iCon takes a look at the most astounding figure in a business era noted for its mavericks, oddballs, and iconoclasts. Drawing on a wide range of sources, Jeffrey Young and William Simon provide new perspectives on the legendary creation of Apple, detail Jobs’s meteoric rise, and the devastating plunge that left him not only out of Apple, but out of the computer-making business entirely. This unflinching and completely unauthorized portrait reveals both sides of Jobs’s role in the remarkable rise of the Pixar animation studio, also re-creates the acrimony between Jobs and Disney’s Michael Eisner, and examines Jobs’s dramatic his rise from the ashes with his recapture of Apple. The authors examine the takeover and Jobs’s reinvention of the company with the popular iMac and his transformation of the industry with the revolutionary iPod. iCon is must reading for anyone who wants to understand how the modern digital age has been formed, shaped, and refined by the most influential figure of the age–a master of three industries: movies, music, and computers.
About the Author
JEFFREY S. YOUNG, one of the founding editors of MacWorld magazine, first met Steve Jobs in 1983. He is the author of the classic unauthorized biography Steve Jobs: The Journey Is the Reward. Young began his career as a reporter with the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, and, after MacWorld, wrote for The Hollywood Reporter and worked for Forbes in the 1990s as its contributing editor from Silicon Valley, writing profiles and business pieces, including a very influential profile of Microsoft's Steve Balmer. In 1997, he cofounded Forbes.com. Young isalso the author ofForbes Greatest Technology Stories (Wiley). He lives in northern California.
WILLIAM L. SIMON is coauthor of Kevin Mitnick's The Art of Deception and The Art of Intrusion, both published by Wiley, as well as the award-winning author of more than twenty other books."He lives in Rancho Santa Fe, California.
Read an Excerpt
I think it’s clear that Steve always had a kind of chip
on his shoulder. At some deep level, there was an
insecurity that Steve had to go out and prove
himself. I think being an orphan drove Steve in
ways that most of us can never understand.
—Dan Kottke, one of Steve Jobs’s closest friends
We all tend to lose track of just how much change—as a country, a society, a civilization—Americans weathered in the twentieth century: the shock and chaos of two world wars, the hopeful uncertainty of the 1950s, the upheavals of the 1960s, the reconfigurations of the 1970s and 1980s, the technology-inspired turmoil of the 1990s. The parade of powerful events in these decades altered the way Americans work, think, play, and even love. In hindsight, we recognize the inevitable shifts in what we consider socially acceptable behavior, and they surprise us by having defied our own conventional wisdom. One practice that has remained constant and yet changed in the years since the birth of Steve Jobs is adoption. It was far more common in the mid-1950s and earlier than it is today. The differences can be simply explained: back then, single parenthood was a disgrace, and abortion was not only illegal but, if available at all, too often deadly. The advent of widespread birth control in the 1960s changed the equation forever: arguably the Pill ranks with penicillin as the greatest medical developments of the twentieth century. In conjunction with the women’s movement, birth control changed our moral compass. Back in the 1950s only one respectable avenue was open for a single woman who was pregnant: giving her newborn up for adoption.Agencies dedicated to bringing together childless couples with women who were “in the family way” became something of a cottage industry.
Steve Jobs was born on February 24, 1955, in San Francisco, California. Beyond that one fact, he knew virtually nothing of his birth parentage until he was already grown and famous.Within weeks of his birth, the mother of “Baby John Doe” signed over legal custody of her infant son to a San Francisco couple, Paul and Clara Jobs, who had been thwarted for nearly ten years in their hope of having children. Paul Jobs had been through several lives before landing out West. He was a man of imposing demeanor, a farmer’s son raised with a nononsense midwestern Calvinism. It was enough to steel him for the decade-long Depression that would mark his young adulthood and define his choices. He dropped out of high school and wandered the Midwest for several years, searching for work during the height of the Depression and living something close to the life of a hobo. Eventually, Paul opted for the relative certainty of service in the military over the unsettling inconstancies of the open road, enlisting in the U.S. Coast Guard—the “Hooligan Navy,” in the popular phrase that he often used—and mastered the skills of an engine-room machinist. Like his midwestern upbringing, his Coast Guard experiences stayed with him in tangible ways: the tattoos on his arms, the short crew-cut hairstyle. Though he was always conscious of his lack of formal education, he exuded the hearty, robust personality of a proud, productive, blue-collar American.
