone knows it.
Jobs worked at Atari to save money for his long awaited trip to India. At this point he was living in a Los Gatos cabin, reading Be Here Now, listening to South Indian music, and sitting on a Japanese meditation pillow. Before he left for India, he gave Brennan (who would visit him at the cabin) a $100 bill that he earned at Atari.
Trip to India
Steve Jobs dreamed of going to India in search for enlightenment. He asked his boss at Atari, Inc. to fund his journey, which he did but only up to Germany. There, Jobs had to work on fixing Atari machines to continue his journey. Jobs and Kottke traveled to India to meet a famous guru, who had died by the time they arrived. Jobs described his return to America as more of a cultural shock rather than going to India.
The people in India, particularly in the countryside, think in an entirely opposite way. Jobs admired the fact that they used their intuition instead of their intellect, and their intuition proved to be far more developed than the rest of the world. Rational thought is the great achievement of Western civilization, Jobs believed. The Indian villages never learned it, but they discovered the power of intuition and experiential wisdom. In some ways, it could be valuable, in some ways not. “It was one of the first times that I started to realize that maybe Thomas Edison did a lot more to improve the world than Karl Marx, and Neem Kairolie Baba put together,” Jobs later commented. Nevertheless, Jobs continued practicing Zen Buddhism throughout his life.
The video game “breakout”
Jobs lived in his parent’s backyard upon his return from India. He converted the backyard toolshed into his bedroom with a sleeping bag, some books, a candle, and a meditation pillow. At this time, Jobs still frequented Friedland’s All One Farm and continued practicing Zen with Brennan. One day in 1975, he shuffled into the Atari office barefoot; looking all hippie-like, and carrying a copy of Be Here Now which he handed to Allan Alcorn (who worked as an engineer at Atari and who built Pong game as a training exercise) before asking if he could have his job back. Soon Jobs resumed his job at Atari, working mainly at night. Wozniak, who had an apartment nearby, often came by after dinner to hang around and play video games.
When Nolan Bushnell asked Jobs to design a circuit board for an arcade video game, Breakout, he knew that Wozniak would be the man doing all the heavy lifting. Atari paid $100 for each transistor–transistor logic (TTL) chip that was eliminated in the machine. Jobs asked him for help and proposed splitting the fee if Wozniak could minimize the number of chips. Steve Wozniak managed to reduce the TTL chip count to 46. As a result, a game that would usually take developers months, Wozniak developed in four days. While Woz drew out the design on paper, Jobs sat next to him implementing the design by wire-wrapping chips into a breadboard. When they completed the product, Jobs and Woz split $700 bucks for the job. Little did Woz know that Atari had paid them $5,000, and Jobs had hidden this information. It was ten years later that Woz learned about the deal, saying that if Jobs had explained that he needed the money, he would have given it to him.
Jobs believed that he was lucky to enter the computer world first when it was still an idealistic industry. There were no degrees in computer science. Therefore, people who worked in the field were brilliant mathematicians, physicists, architects – all types. In the exclusive, personal conversation with Fortune magazine, Steve Jobs said: “There are people around here who start companies just to make money, but the great companies, well, that’s not what they’re about.”
Homebrew computer club and the Apple I
While Steve Jobs was away in India or at the All One Farm helping Friedland with the apple orchard, Steve Wozniak was working at Hewlett-Packard, which was a dream job to him. In his spare time, he designed various electronics mainly computer circuits. His curiosity and deep passion led him to join a computer hobbyists association called the Homebrew Computer Club, which was co-founded by Gordon French and Fred Moore and existed from March 05, 1975 to December 1986. Steve Wozniak attended its first meeting in March 1975, that was held in French’s garage. Later Jobs joined Wozniak, and they started attending them regularly.
Before personal computing emerged, computers had existed probably since the 1940s. By the 1970s, most of the large corporations were equipped with massive mainframes in large computer rooms that were all owned by IBM.
The idea of personal computing seemed a bit too radical at first. Private individuals using computers was an abstract, unorthodox, almost anarchic concept. It was no surprise that the emergence of personal computers happened in the Bay Area, where the electronics industry interlaced with the counterculture.
The hype was born when in 1974, a Mountain View-based company, Intel, revealed the world’s first microprocessor entitled the 8080. Soon after, a New Mexico resident by the name of Ed Roberts launched the ‘Altair’ – an assemble-it-yourself computer kit that bore much resemblance to the Heathkits that Jobs constructed in his youth. It seemed worthless until Bill Gates, and Paul Allen wrote a BASIC interpreter for the Altair in 1975. Word spread like fire around the country’s engineers, radio amateurs, and other nerds (including the Homebrew Computer Club) that a young company named Microsoft put this Altair device to proper use. Suddenly people started showing up at the Homebrew Computer Club with their latest machines and programs.
