November 21, 2019

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson – Part 2

“Maybe that’s why I never liked to put on-off switches on Apple devices.”

December 12, 1980. At the age of twenty-five Jobs was worth $256 million.

Apple’s success brought fame. October 1981 Inc. the first one followed by Time in February 1982. With picture of Jobs with his hypnotic stare, said the main story, “practically singlehanded created the personal computer industry.”

  1. Wednesday, May 29. When Scully explained the new order of battle, few acknowledged Jobs but no public displays of affection. Scully did not acknowledge Job’s presence.

Jobs only met his girlfriend Tina Redse then, blinds down playing Bob Dylan, “the Times They Are a-Changing”. Jobs had recited the second verse the day he had unveiled the Macintosh to the Apple shareholders sixteen months earlier, “For the loser now / Will be later to win…”

“She was the first person I was truly in love with. We had a very deep connection. I don’t know that anyone will ever understand me better than she did.”  Redse, entranced by him was also baffled how uncaring Jobs could be and shared how incredibly painful it was to be in love with someone so self-centered.

December 2, 1996 Steve Jobs set foot on Apple’s Cupertino campus for the first time since his ouster eleven years earlier.  By the end of 2010, Apple had sold ninety million iPhones reaping more than half of the total profits generated in the global cell market.

Bill Gates was building a mansion near Seattle and was somewhat baffled when he visited Steve Jobs house with his wife.  For Jobs who had his second coming at Apple and was a world-famous billionaire the house was unassuming – no security guards or live-in servants, Jobs even kept the back door unlocked during the day.

As if this is not convincing enough lets have this: When Clintons were coming Powell (Laurene) would call furniture and art dealers, pay them to furnish house temporarily! And that led to a missing painting of a dress on a hanger, and given the issue of the blue dress in the Lewinsky matter they decided to hide it.

And another facet of Steve Jobs: When Clinton asked during one of his late night conversation with Jobs, Clinton asked how he should handle the Lewinsky issue. “I don’t know if you did it, but if so, you’hv got to tell the country,” Jobs told the President.

Jobs was a demanding one when it was a question of perfection and during a brand image campaign came up with the brilliant idea, “Think Different”.  The same was designed to celebrate not what computers could do, but what creative people could do with computers.

For its original sixty second version Jobs wrote some of the lines himself including, “They push the human race forward”. The entire version is worth capturing as it depicts what Jobs was –

‘Here’s to crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in square holes. The ones who see things differently. They are not fond of rules. And they have no respect for status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they can change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.’

Unlike any other companies or corporate leaders Jobs had an audacity of associating Apple brand with Gandhi, Einstein, Picasso and the Dalai Lama. He was able to encourage people to define themselves as anticorporate, creative, innovative rebels simply by using the computer they used. Larry Ellison said, “Steve created the only lifestyle brand in tech industry, there are cars people are proud to have – Porsche, Ferrari, Prius – because what I drive is about me. People feel the same way about an Apple product.”

Apple was an artwork for him!  When the design was finally locked in, Jobs called the Macintosh team together for a ceremony. “Real artists sign their work,” he said. One by one all forty-five signed on a sheet of drafting paper with a Sharpie pen, he signed the last in centre. Just as the team knew that the circuit board was laid out as elegantly as possible their signatures too were inside.

Few more faces of his personality can be gazed through novels written by Mona Simpson loosely based on her mother Joanne; Jobs and his daughter Lisa (A Regular Guy). Mona Simpson, Jobs biological full sister and they discovered their relationship in 1996 and became close.

His quest was for perfection for Apple to have end-to-end control of every product he made.  One of Job’s great strengths was knowing how to focus. “Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do,” he said. “That’s true for companies, and it’s true for products.”  On PPT’s: ‘If you need slides, it shows you don’t know what you are talking about’, he told Fadell Tony.

He created iPod, Sony which had all the assets and heritage, never could accomplish. He launched series of products over three decades that transformed the whole industry. He was a genius.

Jobs fought long battle with cancer, mostly kept as secret: he told everyone he had been cured.  He rarely gave speeches other than his staged product demonstrations; he accepted Stanford’s invitation to give its June 2005 commencement address. His speech included three stories which included about being diagnosed with cancer and the awareness it brought to him. The artful minimalism of the speech gave it simplicity, purity, and charm, and of course exceptional grace.

Jobs was one of the first twenty people in the world to have all of the genes of his cancer tumor as well as his normal DNA sequenced costing more than $100,00.   When he finally became convinced for liver transplant but then it was clear that there would be long wait due to his blood type and metrics by the United Network for Organs Sharing. There is no legal way for a patient, even one as wealthy as Jobs, to jump the queue, and he didn’t.

Under all circumstances he wanted to be in control including the times he was barely conscious.  His strong personality came through. At one point pulmonologist tried to put a mask over his face when he was deeply sedated. Jobs ripped it off and mumbled that he hated the design and refused to wear it. Though barely able to speak, he ordered them to bring five different options for the mask and he would pick a design he liked. Finally Powell managed to distract him so that they could put on the mask.

Walter Isaacson ends the book with: Over the course of our conversations, there were many times when he reflected on what he hoped his legacy would be. And the same is in Steve Job’s own words.

As he faced death he shared that something survives, that which the consciousness endures. “But on the other hand, perhaps it’s like an on-off switch,” he said. “Click! And you’re gone.” Then he paused again and smiled slightly.   “Maybe that’s why I never liked to put on-off switches on Apple devices.”