At times he could be amusingly aware of his own foibles, and he used the electronic book demonstration to poke fun at himself. “A word that’s
sometimes used to describe me is ‘mercurial,’” he said, then paused. The audience laughed knowingly, especially those in the front rows, which were
filled with NeXT employees and former members of the Macintosh team. Then he pulled up the word in the computer’s dictionary and read the first definition: “Of or relating to, or born under the planet Mercury.”
change the face of computing.” The NeXT software and hardware were designed, he said, after three years of consulting with
universities across the country. “What we realized was that higher ed wants a personal mainframe.”
As usual there were superlatives. The product was “incredible,” he said, “the best thing we could have imagined.” He praised the beauty of even the parts
unseen. Balancing on his fingertips the foot-square circuit board that would be nestled in the foot-cube box, he enthused, “I hope you get a chance to look
at this a little later. It’s the most beautiful printed circuit board I’ve ever seen in my life.” He then showed how the computer could play speeches—he
featured King’s “I Have a Dream” and Kennedy’s “Ask Not”—and send email with audio attachments. He leaned into the microphone on the computer to
record one of his own. “Hi, this is Steve, sending a message on a pretty historic day.” Then he asked those in the audience to add “a round of applause” to the message, and they did.
One of Jobs’s management philosophies was that it is crucial, every now and then, to roll the dice and “bet the company” on some new idea or technology.
At the NeXT launch, he boasted of an example that, as it turned out, would not be a wise gamble: having a high-capacity (but slow) optical read/write
disk and no floppy disk as a backup. “Two years ago we made a decision,” he said. “We saw some new technology and we made a decision to risk our company.”
Then he turned to a feature that would prove more prescient. “What we’ve done is made the first real digital books,” he said, noting the inclusion of the
Oxford edition of Shakespeare and other tomes. “There has not been an advancement in
the state of the
art of printed
“If we scroll down the thesaurus, though, we see that the antonym is ‘saturnine.’ Well what’s that? By simply double-clicking on it, we immediately
look that up in the dictionary, and here it is: ‘Cold and steady in moods. Slow to act or change. Of a gloomy or surly disposition.’” A little smile came across his face as he waited for the ripple of laughter.
host for a mediating session at his Dallas headquarters, and a deal was struck: IBM would license the current version of the NeXTSTEP software, and if the managers liked it, they would use it on some of their workstations. IBM sent
to Palo Alto a 125-page contract. Jobs tossed it down without reading it. “You don’t get it,” he said as he walked out of the room. He demanded a simpler contract of only a few pages, which he got within a week.
Jobs wanted to keep the arrangement secret from Bill Gates until the big unveiling of the NeXT computer, scheduled for October. But IBM insisted on
being forthcoming. Gates was furious. He realized this could wean IBM off its dependence on Microsoft operating systems. “NeXTSTEP isn’t compatible with anything,” he raged to IBM executives.
At first Jobs seemed to have pulled off Gates’s worst nightmare. Other computer makers that were beholden to Microsoft’s operating systems, most notably Compaq and Dell, came to ask Jobs for the right to clone NeXT and
license NeXTSTEP. There were even offers to pay a lot more if NeXT would get out of the hardware business altogether.
That was too much for Jobs, at least for the time being. He cut off the clone discussions. And he began to cool toward IBM. The chill became reciprocal.
When the person who made the deal at IBM moved on, Jobs went to Armonk to meet his replacement, Jim Cannavino. They cleared the room and talked one-on-one. Jobs demanded more money to keep the relationship going and
to license newer versions of NeXTSTEP to IBM. Cannavino made no commitments, and he subsequently stopped returning Jobs’s phone calls. The deal lapsed. NeXT got a bit of money
for a licensing fee,
but it never
got the chance to
change the world.
In Aspen he was exposed to the spare and functional design philosophy of the Bauhaus movement, which was enshrined by Herbert Bayer in the buildings, living suites, sans serif font typography, and furniture on the Aspen Institute campus. Like his mentors Walter Gropius and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe,
Bayer believed that there should be no distinction between fine art and applied industrial design. The modernist International Style championed by the Bauhaus taught that design should be simple, yet have an expressive
spirit. It emphasized rationality and functionality by employing clean lines and forms. Among the maxims preached by Mies and Gropius were “God is in the details” and “Less is more.” As with Eichler homes, the artistic sensibility was combined with the capability for mass production.
