Steve Jobs CHAPTER ONE
Abandoned and Chosen
When Paul Jobs was mustered out of the Coast Guard after World War II, he made a wager with his crewmates. They had arrived in San Francisco, where their ship was decommissioned, and Paul bet that he would find himself a wife within two weeks. He was a taut, tattooed engine mechanic, six feet tall, with a passing resemblance to James Dean. But it wasn’t his looks that got him a date with Clara Hagopian, a sweet-humored daughter of Armenian immigrants. It was the fact that he and his friends had a car, unlike the group she had originally planned to go out with that evening. Ten days later, in March 1946, Paul got engaged to Clara and won his wager. It would turn out to be a happy marriage, one that lasted until death parted them more than forty years later.
Paul Reinhold Jobs had been raised on a dairy farm in Germantown, Wisconsin. Even though his father was an alcoholic and sometimes abusive, Paul ended up with a gentle and calm disposition under his leathery exterior. After dropping out of high school, he wandered through the Midwest picking up work as a mechanic until, at age nineteen, he joined the Coast Guard, even though he didn’t know how to swim. He was deployed on the USS General M. C. Meigs and spent much of the war ferrying troops to Italy for General Patton. His talent as a machinist and fireman earned him commendations, but he occasionally found himself in minor trouble and never rose above the rank of seaman.
Clara was born in New Jersey, where her parents had landed after fleeing the Turks in Armenia, and they moved to the Mission District of San Francisco when she was a child. She had a secret that she rarely mentioned to anyone: She had been married before, but her husband had been killed in the war. So when she met Paul Jobs on that first date, she was primed to start a new life.
Like many who lived through the war, they had experienced enough excitement that, when it was over, they desired simply to settle down, raise a family, and lead a less eventful life. They had little money, so they moved to Wisconsin and lived with Paul’s parents for a few years, then headed for Indiana, where he got a job as a machinist for International Harvester. His passion was tinkering with old cars, and he made money in his spare time buying, restoring, and selling them. Eventually he quit his day job to become a full-time used car salesman.
Clara, however, loved San Francisco, and in 1952 she convinced her husband to move back there. They got an apartment in the Sunset District facing the Pacific, just south of Golden Gate Park, and he took a job working for a finance company as a “repo man,” picking the locks of cars whose owners hadn’t paid their loans and repossessing them. He also bought, repaired, and sold some of the cars, making a decent enough living in the process.
There was, however, something missing in their lives. They wanted children, but Clara had suffered an ectopic pregnancy, in which the fertilized egg was implanted in a fallopian tube rather than the uterus, and she had been unable to have any. So by 1955, after nine years of marriage, they were looking to adopt a child.
• • •
Like Paul Jobs, Joanne Schieble was from a rural Wisconsin family of German heritage. Her father, Arthur Schieble, had immigrated to the outskirts of Green Bay, where he and his wife owned a mink farm and dabbled successfully in various other businesses, including real estate and photoengraving. He was very strict, especially regarding his daughter’s relationships, and he had strongly disapproved of her first love, an artist who was not a Catholic. Thus it was no surprise that he threatened to cut Joanne off completely when, as a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin, she fell in love with Abdulfattah “John” Jandali, a Muslim teaching assistant from Syria.
Jandali was the youngest of nine children in a prominent Syrian family. His father owned oil refineries and multiple other businesses, with large holdings in Damascus and Homs, and at one point pretty much controlled the price of wheat in the region. His mother, he later said, was a “traditional Muslim woman” who was a “conservative, obedient housewife.” Like the Schieble family, the Jandalis put a premium on education. Abdulfattah was sent to a Jesuit boarding school, even though he was Muslim, and he got an undergraduate degree at the American University in Beirut before entering the University of Wisconsin to pursue a doctoral degree in political science.
In the summer of 1954, Joanne went with Abdulfattah to Syria. They spent two months in Homs, where she learned from his family to cook Syrian dishes. When they returned to Wisconsin she discovered that she was pregnant. They were both twenty-three, but they decided not to get married. Her father was dying at the time, and he had threatened to disown her if she wed Abdulfattah. Nor was abortion an easy option in a small Catholic community. So in early 1955, Joanne traveled to San Francisco, where she was taken into the care of a kindly doctor who sheltered unwed mothers, delivered their babies, and quietly arranged closed adoptions.
Joanne had one requirement: Her child must be adopted by college graduates. So the doctor arranged for the baby to be placed with a lawyer and his wife. But when a boy was born—on February 24, 1955—the designated couple decided that they wanted a girl and backed out. Thus it was that the boy became the son not of a lawyer but of a high school dropout with a passion for mechanics and his salt-of-the-earth wife who was working as a bookkeeper. Paul and Clara named their new baby Steven Paul Jobs.