Steve Wozniak was impressed by Microsoft’s interpreter, but from his experience, he was confident that he could build a much better machine. While working at HP, Wozniak would spend all of his free time designing a new computer board. In 1976, Steve Wozniak invented the Apple I computer. The result was impressive. The Apple I was a powerful computer for that time, which operated with a keyboard, display screen and required only a few chips. Wozniak immediately showed it to Jobs, who was stunned. Jobs saw commercial potential in this device as there were many software hobbyists around who needed a computer for which they could write software. Forecasting high demand, Jobs convinced Wozniak that they should sell it. Thus the two assembled a few the Apple I computers and sold them at the Homebrew Computer Club meetings.
Fred Moore, the co-founder of the Homebrew Computer Club, was not happy with the idea of Jobs and Wozniak selling their computers at the club. The initial idea was somewhat of a hacker ethic that all information should be free, and all authority mistrusted. Woz was in on the concept, and he recalls that he initially designed the Apple I because he only wanted to give it away to people for free.
Bill Gates did not share this ethic, and he was angry at the Homebrew’s members for making copies of Microsoft’s BASIC interpreter without paying him. On February 03, 1976, he wrote a famous letter to the club in which he asked the club members to pay up for his software that they used.
Steve Jobs had a similar mindset on the matter. He convinced Wozniak to stop sharing his schematics arguing that most people won’t even have time to build them. Instead, Jobs convinced Woz that it would be wiser to make and sell printed circuit boards to the club. Jobs devised a plan where he would pay an acquaintance at Atari to draw up and print a bunch of circuit boards which they would sell.
“Even if we lose our money, we’ll have a company,” said Jobs as he drove his hippie Volkswagen bus. The idea of two best friends to start a company excited them. To raise some money, Wozniak sold his HP-65 calculator for $500, and Jobs sold his Volkswagen bus. Despite a few setbacks, they had $1,300 in working capital, a product design, and a plan.
The birth of Apple
When Jobs returned from one of his weekly visits to the All One Farm, Wozniak picked him up at the airport. On the ride back to Los Altos, they toyed around with possible names for the company. They considered some nerdy stuff like Matrix, and Executek, as well as some straight up boring names like Personal Computers Inc. They had a deadline the next day, as they needed to get off the ground before anyone beat them to it.
Eventually, Jobs proposed to name the company Apple Computer, inspired by one of his fruitarian diets and his visits to the apple farm. They liked the idea because it took the edge off the words ‘computers’ and ‘electronics,’ making it sound more fun, spirited, and less intimidating. The other upside is that they would be one spot ahead of Atari in the phone book. Jobs said that if they did not come up with a better name by next evening, they would stick with Apple. And so they did.
In the meanwhile, Wozniak was still working at HP and designing his computer on the side. He felt that even though this machine should belong to Apple, he needed to offer it to HP first considering he used their offices for work. He demonstrated the project to his executives, who were impressed, but refused to develop this product on a mass scale. After all, it was a hobbyist project, and it did not fit with HP’s high-quality market demands. The upside is that now Wozniak was entirely free to focus on his company with Jobs.
In 1976, Wozniak presented the prototype Apple I computer to Steve Jobs and business partner Ronald Wayne. In April 1976, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne co-founded Apple Computer in Steve’s Los Altos home garage and in January 1977, the company was incorporated as Apple Computer, Inc.
In July 1976, the Apple I officially went on sale and was market-priced at $666.66 (in today’s money, it is $2,610.00 as of 2016).
Ronald Wayne would not stay for long, leaving Jobs and Wozniak as the chief co-founders of the company and selling his share of the company back to Jobs and Wozniak for $800. Neighbors said that Jobs was quite an odd individual in that he would greet clients with his underwear hanging out, looking all hippie-like. Jobs would work in the garage improving the Apple I for weeks, with Woz showing up now and then with his latest code. Much of the work also took place on the floor of Jobs’s kitchen where he would spend hours trying to phone up investors for Apple. They were successful in receiving funding from a semi-retired Intel product marketing manager, Armas Clifford “Mike” Markkula Jr. (born February 11, 1942), who believed Steve Jobs to be remarkable for having started a company at such a young age.