Jobs publicly discussed his embrace of the Bauhaus style in a talk he gave at the 1983 design conference, the theme of which was “The Future Isn’t What It Used to Be.” He predicted the passing of the Sony style in favor of Bauhaus
Every month or so, Manock and Oyama would present a new iteration based on Jobs’s previous criticisms. The latest plaster model would be dramatically
unveiled, and all the previous attempts would be lined up next to it. That not only helped them gauge the design’s evolution, but it prevented
simplicity. “The current wave of industrial design is Sony’s high-tech look, which is gunmetal gray, maybe paint it black, do weird stuff to it,” he said. “It’s easy to do that. But it’s not great.” He proposed an alternative, born of
the Bauhaus, that was more true to the function and nature of the products. “What we’re going to do is make the products high-tech, and we’re going to package them cleanly so that you know they’re high-tech. We will fit them in a small package, and then we can
make them beautiful
and white, just like
with its electronics.”
That incident led Raskin to write a blistering memo to Mike Scott, who once again found himself in the difficult position of being a president trying to
manage a company’s temperamental cofounder and major stockholder. It was titled “Working for/with Steve Jobs,” and in it Raskin asserted:Raskin’s ouster may not have seemed fair, but it ended up being good for the Macintosh. Raskin wanted an appliance with little memory, an anemic processor, a cassette tape, no mouse, and minimal graphics. Unlike Jobs, he might have
been able to keep the price down to close to $1,000, and that may have helped Apple win market share. But he could not have pulled off what Jobs did, which was to create and market a machine that would transform personal computing. In fact we can see where the road not taken led. Raskin was hired
by Canon to build the machine he wanted. “It was the Canon Cat, and it was a total flop,” Atkinson said. “Nobody wanted it. When Steve turned the Mac into a compact version of the Lisa, it made it into a computing platform instead of a consumer electronic device.”1
He is a dreadful manager. . . . I have always liked Steve, but I have found it impossible to work for him. . . . Jobs
regularly misses appointments. This is so well-known as to be almost a running joke. . . . He acts without thinking and
with bad judgment. . . . He does not give credit where due. . . . Very often, when told of a new idea, he will immediately attack it and say that it is worthless or
even stupid, and tell you that it was a waste of time to work on it. This alone is bad management, but if the idea is a good one he will soon be telling people about it as though it was his own.
That afternoon Scott called in Jobs and Raskin for a showdown in front of Markkula. Jobs started crying. He and Raskin agreed on only one thing: Neither
could work for the other one. On the Lisa project, Scott had sided with Couch. This time he decided it was best to let Jobs win. After all, the Mac was a minor
development project housed in a distant building that could keep Jobs occupied away from the main campus. Raskin was told to take a leave of absence. “They
wanted to humor me and give me something to do, which was fine,” Jobs recalled. “It was like going
garage for me.
back to the
I was in control.”
Another prank involved a pocket device Wozniak built that could emit TV signals. He would take it to a room
where a group of people were watching TV, such as in a dorm, and secretly press the button so that the screen
would get fuzzy with static. When someone got up and whacked the set, Wozniak would let go of the button and
the picture would clear up. Once he had the unsuspecting viewers hopping up and down at his will, he would make
things harder. He would keep the picture fuzzy until someone touched the antenna. Eventually he would make people
think they had to hold the antenna while standing on one foot or touching the top of the set. Years later, at a keynote
presentation where he was having his own trouble getting a video to work, Jobs broke from his script and recounted
the fun they had with the device. “Woz would have it in his pocket and we’d go into a dorm . . .
where a bunch of folks would be, like, watching Star Trek, and he’d screw up the TV,
and someone would go up to fix it, and just as they had the foot off the ground he would turn it back on,
and as they put their foot back on the ground he’d screw it up again.” Contorting himself into a pretzel onstage, Jobs
concluded to great laughter, “And within five minutes he would have someone like this.”
The Blue Box
The ultimate combination of pranks and electronics—and the escapade that helped to create Apple—was
launched one Sunday afternoon when Wozniak read an article in Esquire that his mother had left for him
on the kitchen table. It was September 1971, and he was about to drive off the next day to Berkeley,
his third college. The story, Ron Rosenbaum’s “Secrets of the Little Blue Box,” described how hackers and
phone phreakers had found ways to make long-distance calls for free by replicating the tones that routed
signals on the AT&T network. “Halfway through the article, I had to call my best friend, Steve Jobs, and
read parts of this long article to him,” Wozniak recalled. He knew
that Jobs, then beginning
his senior year, was
one of the few people who
would share his excitement.
