More Stories About Steve Jobs
Founder, Whole Earth Catalog;
co-creator of The WELL and Global Business Network
You might say that the creation of Apple Computer was a situation of right seed, right soil. In 1975, Steve Jobs and his buddy Steve Wozniak were messing around with computer components in an exceptionally fertile venue that was just coming to be known as Silicon Valley. The Steves were employed at companies such as Atari and Hewlett-Packard and hanging out with other computer hobbyists at the Homebrew Computer Club meetings, showing off each new design hack and feature of a tiny computer they eventually named Apple. I was nearby, early in that period, running a publication called the Whole Earth Catalog.
High-tech innovation was the norm among amateurs as well as professionals in the Midpeninsula region because a Stanford electrical engineer named Frederick Terman in the 1950s and ’60s established Stanford Industrial Park and attracted world-class engineering talent to the university and the companies. By 1975 bleeding-edge ideas in computers and networking were boiling out of three superb research centers in the neighborhood—Xerox PARC, Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, and Stanford Research Institute.
In the mid-’70s the counterculture was still in full flower, with drugs and wide-ranging creativity galore in the area, following patterns set by Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters (I was a fringe member), the Midpeninsula Free University, and the euphemistically named International Foundation for Advanced Study, which conducted LSD research. Young computer hackers like Jobs and Wozniak identified with our generation, but they had found something even more psychedelic than LSD—computers you could disappear into, fueled by the constant acceleration of Moore’s Law. Drugs were static by comparison.
Across the bay, radicals in Berkeley were still demanding “Power to the People!” Computer hobbyists like Steve and Steve demanded nothing. With personal computers, they knew they were creating the real thing: giving power to people.
Chairman, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati
I was with him about a week ago, and we were talking about changes in technology and what was happening in the industry. He was engaged and focused. I think he was the quickest study I ever met.
I think you can say he built three companies. He built the first Apple. He built Pixar. And then he built the second Apple. That is pretty extraordinary.
Former senior vice-president at Apple who reported directly to Jobs
I met Steve at a restaurant by chance. I was waiting in the lounge for my wife to arrive for dinner. I had a newspaper opened up to the business section and was reading an article about IBM, where I had worked. This guy in jeans and a white T-shirt with a messy beard came by and asked me, “What do you know about computers? I have a company called Apple.” I replied that I’d never heard of it, but he said it was a good company and that I should go work for him.
I didn’t think it would ever happen, but a little while later this headhunter called me, saying he was following up for Steve Jobs. That was the beginning of an incredible trip. Steve had this amazing ability to absorb things and just this very unique way of looking at the world.
I never knew when Steve was going to call. But I knew that when he did, it would probably be in the middle of the night. In 2001 my company was developing Ethernet chips for Mac computers. Steve was enormously excited about our product. He was enormously excited about everything. And restless and sometimes agitated—and frankly, he could be a bit of a pain. He was like a bulldog. He worked all the time, day and night, and he expected everyone around him to be that way, too. He insisted that the person at the top or someone who had absolute control was the guy he interfaced with. He demanded that he get as much time as necessary. If it was 3 in the morning and Steve had a thought or a question or complaint, he picked up the phone and called, right then. The concept of “that can wait until the morning” did not apply. He wasn’t going to sleep until he addressed the issue.
Sometimes I was at home in bed, but sometimes I too was at the office working—and there he’d be, on the other end of the line. No small talk. Right to business. “We’ve got an issue,” he would say. When he called he was often worked up about something and he started out aggressively. Were we going to make our delivery date? (Yes, of course we were.) Did we solve whatever puzzle he had called about in the middle of the night the week before? (Yes, of course we had.) He wasn’t overbearing or unreasonable. He just had incredibly high expectations. Once he had satisfied his need for information, he would mellow. We talked about music. I ribbed him about the Rolling Stones. He made fun of me for listening to Metallica. All of Steve’s urgency and attention to detail was for a reason: He believed it was up to us to do the hard work of making technology simpler to use instead of more complex, and he made me feel like I was taking part in something special.
When Apple first became our customer it was a major player, but far from the biggest. Steve was able to get me to focus my time and attention on Apple with an intensity that was way disproportionate to its market share. He was able to get me to believe—even half asleep in the middle of the night.
Co-founder and former publisher, Wired
I saw him give a presentation at NeXT, and he was utterly convincing. He had that presence. The reality distortion field. But the funny thing is, for all the talk of the reality distortion field, if you go back and look at his presentations, they’re full of tangible facts. He starts out for the first five or 10 minutes just giving you facts—we sold this much of this … with a processor that’s three times faster than … now larger than, etc. It’s this programmatic buildup. He wasn’t waving his arms and mystifying you with something that wasn’t true. He was mystifying you with reality!
