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Steve Jobs: The Wilderness, 1985-1997

Cast out from Apple, Jobs tried—and failed—to make a different kind of computer

On May 31, 1985, a few hours after he had been stripped of all authority at the company he had co-founded, Steve Jobs sat bewildered and puffy-eyed on a mattress in his nearly furniture-less 30-room mansion. Apple Computer had subsumed his entire adult life. He was 30 and unmarried. With no one to come home to, Jobs spent hours that evening talking to whichever of his friends picked up the phone. He sounded desperate enough that former Apple executive Mike Murray raced over to the mansion. “I didn’t think he should be alone,” says Murray.

A month later, Jobs had recovered sufficiently to travel with a girlfriend through Russia and Italy, flirt with California’s Democratic Party bosses about a possible Senate run, and, after a conversation with Nobel laureate Paul Berg [footnote 1] about the need for more powerful computers for science students, muse about creating a new kind of computer company. In September, Jobs announced that he was quitting Apple and its board, where his role was almost entirely ceremonial, to start NeXT Computer. NeXT machines would power the world’s top brains by simplifying powerful UNIX computers for the higher education market. That was the plan, anyway.