Paul Jobs landed in San Francisco when his Coast Guard ship steamed into port to be decommissioned. By then,with the war and the Depression behind him, Paul was looking for the same thing that other men all over the nation were: a new beginning. He made a bet with a shipmate that “in the shadow of the Golden Gate” he would be able to find himself a bride.He was soon dating a local girl and promptly asked her to share his life. Paul and Clara married in 1946 and headed back to Paul’s roots in Indiana, where the mechanical skills he had learned in the service helped him land a job with International Harvester. Paul’s tinkering abilities extended into his hobbies as well.He found nothing more relaxing or rewarding than buying an old, beat-up jalopy and spending his weekends underneath the hood repairing it and getting it roadworthy again.When the work was done, he’d sell it and buy another, pocketing a profit each time. His austere background made him a tough negotiator, especially when it came to his auto deals. Yet the attraction to California was too strong. In 1952 Paul and Clara packed up and moved back to San Francisco, into an apartment overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Paul was soon hired as a kind of strongarm man by a finance company that sought help collecting on auto loans—an early repo man. Both his bulk and his aggressive personality were well suited to this somewhat dangerous pursuit, and his mechanical bent enabled him to pick the locks of the cars he had to repossess and hot-wire them if necessary.
Three years later, following the adoption of the baby boy they named Steven Paul Jobs, the family moved to a house in South San Francisco, an industrial town with a number of new housing tracts for returning veterans. Even at three years old, Steven was shaping up to be quite a handful, what polite folks today tactfully call a “hyperkinetic” child. He often started his day at four in the morning and had a gift for getting into trouble. Once he and a playmate had to be rushed to the hospital after they decided to see what ant poison tasted like. In another incident, Steve jammed a bobby pin into an electrical socket and got a nasty burn for his curiosity.Nonetheless, his antics didn’t dissuade his parents from adopting another child, a daughter, Patty, two years younger than Steven. Perhaps Steve needed a bit more supervision than most children, but he was obviously bright and in many ways seemed much like any other American kid in the mid-1950s. He mugged for the camera in neighbors’ Super 8mm home movies, roared around the neighborhood on his tricycle, and watched unhealthful amounts of television—perhaps an early sign that he would turn into a youngster who didn’t make friends easily.
Not long after Steve was born, the Nobel Prize for Physics was awarded to John Bardeen, Walter Brattain, and William Shockley for their invention of the transistor. Paul and Clara Jobs could not have imagined how this invention would change their son’s life and would lead him to change the lives of so many others.
By the time he was ten, Steve’s interest in electronics was patently obvious. He was attracted by the practicality of electronic gadgets, using his youngster’s imagination to see their nearly unlimited potential. By now, his dad had moved the family down the peninsula to Mountain View, a bedroom community for the electronics companies sprouting up around Palo Alto, where Paul Jobs continued working as a repo man. The neighborhood Steve’s parents had chosen was particularly suitable, being filled with engineers employed by Hewlett-Packard and other electronics firms. On weekends, they could be found at their garage workbenches, where they usually welcomed the lonely boy looking to learn and keep busy. It was one of these neighbors who let Steve play around with a simple carbon microphone that he’d brought home from the lab. Steve was fascinated with the device and asked many perceptive questions. Soon, he had spent so much time at the engineer’s home and had so impressed the man with his precocity that he was given the microphone for his own.
From his peers, though, Steve reaped nothing but trouble. He was already a renegade. Much later, a schoolmate would describe him as a “loner, pretty much of a crybaby.” The two were on a swim team together, one of Steve’s only ventures into team sports.“He’d lose a race and go off by himself and cry.He didn’t quite fit in with everyone else. He wasn’t one of the guys.”
