Tune in to “Piers Morgan Tonight” at 9 p.m. ET Wednesday for an interview with the author of the Steve Jobs biography, Walter Isaacson.
"Steve Jobs," the first authorized biography of the late Apple co-founder, went on sale Monday
Walter Isaacson's book contains a wealth of fresh details about Jobs' life and career
Jobs chose Apple logo over another -- a whole apple that looked too much like a cherry
It was Jobs' idea to get rid of the screen on the iPod Shuffle
“Steve Jobs,’ the biography of the late tech visionary that went on sale Monday, has already produced plenty of headlines: How Jobs met his birth father without knowing who he was, how he swore bitter revenge on Google for developing its competing Android system, and how he waited too long after his cancer diagnosis to get surgery that might have saved him.
But the 656-page book by hand-picked biographer Walter Isaacson also contains a wealth of smaller, but no less telling, details about the brilliant but difficult Apple co-founder.
Taken together, they build an illuminating portrait of a charismatic, complicated figure who could inspire people one minute and demean them the next. Even on their own, many of these snippets are still fascinating glimpses into an extraordinary life.
The CNN Tech team has been busy flipping through our copies of the book. Here are some of the more interesting nuggets we’ve found, in chronological order (we’re still reading, so we’ll add more as we go):
Childhood and early years
– Jobs’ wife, Laurene Powell Jobs, encouraged Isaacson to be honest about Jobs’ failings. “You shouldn’t whitewash it,” she told him. “He’s good at spin, but he also has a remarkable story, and I’d like to see that it’s all told truthfully.”
– Jobs’ birth mother insisted he be adopted by college graduates. The couple who had initially agreed to adopt Jobs in 1955 – a lawyer and his wife – backed out because they wanted a girl. So Jobs was placed instead with Paul Jobs, a high school dropout and mechanic, and his wife, Clara, a bookkeeper. When Jobs’ birth mother found out, she refused to sign the adoption papers for weeks and only relented after extracting a pledge that the Jobses fund a savings account to pay for the boy’s college education.
– Jobs saw his first computer terminal as a boy when his father brought him to a NASA research center not far from where the family lived. “I fell totally in love with it,” he said.
– Jobs’ famous rebellious streak first manifested itself in elementary school, where he often pulled pranks and once set off an explosive under his teacher’s chair. He felt bored at not being challenged by his studies. In fourth grade, he was tested and scored on a high-school sophomore level.
– Jobs was introduced to Steve Wozniak in high school by a mutual friend, and despite their age difference (Wozniak was five years older), the two bonded over their love of electronics and practical jokes. “I was a little more mature than my years, and he was a little less mature than his, so it evened out,” Jobs said.
– Jobs and Wozniak built a “Blue Box,” a device that allowed them to make long-distance calls for free by fooling the networks’ routing switches. The two pranksters used the box to call the Vatican, with Wozniak pretending to be Henry Kissinger and asking to speak to the pope. They spoke to several Vatican officials but never actually got the pope on the line.
– Although it was private and more expensive than his parents could afford, Jobs insisted on applying to Reed College in Portland, Oregon. His parents drove him to the school, but he refused to let them come on campus or even to say goodbye to them. “It’s one of the things in life I really feel ashamed about,” Jobs said later. “I didn’t want anyone to know I had parents. I wanted to be like an orphan. …”
– After Jobs dropped out of Reed, he talked his way into a $5-an-hour job at Atari, the video game company, because the chief engineer “saw something in him.” Jobs believed at the time that his fruit- and vegetable-heavy diet would prevent body odor – a theory that proved flawed. After Jobs’ co-workers complained about his hygiene, the CEO asked him to work the night shift, where he would be alone.
– Jobs quit Atari to go on a seven-month spiritual quest to India, where he contracted dysentery, had his long hair shaved off by a Hindu holy man and failed to find the inner calm he was seeking. His appearance changed so radically during his pilgrimage that his parents did not recognize him when they picked him up at the airport upon his return.