He commanded such attention and loyalty, across disciplines. You had this sense that you should find a way to learn from this guy Jobs. He was a beacon to follow. And even if you were exaggerating what he was in your own mind, or trying to emulate something that he wasn’t really, he was still inspiring you to be better—to be like him. Not having that touchstone is perhaps as great a loss as losing a creative genius.
He joins a unique pantheon of American heroes—like Edison, like Ford, like Borlag—heroes who genuinely improved millions of lives and touched the soul of our time.
Co-founder and hardware engineer, Sun Microsystems
I ran into Steve at a Christmas party in 2006, which was a few weeks before the original iPhone launch, and I asked him how the much-rumored iPhone was coming. Of course he could not say anything about it. Then I said, “All I want is a phone that has a real Web browser and can do real e-mail.” To which he said with a smile, “I guess you just have to wait a little longer.”
We then chatted about various battery and display technologies for portable devices, and I was blown away to which level of detail he knew the best technologies available in that area. Here was the CEO of the company who knew down to the most detailed level what technologies made his products insanely great. It was a memorable moment.
Chairman, CEO, and founder of Taiwan-based Quanta Computer, an Apple laptop supplier
He was very demanding. Best product, best design, best quality, and best delivery. He wanted perfect product, perfect quality, and perfect operation. We had to improve a lot to meet his requirements. In this way he improved the whole operations because of his tough requirements.
Author, most recently, of Zero History; his debut novel, Neuromancer, popularized “cyberspace,” a term he coined in 1982
I recently dug my Apple G4 Cube out from beneath the workbench in the basement. I was looking for otherwise forgotten bits of my published nonfiction for a forthcoming collection and had reason to believe there might be some on the Cube’s drive. I don’t usually keep my old computers, but I’ve kept the Cube because the “cube” itself is one of the best-looking pieces of hardware I’ve ever seen. The coolest thing about it, though, isn’t even visible, ordinarily.
When you flip it upside-down, you see a flat bar of solid matte aluminum, recessed in a sheet of perforated matte aluminum. This bar has an odd, rather unfriendly-looking button at one end. When you press this, it rises an inch or so, smoothly, of its own accord, becoming a handle, while unlocking whatever holds the actual guts of the computer within its housing of transparent plastic and aluminum. This is such a magical touch, yet so modestly hidden, that I loved it immediately on first discovering it.
I didn’t find what I was looking for on that drive, but I was on the Cube’s desktop long enough to note how relatively slow it is and to remember how annoyingly audible its fan is. But then I’m currently most accustomed to an iPad.
I have never owned any computers other than Apple, having started with an Apple IIc, marked sharply down to make way for the first Macs. I was never interested in getting any more intimate with whatever made my computer work. I wanted the most transparent interface possible; that is, the one that least required my personal attention. I wanted my personal attention to be elsewhere, focused on things other than my computer. Design at that level kept me at Apple, but also design at the level of that pop-up handle and the pop-out core it reveals. I never had any practical reason to use that handle, but it delighted me. It’s a really splendid piece of engineering and design.
It didn’t, though, as much of our experience of the world of manufactured objects teaches us, have to be that exceptionally good—but was, because Steve Jobs cared about coherent design. About, as he said, the back of the dresser.
Former co-president of Microsoft’s Platforms and Services Div.
I never had a conversation with Steve I didn’t enjoy. Whether sparring over technology, laughing over technical issues (dual booting a PC, etc.), or later talking about cancer. I remember once he and I were on an industry panel, at some conference or another, together with many other vendors in the early ’90s. We both spent most of our time doing one-liners about the other’s technology during the demos. It was as if the other vendors weren’t even in the room. The audience had a great time laughing as we poked fun at each other. Then when we got off the stage, Steve said a classic Steve line of something like “everyone else hasn’t got a clue, but … we’ve got to work together.”
In my view, Steve’s contributions to society grew over time and, although he was always innovative, his best work came during the last 10 years. Steve’s ability to understand user-centric computing was the best I have ever seen. He was a truly remarkable man.
Former Apple developer/evangelist
I worked at one point for 72 sleepless hours for something that Steve Jobs showed on stage for 9 seconds. It’s top three, if not No. 1, of my professional achievements. It didn’t look any different on that screen as it did on mine, but it was the knowledge that it was good enough to be on the stage that made it suddenly look different. I’ll never get that chance again, and I’m glad I had it.