Steve’s youthful penchant for mischief and willfulness rapidly developed into something else. He was suspended from school several times for misbehavior and defying his teachers, refusing to do any schoolwork or assignment that he felt was a “waste of time.”According to Steve himself, “I was pretty bored in school, and I turned into a little terror.” He was the ringleader in a group that exploded bombs and let snakes loose in the classroom.“You should have seen us in third grade,” he said. “We basically destroyed the teacher.” That those words convey a sense of pride and satisfaction in giving pain offers another clue to what Steve would become. It is no surprise that he was eventually expelled. Steve soon came under the influence of a fourth grade teacher who changed his life: Imogene “Teddy”Hill.“She was one of the saints of my life,” he said. “She taught an advanced fourth grade class, and it took her about a month to get hip to my situation. She bribed me into learning. She would say, ‘I really want you to finish this workbook. I’ll pay you five bucks if you finish it.’ That really kindled a passion in me for learning things.”
Steve learned more that year than in any other year in school. His teachers wanted him to skip fifth grade and go straight to middle school. Eventually his parents reluctantly agreed. He entered Crittenden Middle School a year early, but the school district made no provisions for the social adjustment of gifted kids, plunking them down with the older children.
At the same time, things weren’t going well for Paul Jobs. He had quit the repo business and become a real estate salesman in the booming world of the peninsula.His brusque personality wasn’t suited to the mix of obsequiousness and aggression required to be a successful realtor. One day during Steve’s fourth grade year, Teddy Hill asked her class, “What is it in the world that you don’t understand?” She recalls that Steve’s hand shot up and he replied, “I don’t understand why all of a sudden we’re so broke!”
In time, Paul Jobs, after fifteen years away from the trade, returned to work as a machinist. Though he had to reenter at the bottom and work his way up, he quickly climbed the ladder and the family breathed a little easier financially. Paul went to work for Spectraphysics, where he eventually worked on developing the system of mirrors that read bar codes on products in just about every supermarket in the world. Steve, however, was absolutely miserable at his new school.Mountain View’s Crittenden Junior High was much tougher than the grade school, and it was on the wrong side of the tracks to boot. The local police were often called to break up fights, and the troublemaking ofMountain View hooligans made Steve’s pranks seem tame by comparison.
His free spirit and immense intelligence went unnoticed against the backdrop of all the commotion, and he grew increasingly unhappy and frustrated. The situation became so dire, to Steve’s mind, that he simply decided not to return to Crittenden the following year. He informed his father of the decision that summer. After much discussion, Paul and Clara accepted the reality that their son, already a discipline problem, was on the verge of becoming a full-blown juvenile delinquent. They understood that they had to make a choice. “He said he just wouldn’t go [back to that school],” recalled Paul Jobs. “So we moved.”
At eleven years old, Steve was already able to demonstrate enough strength of will to convince his parents to resettle. His trademark intensity, the single-mindedness that he could apply to remove any obstacle to his progress, was already evident.
In 1967, the Jobs family moved to the flatlands of Los Altos and found themselves smack in the middle of what may have been the largest assemblage of science wonks ever gathered in one place since the Manhattan Project. Los Altos and the surrounding towns of Cupertino and Sunnyvale were sown through with electrical engineers and their families. At the time, Lockheed was booming as the prime contractor for NASA in the space race, and all through the area a profusion of electronics companies was springing up to service the moon shot. It was also ground zero for a wave of innovation and entrepreneurial activity that exploited the world of electronic miniaturization ushered in by the invention first of the transistor, and then of the integrated circuit, or IC, which crammed hundreds of those transistors onto a single “chip.” In every garage there was a welcoming brain for Steve to pick and a box or two filled with spare parts or obsolete equipment that could be taken apart after school. In contrast to rough-and-tumble Mountain View, this was heaven.