First investments & IPO
In 1977, Mike Markkula invested $250,000 ($80,000 as an equity investment and $170,000 as a loan) into the company and in exchange he got one-third ownership of Apple, starting a 20-year career with the enterprise.
This investment went directly into Apple’s new breakthrough computer – the Apple II, which was introduced on April 16, 1977, at the first West Coast Computer Faire. Upon release, it became the first highly successful mass-produced personal computer with a market price of $1,298 (in today’s money, it is $5,080.00 as of 2016). It stood out with its remarkable use of color and a built-in keyboard. It was truly the first computer to look like a consumer device. Soon after its release, Jobs and Woz became the superstars of Silicon Valley, and their stock was worth more than their parents made in a lifetime.
Jobs and Brennan had recently reunited, and she had been offered a position at the new Apple headquarters in the shipping department. Brennan noted that her relationship with Jobs grew more and more distant as his at Apple grew. In 1977, she was approached by Rod Holt, who offered her a well-paid internship designing blueprints for Apple devices. Although this position would fit her well considering her artistic background, the decision was overshadowed by the fact that Brennan realized that she had been pregnant, and Steve Jobs was the father. Jobs was not very happy with the news.
Brennan left Apple and spent much time alone, cleaning houses to make some money. She would often ask Jobs for help, but he refused, seeding the notion that he was infertile, and Brennan had been sleeping around. Robert Friedland had invited her to the All One Farm in Oregon where she gave birth to Lisa Brennan on May 17, 1978. Jobs was there as well after Friedland contacted him. Brennan and Jobs spent some time together at the farm after the girl’s birth. Brennan suggested that they name the girl Lisa, a name which Jobs liked and grew much attached to, even though he publicly denied paternity. Brennan later discovered that Jobs was working on a computer which he intended to name “Local Integrated Software Architecture” – or simply the “Apple Lisa.” Jobs admitted to biographer Walter Isaacson that he named this machine after his daughter. After a DNA test had helped establish that Jobs was indeed the father, he started giving Brennan $500 a month.
On December 12, 1980, Apple initiated the IPO at $22 per share and Jobs became a millionaire. The IPO helped Apple to generate more capital than any IPO since Ford Motor Company in 1956.
The end of the 1970s was a very competitive time in Silicon Valley, with various companies attempting to flourish in the growing computing market. In May 1980, Apple Computers, Inc. announced the Apple III to compete with IBM and Microsoft in the market.
In December 1979, Steve Jobs and several Apple employees visited Xerox PARC (Palo Alto Research Center Incorporated) to see the Xerox Alto. He was allowed access to the research and development laboratory of Xerox PARC, which invented the whole paradigm of modern computing. In return, Xerox asked Apple for the possibility to buy 100,000 shares (800,000 split-adjusted shares) of at the pre-IPO price of $10 per share. He would spend three days at Xerox facilities learning about new technological advancements, and how he could implement them in his company. Jobs and his team extracted various innovations from Xerox into Apple, including a revolutionary device, called ‘mouse.’ However, before he could work this technology into Apple, he had to deal with a power shift going on inside his company.
John Sculley, new Apple’s CEO
Once the company had gone public, the board of directors assumed that it would be wise to hire an experienced executive to run the company since Steve Jobs did not have much experience in the management field. After interviewing a dozen people, Jobs focused on John Sculley, the CEO of Pepsi. At first, Sculley was hesitant, but Jobs quickly convinced him by asking: “Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life, or do you want to come with me and change the world?” mirroring the charismatic and inspiring persuasion skills that he acquired from Robert Friedland. In 1983, John Sculley became new Apple’s CEO.
Steve Jobs had spent some time now developing the idea for the Apple Lisa computer, but the board of directors refused to greenlight the project thinking that Jobs was unqualified, and in 1981 he was taken from the Lisa division. Tension sparked between Jobs and the board of directors. Jobs took a team of Apple’s best engineers and set up shop in an unused area at the Apple headquarters, hanging a pirate flag at the entrance.
Jobs forced his team to haul on the project. Some of them would work for 25 hours straight and come up to Jobs to show him what they have done only to be dismissed and told that they have not worked hard enough. Many of them quit Apple in disgust saying that they would never work for Jobs again. Jobs was reluctant to give them rest, as he only accepted the greatest innovations and nothing less with his standards getting higher and higher. Although it was rough work, the finished product proved to be revolutionary.
