19 fascinating things about Steve Jobs you didn’t know

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A brand new biography of the late computer wiz throws up interesting new facets of the iconic man and his colossal company.

It’s raining Steve Jobs adaptations this year. Not only is an eponymous biopic (with Michael Fassbender in the titular role – see the trailer) slated for release in October this year, a new biography of Apple’s genius co-founder is taking the publishing world by storm. Written by Brent Schlender, a former Fortunemagazine journalist and long-time friend, along with co-writer Rick Tetzeli,Becoming Steve Jobs reveals interesting facts about the iconic computer wizard and Apple that you probably never knew.

#1  Some called him “binary”

People often described Jobs as a “jerk” or a “brat”.  But perhaps the most apt epithet anyone used was “binary”, signifying someone who is half genius/half as*hole.

#2  He mismanaged NeXT

The real low point of Jobs’s career was not when he got kicked out of Apple in 1986, but when he subsequently mismanaged his next company, NeXT Computers, and nearly ran it into the ground. However, almost miraculously, he finally managed to sell what remained of the company to Apple for $429 million.

#3   Sprang back with Pixar

The transformatory phase of Jobs’s life was when he was running Pixar, in between his stints at Apple. Working with the Pixar creative team taught him how to trust and to delegate, and thus turned him from a tantrum-throwing brat to a real leader of people.

#4  Toy Story was a lot like Job’s life

The story of Pixar’s Toy Story is curiously similar to that of Jobs’s own life: the hero causes his own downfall through sheer hubris, and is sent into exile. But he then redeems himself by asserting his best human qualities in the face of odds, and thereby makes a great, celebratory comeback. (Uncannily, this was written long before Jobs managed to earn his own redemption, and comeback.) This story would henceforth become a Pixar formula.

#5  Apple’s management almost sold it off

In 1996, Apple was so desperate that the management was trying to sell it to IBM, Sun Microsystems or AT&T, but they weren’t interested. Things were so bad that the management had started looking at the option of filing for bankruptcy.

#6  Jobs nearly turned down Apple’s offer

Many people believe Jobs engineered a triumphant re-entry into Apple as CEO in 1997. In fact, he apparently nearly turned down the offer because he wasn’t sure he wanted that kind of intense commitment at that stage of his life. His wife Laurene helped persuade him that he should do it.

#7  Michael Dell thought Apple was dead

Just after Jobs rejoined Apple, Michael Dell was asked what he’d do if he was CEO of Apple. He replied, “I’d shut down the company and return the money to the shareholders”. Jobs, of course would proceed to take the company to unprecedented heights, so that, at one point, it had bigger cash reserves than the US government.

#8  Jobs made Bill Gates invest in Apple!

One of the first things Jobs did after rejoining Apple was to arm-twist his “frenemy” Bill Gates of Microsoft into investing $150 million in the former’s company!

#9  Jony Ive was his soul mate

Shortly after Jobs rejoined Apple, he walked into the Design Lab, and confronted product designer Jony Ive. Ive thought he was about to be fired. Instead, Jobs began to chat with him about design, and life. The result of that conversation was that Ive became one of Jobs’s soul mates.

#10  Gates envisioned it before Jobs

In 2000, Bill Gates unveiled his vision of the future of computing – something he clumsily called “Consumer Products Plus”. But it would be Jobs who would make that vision a reality with his series of magical products, under the slickly named umbrella of “Digital Hub”.

#11 Jobs hated mp3 players

Jobs hated mp3 players because they were so infuriatingly fiddly to use, and he was itching to create the next generation of music players. The real breakthrough came when Apple’s head of engineering happened to visit Toshiba’s R&D centre in Japan, and they showed him their “next big thing” – a 5GB hard disk that measured less than 2inches in diameter, and yet could hold thousands of digital files. Without that Toshiba breakthrough the iPod wouldn’t have happened.

#12  He licked the monitor screen!

Jobs had his goofy moments. Once, for example, while demonstrating a software interface, he told a room full of engineers that it was “good enough to lick”. He then leaned forward and proudly licked the monitor screen.

#13  Job thought iPhone was Apple’s best offering 

Jobs said the most difficult thing Apple ever did, was to make the iPhone, because it had to be a great phone, plus a great computer, plus a great music player – and all that had to be crammed into a sleek, convenient pocket size. 

#14  iPhone flipped polarity of Silicon Valley

As someone said, the iPhone “flipped the polarity of Silicon Valley”, because it heralded a completely new form of computing, much more intimate than personal computing. By the way, the iPhone in your pocket has the same computing power as the Cray XMP supercomputer of twenty years ago, which cost $10 million.

#15  Wrote famous Stanford speech himself

One of the few events that really gave Jobs butterflies in the stomach was when he was asked to give his famous “Stay hungry, stay foolish” commencement speech at Stanford. He considered asking Hollywood screenwriter Aaron Sorokin for inputs, but eventually wrote the speech himself. He rehearsed for days, reciting it as he walked around the house, to the amusement of his kids.

#16  Told Tim Cook he could keep his liver

When Jobs was dying of cancer, Tim Cook offered to donate him his own liver but Jobs refused to accept it.

#17  Didn’t want Disneyfication of Apple

Jobs had discussed the direction of Apple after his death with Tim Cook at length. He insisted that didn’t want any future management asking, “What would Steve have done?” He hated the way the Disney culture had ossified after Walt Disney’s death, and didn’t want that to ever happen at Apple.

#18 Eternal optimist, ready for next challenge

Management guru Jim Collins (author of Good to Great) was a long-time friend. His take on Jobs: “What separates people is return on luck, what you do with it when you get it. What matters is how you play the hand you’re dealt … Sometimes you create the hand by giving yourself challenges that will make you stronger, when you don’t even know what’s next. Steve is almost like the Tom Hanks character in Castaway – just keep on breathing, because you don’t know what the tide will bring in tomorrow”.

#19  Yoko Ono gifted him audio-cassette of Beatles’ Strawberry Fields Forever

One of Jobs’s most prized possessions was an audio-cassette, given to him by John Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono, of all the various different versions of Strawberry Fields Forever that the Beatles had ever recorded. 

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