At Cupertino Junior High School, Steve met Bill Fernandez, the slight, intense son of a local attorney, who was as much of a misfit as the young Jobs.Neither one was even vaguely athletic—they were both skinny, scrawny, and relatively uncoordinated—but they each had a discernible intensity, viewed as oddness by their classmates. Electronics was the perfect outlet for these outsiders. They could pursue their interests in the calm solitude of the neighborhood garages and workshops, while relegating the usual adolescent dilemmas of peer acceptance, sports prowess, and boy-girl turmoil to another world for hours on end. They may have been oddballs to their fellow students, but Fernandez and Jobs had tapped into the sensibilities of the surrounding community of engineers and scientists.
“I have this vivid memory of Steve Jobs,” recalled Bruce Courture, who attended both Cupertino Junior High and Homestead High—six years of school—with him. Courture was voted “Most Likely to Succeed” in the senior class and is now living up to this expectation as a partner at one of the most successful high-tech law firms in Silicon Valley. “It’s one moment that has always stuck in my mind. It was a very foggy day. All us boys in our freshman class were running a couple of laps around the track.And all of a sudden Steve, who was ahead of me, glanced back across the field at the PE coach, who was hidden by the fog, and saw that he couldn’t possibly see the far side of the field. So [Steve] sat down. Well, I thought that was a pretty good idea. I joined him. The two of us just sat and watched everyone else run by us.When they came back around for the second lap, we stood up and joined them.
“We had to take some ribbing, but he had figured out how he could get away with half the work and still get credit for the whole thing. I was really impressed, especially that he had the guts to try it, even though he was just a freshman. I would never have thought to do that on my own.”
Living directly across the street from the Fernandez family were the Wozniaks. The father, Jerry Wozniak, was an engineer with Lockheed, and since Fernandez’s parents had nothing to do with electronics, Jerry had been Bill’s mentor and tutor in the subject. Jerry’s son Stephen also shared in the passion for electronics and on occasion pitched in with Fernandez on science fair projects, despite being five years older.
Steve Jobs entered Homestead High School in 1968, an important year for the United States. The country was wracked by conflicting sentiments about the war in Vietnam and civil rights, and college campuses were convulsed by protests, demonstrations, and riots, with newsworthy hotbeds at the northern California schools of UC Berkeley and San Francisco State.
Meanwhile, Steve Wozniak, a freshman at the University of Colorado, was leaving his own mark on the campus. In a series of confrontations, the daring and able computer prankster had challenged the school’s administration. After one memorable episode on Election Day, the campus computer kept generating an irreverent message, over and over. That was the last straw, as far as the dean of students was concerned, and once the culprit’s identity was revealed, Wozniak was able to stay only long enough to finish one academically lackluster year. He left campus knowing that he would not return.
Though the affair with the campus computer might indicate otherwise, he was, in his own mother’s words, “a square.” He didn’t seem to notice girls and was athletically challenged.
“Woz,” as he’d been called since grade school, was a generally obedient youngster despite his tendency to be willful in certain circumstances. He also had the ability to focus, completely and utterly, on whatever interested him and often became so absorbed that his mother’s only recourse was to rap his head with a pencil if she wanted his attention. Few things held Woz’s attention besides electronics and the science and math that constituted its basic elements. He could spend endless days designing circuit boards for various gadgets, but when it came to more mundane subjects like literature or social studies, his lack of interest held him back from doing even the simplest homework assignments. It was the classic personality profile of genius: brilliant in one area, bored in all others. By his senior year in high school, he was nearly failing English and history.
Still, Woz was secure in his knowledge of electronics and cocky enough to let everyone know it. In class, he talked back to his electronics teacher, catching him in errors and challenging him before the other students.His smug superiority made him equally unpopular with staff and classmates, leaving him isolated and with few friends, but his hearty sense of humor was appreciated.
The friends he did have were invariably younger. There was something about him—precision, single-mindedness, and a generosity of spirit—that appealed to youngsters looking for a role model. His best friend through high school was a boy two years younger, Alan Baum, another bright electronics whiz, who eventually went on to MIT.Woz was also a dyed-in-the-wool prankster. He honed his practical-joking skills while developing his talent for electronic design. Despite his academic shortcomings and pranks,Woz soon became the best technician in the Cupertino neighborhood and was a figure of worship to kids like Bill Fernandez.