No one had ever created a digital version of a Blue Box, but
Woz was made for the challenge. Using diodes and transistors
from Radio Shack, and with the help of a music student in his
dorm who had perfect pitch, he got it built before Thanksgiving.
“I have never designed a circuit I was prouder of,” he said. “I still think it was incredible.”
One night Wozniak drove down from Berkeley to Jobs’s house
to try it. They attempted to call Wozniak’s uncle in Los Angeles,
but they got a wrong number. It didn’t matter; their device had
worked. “Hi! We’re calling you for free! We’re calling you for free!”
Wozniak shouted. The person on the other end was confused and annoyed. Jobs chimed in,
“We’re calling from California! From California! With a Blue Box.” This probably
baffled the man even more, since he was also in California.
At first the Blue Box was used for fun and pranks. The most daring of these was
when they called the Vatican and Wozniak pretended to be Henry Kissinger
wanting to speak to the pope. “Ve are at de summit meeting in Moscow,
and ve need to talk to de pope,” Woz intoned. He was told that it was 5:30 a.m. and
the pope was sleeping. When he called back, he got a bishop who was supposed
to serve as the translator. But they never actually got the pope on the line.
“They realized that Woz wasn’t Henry Kissinger,” Jobs recalled. “We were at a public phone booth.”
It was then that they reached an important milestone, one that would
establish a pattern in their partnerships: Jobs came up with the idea that
the Blue Box could be more than merely a hobby; they could build and sell them.
“I got together the rest of the components, like the casing and power supply and
keypads, and figured out how we could price it,” Jobs said, foreshadowing roles he
would play when they founded Apple. The finished product was about the size of two
decks of playing cards.
The parts cost about $40,
and Jobs decided they
should sell it for $150.
In February 1974, after eighteen months of hanging around Reed,
Jobs decided to move back to his parents’ home in Los Altos and look
for a job. It was not a difficult search. At peak times during the 1970s,
the classified section of the San Jose Mercury carried up to sixty pages
of technology help-wanted ads. One of those caught Jobs’s eye.
“Have fun, make money,” it said. That day Jobs walked into the lobby
of the video game manufacturer Atari and told the personnel director,
who was startled by his unkempt hair and attire, that he
wouldn’t leave until they gave him a job.
Atari’s founder was a burly entrepreneur named Nolan Bushnell,
who was a charismatic visionary with a nice touch of showmanship
in him—in other words, another role model waiting to be emulated.
After he became famous, he liked driving around in a Rolls, smoking dope,
and holding staff meetings in a hot tub. As Friedland had done and as Jobs
would learn to do, he was able to turn charm into a cunning force, to cajole
and intimidate and distort reality with the power of his personality.
His chief engineer was Al Alcorn, beefy and jovial and a bit more grounded,
the house grown-up trying to implement the vision and curb the enthusiasms
of Bushnell. Their big hit thus far was a video game called Pong, in which two
players tried to volley a blip on a screen with two movable lines that acted as
paddles. (If you’re under thirty, ask your parents.)
When Jobs arrived in the Atari lobby wearing sandals and demanding a job,
Alcorn was the one who was summoned. “I was told, ‘We’ve got a hippie
kid in the lobby.
He says he’s not going to leave until
we hire him. Should we call
the cops or let him in?’
I said bring him on in!”
When he got off the plane in New Delhi, he felt waves
of heat rising from the tarmac, even though it was only
April. He had been given the name of a hotel, but it was full,
so he went to one his taxi driver insisted was good. “I’m sure he
was getting some baksheesh, because he took me to this complete dive.”
Jobs asked the owner whether the water was filtered and foolishly
believed the answer. “I got dysentery pretty fast. I was sick, really
sick, a really high fever. I dropped from 160 pounds to 120 in about a week.”
Once he got healthy enough to move, he decided that he needed to get out
of Delhi. So he headed to the town of Haridwar, in western India near the
source of the Ganges, which was having a festival known as the Kumbh Mela.
More than ten million people poured into a town that usually contained fewer
than 100,000 residents. “There were holy men all around. Tents with this teacher
and that teacher. There were people riding elephants, you name it. I was there
for a few days, but I decided that I needed to get out of there too.”
He went by train and bus to a village near Nainital in the foothills of the Himalayas.