Founder, Netscape; co-founder of venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz
For those of us who live in and around Palo Alto, you could often see Steve walking around. He’d often stop by the Apple Store and talk to the customers. I drive up and down Embarcadero Road in Palo Alto a lot. One time I’m booking in my car on Embarcadero and I go by this guy. And I see out of the corner of my eye he’s ready to cross the street—black turtleneck and jeans. I’m like “Oh my God, I almost killed Steve Jobs!” Not uncommon for people there to just see him around like that.
We use the phrase “California casual,” or “California fake-casual,” which is that a lot of people here want to go along and get along, and everybody’s nice to each other, smiles to each other’s faces. Then when somebody leaves the room, they’re like, “Oh, that guy’s a real son of a whatever.” Steve’s not like that. Steve was never like that. He was always somebody who told you exactly where you stood, exactly what he thought. The clarity of the communication you could have with him—there was no wasted time. There was no wasted effort. Everything was crystal clear and unbelievably effective. I think that quality permeates Apple’s culture, and it’s one of the reasons they’re such an amazing company.
Michael S. Malone
Tech journalist and author of Infinite Loop
He wanted Apple to be like the Beatles and have this amazing run of landmark albums. Well, he did it. He hit one home run after another. Edison didn’t do that. Ford didn’t do that. Hewlett and Packard didn’t do it. Noyce, Moore, and Grove at Intel didn’t do it.
I have never seen this happen where someone could introduce one product after another, and their success was a fait accompli. They would be successes because he introduced them. Millions of people would follow him wherever he took them. He reached that unique position.
Editor-in-chief, MAKE; founder, bOING bOING
In May 2002 I got a call from my friend Alberta who asked if I’d like to be in an Apple TV commercial. Alberta had a friend who was an art director at Apple, and he needed people in Los Angeles who’d switched from a Windows machine to a Mac. That was me.
The next day, I got calls from Apple and Chiat/Day, and they e-mailed me a thick stack of forms to sign. Most of them swearing me to secrecy.
The day after that, I drove 15 minutes to a soundstage in Hollywood. At least 100 people from Apple and Chiat/Day were on the set. Errol Morris, the director, was hiding inside a white tent on the far end of the warehouse-like soundstage. I could hear his voice booming through an amplifier. Someone on the set told me he was using his invention called the Interrotron to interview the switchers. “Just wait until you see how it works,” she said.
My taping was scheduled for 12 p.m. I was a little early, so I grabbed a bagel from craft services and looked for a place to sit. All the chairs on the set were occupied, but not by people. The Chiat/ Day workers had set their laptops and backpacks on all the chairs with hand-drawn signs that said “DON’T TOUCH.” I asked a young woman in a smart gray outfit where I could sit. “Someplace outside,” she said. “We’ll get you when it’s your turn.” I went out and ate my bagel standing up. I saw Daniel Clowes, the cartoonist and New Yorker cover illustrator, leaning on a rail, and we chatted. They’d flown him in from New York to tape the commercial.
So 12 p.m. came and went. I was reading a month-old copy of LA Weekly when someone found me at 2:30 p.m. and told me to go to the makeup trailer. The makeup artist powdered my face and plucked some of my eyebrows with a tweezer. When she finished I walked into the soundstage and found the woman who’d called for me. She was on her cell phone. She saw me in her peripheral vision and stuck her free hand out to keep me from talking. I heard her say, “Danny is in the green room. He’s ready.” A moment later Danny Elfman emerged from a door and walked to the Interrotron. I went back outside.
At 6 p.m. a man from Chiat/Day found me and led me to a white curtain next to the white tent. I was facing a teleprompter displaying Errol Morris’s face. It was larger than life, like the Wizard of Oz. He was grinning aggressively at me. A camera behind the teleprompter was taping me. Without introduction, Errol launched into the interview with his electronically amplified booming voice. He challenged every statement I made by repeating it in the form of a sarcastic question.
“I had everything set up on Windows,” I said. “You had EVERYTHING set up on WINDOWS?” he asked, incredulously. Using Windows was “like being stuck in a bad relationship,” I said. “A bad RELATIONSHIP?” This went on for 20 minutes. I was woozy. When the interview was over Errol thanked me, and his teleprompter visage blinked out. I never saw him in the flesh. I felt I’d done an awful job of articulating what the Mac meant to me and was certain my spot would never air.
Later, I got a call from the Apple art director, and he told me that Steve loved my interview and insisted that it be the first to air, over the objections of almost everyone involved in the production. “Steve is telling them, ‘It’s gotta be Mark,’” the art director told me. I didn’t understand. What did Steve see in my interview that nobody else saw? Thank you, Steve; I miss you terribly.