In the summer of 1969, Woz and Alan Baum spent a few months filling a folder with schematics and specification sheets for a computer. Then, when Baum left to attend MIT,Woz decided to build the device himself, scavenging parts from surplus stores or directly from sympathetic companies.He convinced Bill Fernandez to help, an attractive idea since the methodical Fernandez had a neat, carefully designed, and eminently accessible workbench in his garage across the street.
“I wanted to design a machine that did something,” Wozniak said years later. “On a TV, you turn a knob and it does something. On my computer, you pushed a few buttons and switches, and lights would come on.” That was his goal and he succeeded: things could happen.At least, until the power supply exploded as the two boys were demonstrating their machine to a reporter from the San Jose Mercury News. It may not have been a sophisticated device, but Wozniak had built it five years before the first hobbyist computer kits appeared on the market. They called it the “Flair Pen or Cream Soda computer,” said Fernandez. “Woz was always drawing schematic designs with them. He said you could tell a real engineer by the Flair pens in his shirt pocket. Purple was the color of choice that year. And all we drank was cream soda in bottles.We were so broke that we would save up the bottles and walk over to Safeway to get the deposits back so we could buy another.” One day Fernandez invited Steve Jobs to see the computer that he and Woz had built. It was the first meeting between Woz and Jobs, and it was by no means auspicious. At eighteen,Wozniak was a bona fide electronics whiz, while Jobs and Fernandez, five years younger, were just a couple of kids who didn’t know much of anything practical about the subject. Sure, they liked to play with gadgets, but they were much more interested in doing tricks with lasers and mirrors than they were in doing something worthwhile. Wozniak, on the other hand, had already designed circuit boards on paper for more elaborate computers and regularly visited the Stanford Linear Accelerator library to pore over the most advanced materials he could find.
Jobs was awestruck by the ability represented by the project. Though he had long felt unrivaled in his knowledge of electronics, he was sobered by his realization that Woz was “the first person I met who knew more electronics than I did.”
Steve Jobs had already heard about Wozniak from Fernandez and knew his reputation as a highly accomplished prankster. His most famous high school stunt had resulted in Homestead High’s principal running out on the athletic field holding at arm’s length a heavy and ominously ticking gym bag that had been snatched from a student locker; the bag contained bricks and an alarm clock. This little episode earned Woz a night in Juvenile Hall—and a standing ovation from the student body upon his return the following day.
Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak seemed to be cut from the same cloth. They both were solitary, self-absorbed, and isolated, neither joiners nor jocks. Their five-year age difference was trumped by the passions they shared. Wozniak had an ardor for electronics that made his sentences run together like a speeding train when he tried to explain a concept or a principle that held his interest.
Jobs also had an intensity, driven by whatever his latest passion might be. He would stand very close to whomever he was talking to, invading the person’s space as he poured forth about his newest discovery, and he was nearly impossible to avoid once he made up his mind to buttonhole you.Much later, an acquaintance said of him, “Trying to have a conversation with Steve Jobs is like trying to sip water from a fire hose.” Steve had a sharp wit but rarely laughed—not as a boy or even later when he was on top of the world. At times, he was seen to smile, but real, uninhibited laughs were few and far between.
This was always a major difference between the two. Steve Wozniak had a quick wit and loved sharing a joke—it was one of the few things for which he’d take a break from technology. (A few years later, he ran a free Joke-a-Day service in San Jose, and even now he sends out jokes and cartoons almost daily to a select list of friends.) Woz was immersed in computers and electronics, while Jobs was immersed in himself. Jobs almost certainly knew by then that he was adopted, and this knowledge seemed to have fueled a quest for something that would give his life meaning. The machine that Wozniak and Fernandez were completing was one early element to fill that void.