The mission was to create the least complicated computer to be available to the ‘mere mortals’ as Jobs would say. The result was extraordinary, but not particularly useful. Jobs knew he needed the right software, and decided to turn to Bill Gates for help, who spent two years writing software for the Mac. Jobs had no idea that Bill Gates would eventually become his greatest rival, and instead, he focused on tackling on the market colossus IBM.
On January 10, 1984, Steve Jobs introduced the Macintosh 128K. The advertising campaign for the Macintosh was very impactful and thought-provoking. The same month during the Superbowl, Apple took a swing at IBM with a commercial directed by Ridley Scott depicting a frightening Orwellian future that Jobs sought to destroy.
Upon release of the Macintosh, the leading figures of the computing world dismissed it as nothing more than a toy. Sales were a disappointment, and the effect was very negative for the company and its future.
Fired from Apple
Trouble started brewing at Apple. Jobs was considered to be a waste of resources with his self-indulgent thinking. Stephen Wozniak left the company in 1985 because he believed that it headed the wrong direction. The failure of the Macintosh convinced the board of directors that if the company hoped to survive they needed a more mature leader.
Sculley told Jobs that the firm was in trouble regarding sales and performance and that the problem lay in the Macintosh division. Steve Jobs refused to play along with the board, and it would not be long before he began identifying Sculley as a rival, devising a plan to get rid of him. He put together a confrontational boardroom meeting where he forced the board to side with either him or Sculley, and much to his surprise the board voted for Sculley. The next day, Jobs was unchivalrously fired from his company.
On September 17, 1985, Steve Jobs submitted a letter of resignation to the Apple Board. He talked five key Apple employees into coming with him and join his new venture, NeXT. Also, he sold all but one share of his stock, making a point that once he’s out the company will be doomed to fail.
After a while of being out of business, Jobs decided that he would continue pursuing his vision of creating the greatest computer in the world. He assembled a team of the top five employees from Apple and in 1985, he founded NeXT Inc. after his resignation from Apple with $7 million.
His mission was to establish an ideal work environment so that everybody could be comfortable with creating this supercomputer that just had to be perfect in every way. The NeXT had a remarkable design that looked way ahead of its time. It showed the perfectionist side of Jobs. In 1986, Jobs was running out of funds, and with no product on the horizon, he turned for help to venture capital funding. A billionaire, Ross Perot, decided to help Steve Jobs and invested heavily in his company. The NeXT Computer was shown on October 12, 1988, at the Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco, California.
In 1990, The NeXT Computer was succeeded by the NeXTcube at a market price of $10,000. It was technologically advanced, but the device was too expensive. Jobs struggled to find a market for it as not many people bought their hardware. Although Jobs was highly idealistic, he was also a survivor, and he knew how to be practical when he needed to. He marketed this device as the first “interpersonal” computer that would replace the traditional personal computer. It included a multimedia email system, NeXTMail that could share voice, image, graphics, and video in email for the first time.
The company, therefore, decided to focus on developing their software, creating an elegant and breathtaking operating system, NeXTSTEP, that was sold better than any of their computers. In 1994, the company earned its first profit of $1.03 million. In 1996, NeXT Software, Inc. introduced WebObjects, a framework for Web application development. When NeXT Software, Inc was acquired by Apple Inc. in 1997, WebObjects was used to create MobileMe services, Apple Store, and the iTunes Store.
One important thing that Jobs learned from his endeavors in NeXT is that a business strategy that he would consistently use from now on – being secretive. It helped people stay hungry and imposed a thought that Jobs had much more to show than he had.
Reconnecting with family
After being fired from Apple, Jobs made peace with Brennan and was motivated to find his biological family. He apologized many times for his behavior towards Brennan and Lisa, saying that he never took responsibility when he should have. By the time that Lisa was nine, Jobs developed a close relationship with her and even had her name changed on her birth certificate to Lisa Brennan-Jobs.
He found his birth mother, Joanne Scheible Simpson, shortly after he left Apple. She revealed to him that he has a biological sister – Mona Simpson, whom he tracked down and grew to admire. Jobs and Brennan developed a working relationship to parent Lisa, and Brennan attributes this change to the influence that Mona had on him. Although Jobs and Mona successfully tracked down their biological father, Abdulfattah Jandali, Jobs was reluctant to meet him. Later Jandali learned that Steve Jobs was his son through a blog post, but the two never met.
Jobs always considered Paul and Clara Jobs his birth parents and had a lot of love and admiration for them. Still, there were certain moments when he felt that they could not connect. Jobs was artistic, ambitious, and intellectual – the exact opposite of his adoptive parents who did not have a college degree and a creative mindset. Having discovered his biological parents, he learned where this seed of intellectuality came from – as he found that both of them were artistic and smart like he was. It filled up a certain darkness in his soul, as he describes his post-Apple years to be his most creative and personally fulfilling.