When Joanne found out that her baby had been placed with a couple who had not even graduated from high school, she refused to sign the adoption papers. The standoff lasted weeks, even after the baby had settled into the Jobs household. Eventually Joanne relented, with the stipulation that the couple promise—indeed sign a pledge—to fund a savings account to pay for the boy’s college education.
There was another reason that Joanne was balky about signing the adoption papers. Her father was about to die, and she planned to marry Jandali soon after. She held out hope, she would later tell family members, sometimes tearing up at the memory, that once they were married, she could get their baby boy back.
Arthur Schieble died in August 1955, after the adoption was finalized. Just after Christmas that year, Joanne and Abdulfattah were married in St. Philip the Apostle Catholic Church in Green Bay. He got his PhD in international politics the next year, and then they had another child, a girl named Mona. After she and Jandali divorced in 1962, Joanne embarked on a dreamy and peripatetic life that her daughter, who grew up to become the acclaimed novelist Mona Simpson, would capture in her book Anywhere but Here. Because Steve’s adoption had been closed, it would be twenty years before they would all find each other.
• • •
Steve Jobs knew from an early age that he was adopted. “My parents were very open with me about that,” he recalled. He had a vivid memory of sitting on the lawn of his house, when he was six or seven years old, telling the girl who lived across the street. “So does that mean your real parents didn’t want you?” the girl asked. “Lightning bolts went off in my head,” according to Jobs. “I remember running into the house, crying. And my parents said, ‘No, you have to understand.’ They were very serious and looked me straight in the eye. They said, ‘We specifically picked you out.’ Both of my parents said that and repeated it slowly for me. And they put an emphasis on every word in that sentence.”
Abandoned. Chosen. Special. Those concepts became part of who Jobs was and how he regarded himself. His closest friends think that the knowledge that he was given up at birth left some scars. “I think his desire for complete control of whatever he makes derives directly from his personality and the fact that he was abandoned at birth,” said one longtime colleague, Del Yocam. “He wants to control his environment, and he sees the product as an extension of himself.” Greg Calhoun, who became close to Jobs right after college, saw another effect. “Steve talked to me a lot about being abandoned and the pain that caused,” he said. “It made him independent. He followed the beat of a different drummer, and that came from being in a different world than he was born into.”
Later in life, when he was the same age his biological father had been when he abandoned him, Jobs would father and abandon a child of his own. (He eventually took responsibility for her.) Chrisann Brennan, the mother of that child, said that being put up for adoption left Jobs “full of broken glass,” and it helps to explain some of his behavior. “He who is abandoned is an abandoner,” she said. Andy Hertzfeld, who worked with Jobs at Apple in the early 1980s, is among the few who remained close to both Brennan and Jobs. “The key question about Steve is why he can’t control himself at times from being so reflexively cruel and harmful to some people,” he said. “That goes back to being abandoned at birth. The real underlying problem was the theme of abandonment in Steve’s life.”
Jobs dismissed this. “There’s some notion that because I was abandoned, I worked very hard so I could do well and make my parents wish they had me back, or some such nonsense, but that’s ridiculous,” he insisted. “Knowing I was adopted may have made me feel more independent, but I have never felt abandoned. I’ve always felt special. My parents made me feel special.” He would later bristle whenever anyone referred to Paul and Clara Jobs as his “adoptive” parents or implied that they were not his “real” parents. “They were my parents 1,000%,” he said. When speaking about his biological parents, on the other hand, he was curt: “They were my sperm and egg bank. That’s not harsh, it’s just the way it was, a sperm bank thing, nothing more.”
The childhood that Paul and Clara Jobs created for their new son was, in many ways, a stereotype of the late 1950s. When Steve was two they adopted a girl they named Patty, and three years later they moved to a tract house in the suburbs. The finance company where Paul worked as a repo man, CIT, had transferred him down to its Palo Alto office, but he could not afford to live there, so they landed in a subdivision in Mountain View, a less expensive town just to the south.
There Paul tried to pass along his love of mechanics and cars. “Steve, this is your workbench now,” he said as he marked off a section of the table in their garage. Jobs remembered being impressed by his father’s focus on craftsmanship. “I thought my dad’s sense of design was pretty good,” he said, “because he knew how to build anything. If we needed a cabinet, he would build it. When he built our fence, he gave me a hammer so I could work with him.”