– Jobs returned to Atari, where he and Wozniak collaborated on their first project: an early version of the hit video game “Breakout.” But Jobs did not tell Wozniak they would be paid a bonus if they designed the game using fewer than 50 computer chips. Wozniak did it with 45 chips, but Jobs pocketed the entire bonus – a fact his partner didn’t find out for years. “I wish he had just been honest,” Wozniak said later.
The origins of Apple
– When it came time to name their new computer company, Jobs and Wozniak considered names like Matrix, Executek and Personal Computers Inc. before Jobs, who was eating a fruit diet and helping out at an apple farm, suggested Apple. “It sounded fun, spirited and not intimidating.” he said. “Plus it would get us ahead of Atari in the phone book.”
– On April 1, 1976, Jobs, Wozniak and a third investor, former Atari engineer Ron Wayne, drew up the partnership agreement for Apple and began assembling computers in Jobs’ parents garage. Wayne chipped in 10% but soon got cold feet and withdrew 11 days later. Had he stayed on, his stake at the end of 2010 would have been worth about $2.6 billion.
– Jobs chose the Apple logo, an apple with a bite taken out of it, because he thought the other design option, a whole apple, looked too much like a cherry.
– When it came time to assign employee badge numbers, Apple’s first president, Mike Scott, gave Wozniak No. 1 and Jobs No. 2. Jobs was furious and demanded to be No. 1, but Scott refused. Finally, they reached a compromise: Jobs would be badge No. 0.
– In Apple’s early years, Jobs oversaw the hiring process and sought out applicants who were smart but somewhat rebellious. When one uptight candidate came in for an interview, Jobs began to toy with him, asking such offbeat questions as, “Are you a virgin?” and “How many times have you taken LSD?”
– When designing the Macintosh, Apple’s engineers didn’t trust the company Jobs had selected to build the computer’s disk drive. So they went behind his back and asked Sony to get a disk drive ready. Sony sent a designer from Japan to Cupertino to oversee the secret project, but the Mac team made him hide in a closet every time Jobs came by.
– On the day he unveiled the Macintosh in 1984, a reporter asked Jobs what kind of market research he had done on the product. Jobs scoffed and replied, “Did Alexander Graham Bell do any market research before he invented the telephone?”
– Now a celebrity, Jobs brought several newly minted Macintoshes to New York City in early 1984. He gave one to John Lennon’s 9-year-old son Sean at a party, where an enthralled Andy Warhol used the machine to draw a circle. At Warhol’s suggestion, Jobs then took a computer to a baffled Mick Jagger, who didn’t seem to know who Jobs was. When Jagger’s young daughter Jade took to the machine immediately, Jobs gave it to her instead.
– Jobs was impatient and in a bad mood one day in 1984 when a Bay Area policeman pulled him over for going more than 100 mph in a 55-mph zone. Although the cop warned him he’d go to jail if he was caught speeding again, Jobs honked at him and told him to hurry up writing the ticket. As soon as the cop left, Jobs immediately accelerated to 100 mph again. Said his companion at the time, “He absolutely believed that the normal rules didn’t apply to him.”
Leaving Apple for NeXT and Pixar
– In 1985, fresh off his ouster as CEO of Apple, Jobs showcased his feisty side on a trip to the then-Soviet Union, where the Apple II was going on sale. First, in a meeting at the U.S. embassy in Moscow, he bristled at the suggestion that there were laws against sharing computer technology with the Soviets. Later, after praising Leon Trotsky, the Soviet revolutionary, Jobs was informed by the KGB agent escorting him that Trotsky was no longer considered “a great man.” Jobs then went to deliver a speech to Russian computer students, one he began by heaping praise on Trotsky.
– Jobs paid designer Paul Rand $100,000 to create a logo for his new computer company, NeXT. It went so well that Rand agreed to design a personal calling card for Jobs, which led to a “lengthy and heated disagreement” about the placement of the period after the “P” in “Steven P. Jobs.” Rand placed it to the right of the “P.” Jobs thought it should be nudged further left, under the “P’s” curve. In the end, Jobs won.