It was in those years that he met his future wife, Laurene Powell. They married on March 18, 1991, in a Buddhist ceremony at Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park. Steve’s guru, Kobun Chino Otogawa conducted the service, and fifty people attended including his father, Paul Jobs, and his sister, Mona Simpson. The couple would have three kids, Reed Jobs (born in 1991), Erin Jobs (born in 1995), and Eve Jobs (born in 1998).
Pixar and the Walt Disney Company
Steve Jobs’ professional life was about to undergo radical change. In 1986, back when Jobs departed from Apple, he acquired a small company, The Graphics Group (now Pixar) from the Computer Division of Lucasfilm for $10 million.
Jobs got lucky that an American animator and film director, John Alan Lasseter, was already a part of The Graphics Group when he acquired it. Before joining in The Graphics Group, John Lasseter had been dismissed from Disney for promoting computer animation but later acceded to the Graphics Group (Pixar) of the Computer Division of Lucasfilm.
The Pixar team started experimenting with 1-2 minute demo films. They saw the films as an artistic success, and this fueled an ambition to create the first entirely computer animated feature film. Hollywood raised an eyebrow when The Walt Disney Company scored a deal with Pixar that would ultimately lead to the creation of Toy Story (1995) directed by John Lasseter.
Jobs has invested the last money he had left from his Apple stocks, putting himself on the line. In 1995, the investment paid off big time when the computer-animated film, Toy Story, became the year’s highest-grossing movie with the box office of $373.6 million, surpassing a spy movie, GoldenEye (1995), by a mile. On November 29, 1995, Pixar Animation Studios held its IPO due to its enormous success. During the IPO, Pixar stock raised from $22 to $45, in only its first half-hour. The stock price surged to $49 before closing the day at $39, and after the IPO, Steve Jobs became a billionaire.
In the meanwhile, Apple was not doing so well. The company started deteriorating and becoming mediocre as soon as Jobs had was fired. They no longer focused on making innovations but released various devices such as cameras and printers to compete with different companies releasing the same stuff on the market. In a 1996 interview for PBS, Jobs made it apparent that his wounds have still not healed – condemning the board for destroying everything he spent ten years working on. Since Jobs was ousted, the company changed 3 CEOs, and by the time that Pixar got big, Apple had lost its mission and its founding spirit. Meanwhile, Bill Gates flourished in triumph as Microsoft dominated the market with 80% of America’s computers running Windows – compared to Apple’s unimpressive 11%.
Steve Jobs returns to Apple
In an unexpected move to save their skin, Apple announced that they would buy NeXT Inc. for $427 million in December 1996. Jobs was back at his company as the de facto chief and instantly proceeded to clean up the mess that they had made over the years. In 1997, the CEO Gil Amelio was ousted, and Jobs was assigned as interim Chief Executive Officer. To make changes even more apparent, Apple had launched an advertising campaign featuring various iconic characters such as John Lennon, and Martin Luther King, with the slogan “Think different.” Some believe it was a direct response to IBM’s campaign which only said: “Think.”
At the company, Steve Jobs proceeded to ax various projects including the Newton, Cyberdog, and OpenDoc. Employees were scared to ride the elevator at Apple, fearing that they would lose their job once the doors opened. Although Jobs only removed a few people; it was enough to keep the whole company on its toes. During the Macworld Expo in 2000, Jobs dropped the “interim” from his title and announced himself as CEO. Thus began the greatest shift in the history of corporate America.
The new Apple products ran on NeXT technology, most importantly NeXTSTEP, which would soon become Mac OS X. With the introduction of the iMac, its appealing design, and strong branding, the company’s sales had increased drastically by 2000. With the release of the iPod and the iTunes store, the company had dominated the music distribution market that was under threat from pirate ‘free’ sharing sites such as Napster. Steve Jobs demanded the industry specialists allow him to sell songs on the store for 99 cents, or not sell them at all. In a typical Steve Jobs fashion, Apple got exactly what they wanted. Apple’s innovations continued when on June 29, 2007, they entered the cellular phone business with the iPhone. Not only did it have all the features of the iPod and more, but it also came with its browser that had a significant impact on mobile browsing. In 2010, Apple had grabbed the lead in the post-PC era by unveiling the iPad.
