A riveting biography of the groundbreaking innovator who was a giant in the worlds of computing, music, filmmaking, design, smart phones, and more. A finalist for the YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award!
"Your time is limited. . . . have the courage to follow your heart and intuition." Steve Jobs
From the start, his path was never predictable. Steve Jobs was given up for adoption at birth, dropped out of college after one semester, and at the age of twenty, created Apple in his parents' garage with his friend Steve Wozniack.
Then came the core and hallmark of his geniushis exacting moderation for perfection, his counterculture life approach, and his level of taste and style that pushed all boundaries. A devoted husband, father, and Buddhist, he battled cancer for over a decade, became the ultimate CEO, and made the world want every product he touched, from the Macintosh to the iPhone, from iTunes and the iPod to the Macbook.
Critically acclaimed author Karen Blumenthal takes us to the core of this complicated and legendary man while simultaneously exploring the evolution of computers. Framed by Jobs' inspirational Stanford commencement speech and illustrated throughout with black and white photos, this is the story of the man who changed our world.
Read more thrilling nonfiction by Karen Blumenthal:
Hillary Rodham Clinton: A Woman Living History (A YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award Finalist)
Bootleg: Murder, Moonshine, and the Lawless Years of Prohibition
Tommy: The Gun That Changed America
Praise for Steve Jobs: The Man Who Thought Different: A Biography:
“This is a smart book about a smart subject by a smart writer.” Booklist, starred review
“Students who know Steve Jobs only through Apple's iTunes, iPhones, and iPads will have their eyes opened by this accessible and well-written biography.” VOYA
“An engaging and intimate portrait. Few biographies for young readers feel as relevant and current as this one does.” The Horn Book Magazine
“A perceptive, well-wrought picture of an iconic figure.” Kirkus Reviews
“Blumenthal crafts an insightful, balanced portrait.” Publishers Weekly
About the Author
Karen Blumenthal (1959-2020) was a financial journalist and editor whose career included five years with The Dallas Morning News and twenty-five with The Wall Street Journalwhere her work helped earn the paper a Pulitzer Prize for its breaking news coverage of the September 11, 2001 attacksbefore becoming an award-winning children’s non-fiction book writer.
Three of her books, Hillary Rodham Clinton: A Woman Living History, Steve Jobs: The Man Who Thought Different, and Bootleg: Murder, Moonshine, and the Lawless Years of Prohibition, were finalists for the YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults Award.
Karen was also the author of Six Days in October: The Stock Market Crash of 1929 (named a Sibert Honor Book), Let Me Play: The Story of Title IX (winner of the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award), Tommy: The Gun That Changed America, Bonnie and Clyde: The Making of a Legend, and Jane Against the World: Roe v. Wade and the Fight for Reproductive Rights.
Read an Excerpt
The Man Who Thought Different
By Karen Blumenthal
Feiwel and FriendsCopyright © 2012 Karen Blumenthal
All rights reserved.
Steve Jobs's first story involved connecting dots, and it began with a most unusual promise.
Joanne Schieble was just twenty-three and attending graduate school in Wisconsin when she learned she was pregnant. Her father didn't approve of her relationship with a Syrian-born graduate student, and social customs in the 1950s frowned on a woman having a child outside of marriage. To avoid the glare, Schieble moved to San Francisco and was taken in by a doctor who took care of unwed mothers and helped arrange adoptions.
Originally, a lawyer and his wife agreed to adopt the new baby. But when the child was born on February 24, 1955, they changed their minds.
Clara and Paul Jobs, a modest San Francisco couple with some high school education, had been waiting for a baby. When the call came in the middle of the night, they jumped at the chance to adopt the newborn, and they named him Steven Paul.
Schieble wanted her child to be adopted by college-educated parents. Before the adoption could be finalized, however, she learned that neither parent had a college degree. She balked and only agreed to complete the adoption a few months later, "when my parents promised that I would go to college," Jobs said.
Signing on to the hope of a bright future for their baby, the Jobs family settled in, adopting a daughter, Patty, a couple of years later. Little Steve proved to be a curious child, and a challenging one to rear. He put a bobby pin into an electrical outlet, winning a trip to the emergency room for a burned hand. He got into ant poison, requiring yet another trip to the hospital to have his stomach pumped. To keep Steve busy when he got up before the rest of the household, his parents bought him a rocking horse, a record player, and some Little Richard records. He was so difficult as a toddler, his mother once confided, that she wondered if she had made a mistake adopting him.