That was where Neem Karoli Baba lived, or had lived. By the time Jobs got there,
he was no longer alive, at least in the same incarnation. Jobs rented a room with a
mattress on the floor from a family who helped him recuperate by feeding him
vegetarian meals. “There was a copy there of Autobiography of a Yogi in English that
a previous traveler had left, and I read it several times because there was not a lot to do,
and I walked around from village to village and recovered from my dysentery.”
Among those who were part of the community there was Larry Brilliant, an
epidemiologist who was working to eradicate smallpox and who
later ran Google’s
philanthropic arm and the Skoll
Foundation. He became
Jobs’s lifelong friend.
Not all of his coworkers shunned Jobs. He became
friends with Ron Wayne, a draftsman at Atari, who
had earlier started a company that built slot machines.
It subsequently failed, but Jobs became fascinated with
the idea that it was possible to start your own company.
“Ron was an amazing guy,” said Jobs. “He started companies.
I had never met anybody like that.” He proposed to Wayne
that they go into business together; Jobs said he could borrow
$50,000, and they could design and market a slot machine.
But Wayne had already been burned in business, so he declined.
“I said that was the quickest way to lose $50,000,” Wayne recalled,
“but I admired the fact that he had a burning drive to start his own business.”
One weekend Jobs was visiting Wayne at his apartment, engaging as they
often did in philosophical discussions, when Wayne said that there was
something he needed to tell him. “Yeah, I think I know what it is,”
Jobs replied. “I think you like men.” Wayne said yes. “It was my
first encounter with someone who I knew was gay,” Jobs recalled.
“He planted the right perspective of it for me.” Jobs grilled him:
“When you see a beautiful woman, what do you feel?” Wayne replied,
“It’s like when you look at a beautiful horse. You can appreciate it, but you
don’t want to sleep with it. You appreciate beauty for what it is.”
Wayne said that it is a testament to Jobs that he felt like revealing this to
him. “Nobody at Atari knew, and I could count on my toes and fingers
the number of people I told in my whole life. But I guess it just felt right to
tell him, that he would understand, and it didn’t have any effect on our relationship.”
One reason Jobs was eager to make some money in early 1974 was that
Robert Friedland, who had gone to India the summer before, was urging
him to take his own spiritual journey there. Friedland had studied in India with
Neem Karoli Baba (Maharaj-ji), who had been the guru to much of the sixties
hippie movement. Jobs decided he should do the same, and he recruited
Daniel Kottke to go with him. Jobs was not motivated by mere adventure.
“For me it was a serious search,” he said. “I’d been turned on to the idea of
enlightenment and trying to figure out who I was and how I fit into things.”
Kottke adds that Jobs’s quest seemed
driven partly by not
knowing his birth parents.
“There was a hole in him,
and he was trying to fill it.”
At one point Jobs was told of a young Hindu holy man
who was holding a gathering of his followers at the
Himalayan estate of a wealthy businessman. “It was a chance to
meet a spiritual being and hang out with his followers, but it was also
a chance to have a good meal. I could smell the food as we got near,
and I was very hungry.” As Jobs was eating, the holy man—who was
not much older than Jobs—picked him out of the crowd, pointed at him,
and began laughing maniacally. “He came running over and grabbed me
and made a tooting sound and said, ‘You are just like a baby,’” recalled Jobs.
“I was not relishing this attention.” Taking Jobs by the hand, he led him
out of the worshipful crowd and walked him up to a hill, where there was
a well and a small pond. “We sit down and he pulls out this straight razor.
I’m thinking he’s a nutcase and begin to worry. Then he pulls out a bar
of soap—I had long hair at the time—and he lathered up my hair and shaved
my head. He told me that he was saving my health.”
Daniel Kottke arrived in India at the beginning of the summer, and Jobs
went back to New Delhi to meet him. They wandered, mainly by bus, rather
aimlessly. By this point Jobs was no longer trying to find a guru who could impart
wisdom, but instead was seeking enlightenment through ascetic experience,
deprivation, and simplicity. He was not able to achieve inner calm.
Kottke remembers him getting into a furious shouting match with a
Hindu woman in a village marketplace who, Jobs alleged, had been
watering down the milk she was selling them.
Yet Jobs could also be generous. When they got to the town of Manali,
Kottke’s sleeping bag was stolen with his traveler’s checks in it.
“Steve covered my food expenses and bus ticket back to
Delhi,” Kottke recalled.
He also gave Kottke
the rest of his own money,
$100, to tide him over.