Fifty years later the fence still surrounds the back and side yards of the house in Mountain View. As Jobs showed it off to me, he caressed the stockade panels and recalled a lesson that his father implanted deeply in him. It was important, his father said, to craft the backs of cabinets and fences properly, even though they were hidden. “He loved doing things right. He even cared about the look of the parts you couldn’t see.”
His father continued to refurbish and resell used cars, and he festooned the garage with pictures of his favorites. He would point out the detailing of the design to his son: the lines, the vents, the chrome, the trim of the seats. After work each day, he would change into his dungarees and retreat to the garage, often with Steve tagging along. “I figured I could get him nailed down with a little mechanical ability, but he really wasn’t interested in getting his hands dirty,” Paul later recalled. “He never really cared too much about mechanical things.”
“I wasn’t that into fixing cars,” Jobs admitted. “But I was eager to hang out with my dad.” Even as he was growing more aware that he had been adopted, he was becoming more attached to his father. One day when he was about eight, he discovered a photograph of his father from his time in the Coast Guard. “He’s in the engine room, and he’s got his shirt off and looks like James Dean. It was one of those Oh wow moments for a kid. Wow, oooh, my parents were actually once very young and really good-looking.”
Through cars, his father gave Steve his first exposure to electronics. “My dad did not have a deep understanding of electronics, but he’d encountered it a lot in automobiles and other things he would fix. He showed me the rudiments of electronics, and I got very interested in that.” Even more interesting were the trips to scavenge for parts. “Every weekend, there’d be a junkyard trip. We’d be looking for a generator, a carburetor, all sorts of components.” He remembered watching his father negotiate at the counter. “He was a good bargainer, because he knew better than the guys at the counter what the parts should cost.” This helped fulfill the pledge his parents made when he was adopted. “My college fund came from my dad paying $50 for a Ford Falcon or some other beat-up car that didn’t run, working on it for a few weeks, and selling it for $250—and not telling the IRS.”
The Jobses’ house and the others in their neighborhood were modeled on ones built by the real estate developer Joseph Eichler, whose company spawned more than eleven thousand homes in various California subdivisions between 1950 and 1974. Inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s vision of simple modern homes for the American “everyman,” Eichler built inexpensive houses that featured floor-to-ceiling glass walls, open floor plans, exposed post-and-beam construction, concrete slab floors, and lots of sliding glass doors. “Eichler did a great thing,” Jobs said on one of our walks around the neighborhood. “His houses were smart and cheap and good. They brought clean design and simple taste to lower-income people. They had awesome little features, like radiant heating in the floors. You put carpet on them, and we had nice toasty floors when we were kids.”
Jobs said that his appreciation for Eichler homes instilled in him a passion for making nicely designed products for the mass market. “I love it when you can bring really great design and simple capability to something that doesn’t cost much,” he said as he pointed out the clean elegance of the houses. “It was the original vision for Apple. That’s what we tried to do with the first Mac. That’s what we did with the iPod.”
Across the street from the Jobs family lived a man who had become successful as a real estate agent. “He wasn’t that bright,” Jobs recalled, “but he seemed to be making a fortune. So my dad thought, ‘I can do that.’ He worked so hard, I remember. He took these night classes, passed the license test, and got into real estate. Then the bottom fell out of the market.” As a result, the family found itself financially strapped for a year or so ...
Présentation de l'éditeur
Walter Isaacson’s “enthralling” ( The New Yorker) worldwide bestselling biography of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs—the inspiration for the movie Steve Jobs starring Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, and Jeff Daniels, directed by Danny Boyle with a screenplay by Aaron Sorkin.
Based on more than forty interviews with Steve Jobs conducted over two years—as well as interviews with more than 100 family members, friends, adversaries, competitors, and colleagues—Walter Isaacson has written a riveting story of the roller-coaster life and searingly intense personality of a creative entrepreneur whose passion for perfection and ferocious drive revolutionized six industries: personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing, and digital publishing. Isaacson’s portrait touched millions of readers.
At a time when America is seeking ways to sustain its innovative edge, Jobs stands as the ultimate icon of inventiveness and applied imagination. He knew that the best way to create value in the twenty-first century was to connect creativity with technology. He built a company where leaps of the imagination were combined with remarkable feats of engineering.
Although Jobs cooperated with the author, he asked for no control over what was written. He put nothing off-limits. He encouraged the people he knew to speak honestly. He himself spoke candidly about the people he worked with and competed against.
His friends, foes, and colleagues offer an unvarnished view of the passions, perfectionism, obsessions, artistry, devilry, and compulsion for control that shaped his approach to business and the innovative products that resulted.
His tale is instructive and cautionary, filled with lessons about innovation, character, leadership, and values.
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