When Steve was five, his father, Paul, was transferred to Palo Alto, about forty-five minutes south of San Francisco. After serving in the Coast Guard during World War II, Paul had worked as a machinist and used-car salesman, and now was working for a finance company collecting bad debts. In his free time, he fixed up used cars and sold them for a profit, money that would go to Steve's future college fund.
The area south of San Francisco was largely undeveloped then and dotted with apricot and prune orchards. The family bought a house in Mountain View, and as Paul put together his workshop in the garage, he set aside a part of it, telling his son, "Steve, this is your workbench now." He taught Steve how to use a hammer and gave him a set of smaller tools. Over the years, Jobs remembered, his dad "spent a lot of time with me ... teaching me how to build things, how to take things apart, put things back together."
His father's careful craftsmanship and commitment to the finest details made a deep impression. He "was a sort of genius with his hands. He can fix anything and make it work and take any mechanical thing apart and get it back together," Jobs told an interviewer in 1985. His father also stressed the importance of doing things right. For instance, his son learned, "When you're a carpenter making a beautiful chest of drawers, you're not going to use a piece of plywood on the back, even though it faces the wall and nobody will ever see it. You'll know it's there, so you're going to use a beautiful piece of wood on the back."
That was a lesson Jobs would apply over and over to new products from Apple. "For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, has to be carried all the way through," he said.
Clara supported her young son as well, babysitting the children of friends in the evenings to pay for swimming lessons. And because Steve was precocious and interested, she taught him to read, giving him a big head start at school.
Unfortunately for Steve, knowing how to read became something of a problem. Once in school, "I really just wanted to do two things," he remembered. "I wanted to read books because I loved reading books and I wanted to go outside and chase butterflies." What he didn't want to do was follow instructions. He bucked at the structure of the school day and soon was bored with being in class. He felt different from his classmates.
When he was six or seven years old, he told the girl across the street that he was adopted. "So does that mean your real parents didn't want you?" she asked.
The innocent question hit him like a punch to the stomach, planting a frightening thought that had never occurred to him. He ran into his house, sobbing. His parents quickly moved to comfort him and shoot down that notion. "They were very serious and looked me straight in the eye," he said. "They said, 'We specifically picked you out.'"
In fact, his parents thought he was very special — exceptionally bright, though also exceptionally strong-willed. Later, friends and colleagues would say that his drive and need for control grew out of a deep-rooted sense of abandonment. But he didn't see it that way. "Knowing I was adopted may have made me feel more independent, but I have never felt abandoned," he told a biographer. "I've always felt special. My parents made me feel special."
Some of his teachers, however, saw him more as a troublemaker than as a special kid. Jobs found school so dull and dreadful that he and a buddy got their biggest kicks out of causing havoc. Many of the kids rode bikes to school, locking them up in racks outside Monta Loma Elementary School, and in third grade, Jobs and his friend traded the combination to their bike locks with many of their classmates. Then one day, they went out and switched the locks all around. "It took them until about ten o'clock that night to get all the bikes sorted out," he recalled.
The worst behavior was reserved for the teacher. Jobs and his friend let a snake loose in the classroom and created a small explosion under her chair. "We gave her a nervous twitch," he said later.
He was sent home two or three times for his misbehavior, but he doesn't remember being punished for it. Instead, his father defended him, telling teachers, "If you can't keep him interested, it's your fault."
In fourth grade, he was rescued by a special teacher, Imogene "Teddy" Hill, who kindly showered attention on him during a particularly trying time at home. Impressed by a neighbor who seemed to be making a successful living selling real estate, Paul Jobs went to school at night and earned a real-estate license. But his timing was bad and the demand for housing slumped just as he was trying to break into the business.
One day, Mrs. Hill asked her students, "What is it that you don't understand about the universe?" Young Jobs answered: "I don't understand why all of a sudden my dad is so broke." Clara took a part-time job in the payroll department of a local company and the family took out a second loan on their house. For a year or so, money in the Jobs home was very tight.
Within a few weeks of having Jobs in her class, Mrs. Hill had sized up her unusual student. She offered Jobs a sweet bargain: If he could finish a math workbook on his own and get at least 80 percent right, she would give him five dollars and a giant lollipop.