– An early backer of NeXT was Ross Perot, the billionaire Texan. He watched a PBS segment on Jobs and immediately called offering to invest. Jobs returned the call a week later. “I pick the jockeys, and the jockeys pick the horses and ride them,” Perot told Jobs. “You guys are the ones I’m betting on, so you figure it out.” Perot gave him $20 million.
– Jobs and Microsoft’s Bill Gates had an uneasy relationship. “Part of the problem,” Isaacson writes, “was that the rival titans were congenitally unable to be deferential to each other.” When Gates first visited NeXT headquarters in Palo Alto, Jobs kept him waiting 30 minutes, even though Gates could see through a glass wall that he was having casual conversations.
– Digital animation was originally just to be a sideline for Pixar, the business Jobs bought from George Lucas for $5 million in 1985. The short movies’ main purpose was to show off the hardware and software used to create them.
– For a few years beginning in 1982, Jobs, then 27, was romantically involved with folk legend Joan Baez, who was 41. “He was both romantic and afraid to be romantic,” she said.
– In the early 1980s, Jobs, with the help of a private investigator, found his biological parents. But he would not contact his birth mother until after Clara Jobs, the woman who raised him, died in 1986. By contrast, Jobs had no interest in meeting his birth father, who he felt had abandoned his birth mother and sister. It would turn out that his birth father, Abdulfattah Jandali, owned a Syrian restaurant in Silicon Valley that Jobs had patronized several times, and that Jobs had met him.
– After NeXT was bought by Apple, Jobs acted as de facto CEO until September 16, 1997, when he became “iCEO” – an abbreviation that first signified “interim” but would eventually mean “indefinite.”
– When Apple unveiled iTunes and its innovative digital music store in 2001, Jim Allchin, who ran the Windows division for Microsoft then, sent an e-mail to four fellow executives saying: “We were smoked. How did they get the music companies to go along?” At the time, iTunes and the iPod only worked on Mac computers. Apple execs argued that the iPod should interface with Windows, too, and Jobs was alone in opposing that proposition. When he finally relented, he insisted that Apple make iTunes for Windows as well, so the company could control more of the experience.
– At one point during the development of the iPod Mini, which was immensely popular and catapulted Apple’s portable music players into the mainstream, Jobs considered killing the product because it was smaller in size and storage capacity, yet sold for the same price. He didn’t quite understand the device’s appeal among workout fiends because he didn’t do sports.
– During the creation of the iPod Shuffle, Apple engineers kept shrinking the device’s screen in prototypes until Jobs had the idea to get rid of the screen altogether.
– The only time Jobs could recall being tongue-tied was upon meeting one of his heroes, Bob Dylan, in 2004. Dylan invited Jobs to his hotel before a Bay Area concert, and they talked for two hours. Jobs was “really nervous” and afraid the aging Dylan would disappoint him, but “he was as sharp as a tack.”
– Jobs was the first person outside of U2 to get a pre-release copy of the band’s 2004 album, “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb.” Bono wanted to be in an iPod commercial and wanted Apple to make a black iPod. Jobs told him, “We’ve tried other colors than white, and they don’t work.” He soon relented. Bono later compared Apple’s creativity to that of a rock band, and said, “the lead singer is Steve Jobs.”
– Famed industrial designer Jony Ive was tasked with coming up with the successor to the candy-color translucent iMac, which was the bestselling desktop computer for some time. He wanted to develop a flat-screen monitor with the components integrated into the display unit. Jobs did not like that idea, and he invited Ive over to his backyard at home to brainstorm. The sunflowers in the garden maintained by Powell Jobs inspired the design of the iMac, which had a display connected to a dome base by a metal stem. When computer parts became compact enough a few years later, Ive’s initial concept was used in the models that replaced the sunflower iMac.
– Apple maintained two separate development teams working on cell-phone prototypes. P1 was a phone that looked like the classic iPod and included a track wheel. “It was cumbersome,” said former Apple exec Tony Fadell. P2 was a touchscreen gadget, which in some prototypes had a physical keyboard, but more closely resembled the iPhone that we have today.
– While in the hospital for a liver transplant in 2009, Jobs refused to wear a medical mask because he disliked the design. Barely able to speak, he demanded the doctors bring five options of masks so that he could choose the one that he liked best.