By Stepfanie Lam
Sophomore, Biology Major
As I am sitting here writing this article, my iPhone is making the usual notification noises, ironically distracting me from finishing this article about its inventor, Steve Jobs. Due to the fact that I have lived in the Silicon Valley my entire life, Steve Jobs was definitely a well-known figure. However, I didn’t really have an interest in him until my government/economics teacher, Mr. Richards, showed my class a video of Job’s voiceover to the “Think Different” advertising slogan. This ad marked Apple’s comeback as a market powerhouse. A few months after that, someone showed me the recording of Jobs’ speech at the Stanford commencement ceremony about connecting the dots, love and loss, and death. I was intrigued by the wisdom of his words and his humble beginnings, so I went and got the book Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson.
His father was a mechanic, and his mother worked as a bookkeeper who was living in the Silicon Valley. A lesson forever embedded in Jobs by his father was that his dad “loved doing things right. He even cared about the look of the parts you couldn’t see.” At an early age, Jobs found out he was adopted, and the concept of “Abandoned. Chosen. Special.” would continue to follow him the rest of his life. Some say that his desire for control stems from a sense of abandonment because he was given up by his birth parents—something that was both a curse and a blessing for him. He was often unruly at school because, although he was only in fourth grade, he tested at the sophomore level and was bored by the curriculum.
His parents kept their promise to his biological mother and sent Jobs to a college of his choice, Reed College. However, six months later, Jobs dropped out and moved back to his parents’ home in Los Altos. He then walked into the Atari lobby, unshaved with an unusual odor clinging to his body, and refused to leave until they gave him a job. It was there that he “was able to turn charm into a cunning force, to cajole and intimidate and distort reality with the power of his personality.”
When Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and Jobs finally decided to start their own business, Jobs came up with “Apple Computer” because he was just on a fruitarian diet; plus, it would also get them ahead of Atari in the phone book. In addition, it was a time when people feared computers and often compared them to the Orwellian machine. By putting “Apple” next to “Computers,” Jobs hoped it would make the idea altogether less intimidating and be “as normal as a slice of pie… And the two words together—Apple Computer—provided an amusing disjuncture. ‘It doesn’t quite make sense… So it helped us grow brand awareness.’”
Moreover, much to the dismay of his co-workers and to my amusement, Jobs was also known to throw tantrums similar to that of a child when he did not get his way. “An early showdown came over employee badge numbers. [CEO Michael] Scott assigned #1 to Wozniak and #2 to Jobs. Not surprisingly, Jobs demanded to be #1. ‘I wouldn’t let him have it, because that would stoke his ego even more,’ said Scott. Jobs threw a tantrum, even cried. Finally, he proposed a solution. He would have badge #0.”
The biography truly conveys to the reader what Jobs was like. It describes him as a genius but also points out his many flaws which made him much more relatable and human. “Steve is the opposite of loyal; he’s anti-loyal. He has to abandon the people he is close to.”
Although Steve Jobs is over 800 pages long, it is definitely one of the most inspiring books I’ve read. The way Steve built up a billion dollar industry from nothing –being fired from his own company, coming back, and making it even better – is definitely not something one hears about every day. Steve Jobs was an iconic figure who irrevocably shaped and changed our world, and his legacy will continue to live well into the future. I think toward the peak of his career and the end of his life, his focused really shifted from making money to making an impact. I mean, he did only have a salary of one dollar a year since 1998.