"I looked at her like, 'Are you crazy, lady?'" Jobs said. But he took the challenge. Before long, his admiration and respect for Mrs. Hill were so great that he didn't need bribes anymore.
She returned the admiration, providing her precocious student with a kit for making a camera by grinding his own lens. But that didn't mean Jobs became an easy kid. Many years later, Mrs. Hill entertained some of Jobs's coworkers by showing them a photo of her class on Hawaiian Day. Jobs was in the middle, wearing a Hawaiian shirt. But the photo didn't tell the whole story: Jobs hadn't actually worn a Hawaiian shirt that day — but he had managed to convince a classmate to give him the shirt off his back.
Calling the teacher "one of the saints in my life," Jobs said, "I learned more that year than I think I learned in any year in school." And he credits her with moving him onto the right path. "I'm one hundred percent sure that if it hadn't been for Mrs. Hill in fourth grade and a few others, I would absolutely have ended up in jail," he said later.
With his interest in school reignited and his performance seemingly on track, Jobs was tested and scored so high that school officials recommended he skip a couple of grades. His parents agreed to let him skip just one.
Middle school was tougher academically and he still wanted to chase butterflies. A sixth-grade report called him "an excellent reader," but noted "he has great difficulty motivating himself or seeing the purpose of studying reading." He was also "a discipline problem at times."
Seventh grade brought a much rougher crowd of classmates. Fights were common. Some students bullied the wiry kid who was a year younger than everyone else. Jobs was miserable, and in the middle of that year, he gave his parents an ultimatum: He said "if he had to go back to school there again, he just wouldn't go," his father recalled. They took him seriously. "So we decided we better move," his dad said.
His parents pulled together what little they had and bought a three-bedroom home in Los Altos, where the schools were top-notch — and safe. There, presumably, their gifted son might focus on his studies. But in the mid-1960s, times were changing. Jobs would soon have other things on his mind.CHAPTER 2
The new school was indeed an improvement, and Jobs found other boys who shared his interests. There, he would form friendships that eventually would change his life.
He was also lucky to be growing up in the Santa Clara Valley, a place chock-full of engineers and tinkerers who would help feed his growing passion for the expanding field of electronics.
Realizing his son didn't share his interest in cars and other kinds of mechanics, Paul Jobs had brought him electronic gizmos to take apart and study from the time he was in grade school. Steve Jobs also found a mentor in his old neighborhood, a Hewlett-Packard Company engineer named Larry Lang, who intrigued Jobs with an old-fashioned carbon microphone set up in his driveway that didn't need an electronic amplifier. Lang introduced the boy to Heathkits, a conglomeration of electronic parts and detailed instructions that let hobbyists build radios and other gadgets.
"You actually paid more money for them than if you just went and bought the finished product," Jobs remembered. But he was intrigued by how putting together the kits helped him understand how things worked and gave him confidence in what he could build. "These things were not mysteries anymore. I mean you looked at a television set (and) you would think that 'I haven't built one of those but I could. There's one of those in the Heathkit catalog and I've built two other Heathkits so I could build that,'" Jobs said. "It gave a tremendous level of self-confidence that, through exploration and learning, one could understand seemingly very complex things in one's environment."
Even after the family moved, Jobs stayed in touch with Lang, who helped get him involved in a Hewlett-Packard Explorers Club. Jobs and other students gathered on Tuesday nights in the company's cafeteria to hear engineers talk about their work. It was during one of those visits that Jobs saw a desktop computer for the first time. Computers in the 1960s ranged from refrigerator- to room-sized, usually requiring extra air-conditioning to keep from overheating. Hewlett-Packard had developed the 9100A, its first desktop scientific calculator, in 1968, advertising it as a "personal computer" that was "ten times faster than most machines at solving science and engineering problems."
"It was huge, maybe forty pounds, but it was a beauty of a thing," Jobs said. "I fell in love with it."
While trying to build his own frequency counter, which measures the pulses in an electronic signal, Jobs found himself short of parts. Without thinking twice about it, he looked up H-P founder, Bill Hewlett, in the phone book and called him at home. Hewlett graciously took the call and visited with Jobs for twenty minutes. By the time the chat ended, Jobs had gotten the parts as well as a contact for a summer job. He spent a summer on the manufacturing line, putting screws in frequency counters, which were used in laboratories and factories. "I was in heaven," he remembered.