Woz may have had the know-how, but Steve Jobs certainly had the gumption. When Jobs had an objective, nothing stood in the way of his reaching it. One thing that didn’t change over the years was his chutzpah, his aggressive personal willingness to wade right in, to go for the top person, the decision maker. After the family’s move to Los Altos, he began a project to build a frequency counter—a device to track the occurrences of a given electrical frequency in a circuit.When he found that he needed more parts, he picked up the phone and placed a call to Bill Hewlett, one of the founders and principals of Hewlett-Packard. “He was listed in the Palo Alto phone book,” explained Jobs. “He answered the phone, and he was real nice. He chatted with me for, like, twenty minutes. He didn’t know me at all, but he ended up giving me some parts, and he got me a job that summer working at Hewlett- Packard, on the line assembling frequency counters. . . .Well, ‘assembling’may be too strong. I was putting in screws. It didn’t matter; I was in heaven.”
But as puberty worked its hormonal alterations on Jobs, he began to realize there might be more to life than electronics. “I remember my first day on the assembly line at H-P,” he recalled wistfully. “I was expressing my complete enthusiasm and bliss at being there for the summer to my supervisor, a guy named Chris, telling him that my favorite thing in the whole world was electronics. I asked him what his favorite thing to do was, and he looked at me and said, ‘To f——k!’ “I learned a lot that summer.”
Between his sophomore and junior years, Steve Jobs also discovered marijuana. “I got stoned for the first time; I discovered Shakespeare, Dylan Thomas, and all that classic stuff. I read Moby-Dick and went back as a junior taking creative writing classes.”
Steve marched to his own tune, and as the United States changed from the conformity of the sixties to the individuality of the seventies, he quickly assimilated the countercultural values that interested him— individuality, a refusal to follow the rules or be intimidated by them, and an enthusiasm for mind-expanding drugs. Steve managed to embrace all of this without embracing the hippie ethic of putting out the least possible effort.
Homestead High School was a low, squat school thrown up in the postwar boom that hit the valley. It sits hard by two freeways and is the kind of campuslike school that California specializes in. Land was never much of a problem, so new classrooms were just tacked on to the rest of the school.When classes began in September 1968, Steve Jobs and Bill Fernandez arrived as freshmen.
The two friends from Cupertino Junior High School shared their enthusiasm for technology, but both felt at a distinct disadvantage because they didn’t come from heavily scientific households. The school offered an electronics class—John McCollum’s Electronics 1— and the pair determined to enroll in it together.
They became “wireheads.” The slang name that Silicon Valley high school kids gave to electronics club members had a hip connotation. The name combined the drug orientation of the time with electronics and avoided the bumbling connotation of “nerds.” In Silicon Valley, it was “cool” to be into electronics.
Table of Contents
PART ONE: Flowering and Withering.
2 A Company Is Born.
3 Let’s Be Pirates!
4 Learning to Fail.
PART TWO: New Beginnings.
5 The NeXT Step.
6 Show Business.
7 Master of Ceremonies.
PART THREE: Defining the Future.
10 Breaking New Ground.
11 iPod, iTunes, Therefore I Am.
12 Clash of the Titans.
What People are Saying About This
"My books are about the secret lives of hackers. This book is about the secret life of maybe the most influential person in technology. Who else can you think of that has put his stamp on three industries – computers, music, and movie animation? Once you start reading, you won’t want to put it down." Kevin Mitnick, security consultant, www.mitnicksecurity.com, author of The Art of Deception and The Art of Intrusion
"Assembling the artifacts and stories to showcase the achievements of man is the work of museums like ours. But history also relies on authors like Young and Simon, who have done a memorable job compiling the biography of Steven Jobs from conversations with the people who have been players with this extraordinary technology pioneer. And this book is a fascinating read as well." John Toole, executive director and CEO, Computer History Museum, Mountain View, California
"During the high-tech boom years when Steve Jobs gained global recognition, I was on the Silicon Valley scene to witness his rise to fame. We all admired his genius and became aware of his flaws, as well. You won’t want to miss this absorbing behind-the-scenes story." Steve Westly, controller of the state of California, former senior vice president, eBay
"If technology was a competitive sport, Steve Jobs would be a combination of an NBA misbehaving superstar and an NHL player who high-sticks opponents whenever he thinks they’ve treated him badly. But he’d also be MVP. Fascinating and unforgettable." Carol Mitch, Best Damn Sports Show Period