Jobs was both praised and criticized for utilizing his mix of charm, charisma, bravado, hyperbole, marketing, appeasement, and persistence to convince consumers to buy his products. These elements together allowed Jobs to create a ‘reality distortion field,’ a mental force that keeps the listener on the edge of their seats. This reality distortion field is particularly evident during keynote events, also dubbed as ‘Stevenotes.’ It is another quality that Jobs had learned from his Reed College friend Robert Friedland, a trait that academics would study and successful entrepreneurs would be able to employ.
In the 2000s, Jobs lived a corporate life. He was a member of the board directors of Gap Inc. from 1999 to 2002. He had to defend the company against the government who were running an investigation into Apple dealing with unreported taxable income (which he proved he had no knowledge about). The company had also been criticized for generating e-waste, to which they responded by establishing a successful recycling program for Apple products. Steve’s plan for Apple was always to be one step ahead in the game, quoting ice hockey player, Wayne Gretzky, who once said: “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.”
On June 12, 2005, Steve Jobs gave an inspiring commencement speech at Stanford University.
The company also grew to tackle security frauds that often occurred due to loopholes in still-developing technology. Their constant innovation, commitment to the customer and adequate response to criticism by taking immediate action propelled Apple to become the world’s most valuable publicly traded company by 2011.
Steve Jobs met with U.S. President Barack Obama in 2011, complaining about the nation’s shortage of adequate software engineers and proposing to award international students who had come to the U.S to study engineering with a green card. Jobs admired the president’s intelligence but was infuriated at his inability to take action and his constant listing of reasons why things could not get done.
Steve Jobs was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in October 2003. Although doctors recommended that he treat it immediately – as it was a treatable form – Jobs refused to undergo surgery and focused on an alternative treatment method. Some experts say that his prolonging of the surgery and faith in alternative medicine cost him his life. Nine months later when he realized that it was not working, he underwent surgery, and the tumor was evidently removed for good. Tim Cook ran the company while Jobs was away.
Jobs returned to work soon after his operation, but the media flooded him with questions about his health, noticing his slender appearance and unusually unenergetic delivery. In 2008, Bloomberg mistakenly published an obituary of Jobs that they soon deleted. In September 2008, Jobs responded during his keynote at Apple Special Event by quoting Mark Twain on a slide that said: “Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”
In 2009, Jobs learned that his health was, in fact, deteriorating at an alarming rate and proceeded to take a six-month leave of absence, naming Tim Cook the acting CEO of Apple. In April that year, Jobs underwent a successful liver transplant. He admitted he almost died waiting for a liver transplant because there were simply not enough livers in California. After the surgery, he had become a public advocate for organ donation.
On August 24, 2011, Steve Jobs announced his resignation as the CEO of Apple by stating: “I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come.” Jobs named Tim Cook as his successor and became head of the board. He continued working at Apple until the day before his death.
Steve Jobs died in his Palo Alto home in California around three p.m. on October 05, 2011. The official cause of death was complications from pancreatic cancer that resulted in a respiratory arrest. He died surrounded by his family. By Mona Simpson’s account, Jobs woke up from a coma and looked up at his sister Parry, then at his children, then at his wife Laurene, and over their shoulders past them. Before he departed, Jobs delivered his final words: “OH WOW. OH WOW. OH WOW.”
Some compare these words to those of Thomas Edison who emerged from a coma and before passing away he said: “It is very beautiful over there.”
Apple, Pixar, Microsoft, and all Disney properties flew their flags at half-staff that day to pay their respects. The Apple website displayed an image of Jobs in black and white next to his name and lifespan for two weeks following his death. Apple had arranged a private memorial service for employees on October 19, 2011, with some of the attendees being Tim Cook, Bill Campbell, Norah Jones, Al Gore, Coldplay, and Jobs’s widow Laurene Jobs. The governor of California declared Sunday, October 16, 2011, to be “Steve Jobs Day” and on that day there was a closed memorial held at Stanford University, with each attendee receiving a box containing Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda as a farewell gift from Jobs. Steve Wozniak, George Lucas, Bill Gates, and President Barack Obama all offered statements in the light of his departure. Jobs rests in an unmarked grave at Alta Mesa Memorial Park, a non-denominational cemetery in Palo Alto in respect to his spiritual views.
Steve Jobs was the man who re-invented the computer world. He managed to take many ground-breaking ideas and implement them into the reality. Steve Jobs life story was exciting, while at the same time it could not be called an easy one. He faced many obstacles on his life path, but he tackled them with the pride and innovative thinking.
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