People like Bill Hewlett helped make the Santa Clara Valley a magnet for engineers and technical specialists. In addition to the growing Hewlett-Packard operation in Palo Alto, the missile division of Lockheed Corporation in Sunnyvale, a nearby NASA research center, and Fairchild Semiconductor in San Jose offered an increasing number of jobs for the technically inclined. In addition, Stanford University in nearby Palo Alto and the University of California–Berkeley, a bit to the north, were hotbeds of science and technology.
The years of Jobs's childhood were a time of rapid innovation in the world of electronics, the science and technology of controlling the unseen flow of electricity to make things work. In the late 1940s, three scientists working at AT&T's Bell Labs — John Bardeen, Walter Brattain, and William Shockley — invented the transistor, a tiny device that could direct and amplify electrons. The transistor was built around a material called a "semiconductor," neither a true insulator nor a conductor, which could send electric currents in one direction, but not the other. In time, silicon would become the preferred semiconducting material, and the tiny devices that resulted would become known as semiconductors or "chips."
In replacing bulkier, less reliable vacuum tubes, the transistor became the basis for all electronic devices, allowing scientists and engineers to make ever-smaller gadgets, like transistor radios that fit in a pocket, televisions that could sit on a shelf, calculators that fit in one's hand, and eventually a computer that could sit on a desk.
As Hewlett-Packard and the other companies grew and moved into making new kinds of equipment, semiconductors, and gadgets with increasing abilities, ambitious men left to start their own companies to come up with more innovations. It was, Jobs said later, "like those flowers or weeds that scatter seeds in hundreds of directions when you blow on them."
With so much activity and focus on chips and circuits, more and more people moved into the area. Orchards were bulldozed for new housing developments, and San Jose's population doubled in size between 1960 and 1970, while nearby Cupertino's quadrupled. The area would soon become known as Silicon Valley.
By the time Jobs was in junior high, his father was working for a company that made lasers for electronics and medical products. Jobs developed an interest in that as well, building his own with spare parts he scrounged up or that his dad brought home, sometimes sharing his projects at junior high school.
A classmate, Bill Fernandez, became a good friend, working with Jobs on a science fair project and sharing other interests. Over the years, they would take long walks in the evening, talking about all sorts of serious matters, from the Vietnam War to girls, from drugs to religion. (In fact, throughout his life, Jobs would wrestle with big ideas and difficult matters by talking through them on long walks.)
At thirteen, Jobs had stopped going to the Lutheran church after confronting the church pastor with a magazine story about children starving in Africa. "Does God know about this and what's going to happen to those children?" he asked the pastor. When the pastor acknowledged that "yes, God knows about that," Jobs decided that he couldn't worship such a God.
Even so, he and Fernandez spent hours discussing spiritual matters. "We were both interested in the spiritual side of things, the big questions: Who are we? What is it all about? What does it mean?" Fernandez said. "Mostly it was Steve who would do the talking. ... He would have a grand passion of the day, or something that was on his mind, and he would bend my ear for hours as we walked."
The year Jobs entered high school, 1968, was one of most tumultuous in modern American history. Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., who had fought racial discrimination with nonviolent means, was assassinated in April. Robert Kennedy, a candidate for president, was shot and killed after a campaign speech a couple of months later. Opposition to the Vietnam War reached a fever pitch, with antiwar demonstrators rioting at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.
Meanwhile, there was a curious new social phenomenon. In a 1967 cover story titled "The Hippies," Time magazine described the mostly white, middle-class, and well-educated young people who were "dropping out," rejecting college and traditional job paths in favor of seeking love, peace, and enlightenment — partly by experimenting with hallucinogenic drugs like marijuana and LSD. Getting their nickname from the 1950s beatnik term "hip" or "hipster," these hippies dressed in wildly colorful clothes, listened to "acid rock" like Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead, and wore their hair long. The epicenter of the movement was the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood in nearby San Francisco.
Excerpted from Steve Jobs by Karen Blumenthal. Copyright © 2012 Karen Blumenthal. Excerpted by permission of Feiwel and Friends.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Introduction: Three stories,
8: Apple II,