Who was Steve Jobs the man?

ASHER MOSES
Last updated 19:51 07/10/2011

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We know he was driven, ambitious, demanding and a technical genius. But what was Steve Jobs like as a man?

How did his temper stack up to his sense of humour? Was he fair-minded or judgemental? Did he make friends easily and did he keep them?

We do know that, outside of his corporate duties, he was an intensely private man.

Jobs had a complex personality and to dismiss it as arrogance appears to be selling him short. Rick Lucas, managing partner with Lucas Design in the 1980s, described him as soft-spoken and gracious.

"In my entire experience with Steve I found him to be soft-spoken and gracious to the point of being deferential," Lucas, who worked alongside Jobs for several months, recalled.

"What others have characterised as bluntness struck me as simply an efficiency of words. Each word spoken by Steve furthered an objective."

Estranged father hoped for just a coffee with Jobs

Born in San Francisco on February 24, 1955, Jobs was adopted soon after birth by accountant Clara and machinist Paul Jobs. It was only later in life that he discovered the identities of his estranged parents - graduate student Joanne Simpson and Syrian Muslim Abdulfattah John Jandali, who left the US at age 18 but is now the vice president of a casino in Reno, Nevada.

The life and times of Steve Jobs

Jobs never met his biological father, despite Jandali telling The Sun in a rare interview after Jobs stepped down as Apple CEO in August that "I live in hope that before it is too late he will reach out to me".

"Even to have just one coffee with him just once would make me a very happy man," said Jandali, who bears a striking resemblance to his son.

Jandali, who said he was too proud to reach out to Jobs first, said Simpson's "tyrant" father had forbade her to marry him due to his Syrian heritage. He says he had no say in the decision to put Jobs up for adoption.

Jandali and Simpson did eventually marry and had a daughter, the successful novelist Mona Simpson, who was close with Jobs and in 1997 described him as "one of my best friends in the world".

Contacted by the Gazette-Journal about the passing of his son this week, Jandali told the paper that he didn't have anything to say.

High school romance with unintended consequences

Jobs himself was also estranged from a child he fathered early in his life. His high school girlfriend Chris Ann Brennan gave birth to a daughter in 1978, when Jobs was 23. Jobs denied he was her father for two years and even swore in court that he was infertile but he eventually acknowledged that Lisa Brennan-Jobs was his daughter and she lived with him for a time as a teenager.

Jobs graduated from Homestead High School in Cupertino, California in 1972 and enrolled at Reed College in Portland, Oregon. He dropped out after one semester.

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"The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn't interest me and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting," he said during a 2005 commencement speech at Stanford University.

Jobs: the hippie years

After dropping out Jobs dropped in to classes for 18 months but was poor, sleeping on the floor in friends' rooms and returning coke bottles for the 5 cent deposits. He and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak dressed up as Alice in Wonderland characters in a mall in San Jose for $US3 an hour in 1972.

Jobs also flirted with Buddhism, grew his hair long and bummed meals from a Hare Krishna temple.

Soon after he worked as a designer for video game company Atari, where he helped create one of the best known video games, Breakout. He travelled to India in search of spiritual enlightenment and returned with his head shaved and wearing Indian attire, Britain's Telegraph reported.

Jobs dabbled with both psychedelic drugs and primal scream therapy, according to Time magazine, and he has described his experiences with LSD as "one of the two or three most important things I've done in my life". In an interview he once remarked that Bill Gates would be a broader guy "if he had dropped acid once or gone off to an ashram when he was younger".

Before making his transition to family man Jobs briefly dated the American folk singer and activist Joan Baez and actress Diane Keaton.

Finding his soul mate

Jobs married his wife Laurene Powell in a Buddhist ceremony in Yosemite National Park in 1991. The pair met in 1989 while Jobs was speaking at Stanford University, where Powell received an MBA, and later went on to have three children together.

Jobs has recounted how he skipped a business meeting to go on his first date with Powell. "I was in the parking lot with the key in the car, and I thought to myself, 'If this is my last night on earth, would I rather spend it at a business meeting or with this woman?' I ran across the parking lot, asked her if she'd have dinner with me. She said yes, we walked into town and we've been together ever since," he said.

A true family man

Jobs's love for his family comes through in many of the anecdotes told by those who knew him in recent months. He guarded their privacy more heavily than his own and blew a fuse when Fairfax Media journalist Garry Barker mentioned his love for his children in an article.

Jobs's neighbour, Lisen Stromberg, wrote on her blog that she wouldn't be pondering the MacBook Air or the iPhone when considering the impact of the Steve Jobs era.

"I will think of the day I was him at his son's high school graduation. There Steve stood, tears streaming down his cheeks, his smile wide and proud, as his son received his diploma and walked on into his own bright future, leaving behind a good man and a good father who can be sure of the rightness of this, perhaps his most important legacy of all," Stromberg wrote.

KC Bradshaw, a former contractor with JumpSport Trampolines, met Jobs in 2004 when he installed a trampoline at his house, which Bradshaw described as "more like a Buddhist-nice than a Trump-nice".

Jobs, known to be a keen gardener, had a grove of apricot trees and planted vegetables in his yard.

Bradshaw recounted how Jobs's obsession with detail even extended to the trampoline, with Jobs grilling him on "the company that built it, the manufacturing process, or how the trampoline could be simplified and improved upon".

That day Jobs's daughter was having a birthday party and Bradshaw described watching as Jobs jumped up on the trampoline and started bouncing around with his daughter. "It was really sweet," he said.

Perfecting 'the look'

One of Jobs's trademarks is his look - he almost always appeared in public wearing a black mock turtleneck, Levi 501 jeans and New Balance 992 sneakers. In his earlier years at Apple he often wore suits and bow ties but, according to long-time Apple journalist Matthew Powell, switched to his new more casual outfit "so that he didn't waste time thinking about what to wear when he should be thinking about Apple."

Jobs drove Apple's Beatlemania

Jobs's favourite musical artists included Bob Dylan and the Beatles. Powell said Paul McCartney gave him a recipe for a vegan chocolate cake.

Beatles tracks regularly featured in Apple product launches and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak has recounted how the pair would drive huge distances to meet people who had "pictures or interviews with Bob Dylan".

When the death of George Harrison was announced in November 2001, former director of product marketing for applications at Apple, Mike Evangelist sent Jobs an email suggesting that the company put up a tribute to Harrison on the home page.

Evangelist didn't hear back for hours and thought Jobs wasn't interested but later that evening, back at his desk, Apple product manager Tom McDonald told him the entire web design group was working overtime because of his idea. Late that night, the Apple homepage led with a photo tribute to Harrison.

"It was one of my proudest moments at Apple: to be part of a company that let its heart guide its actions. And the company is built that way because of Steve," said Evangelist.

'Dumbest f---ing idea I have ever heard'

Jobs has often been described as an abrasive, arrogant man who doesn't suffer fools lightly. Part of the reason for this is that he was never afraid to tell people what he really thought.

ESPN president George Bodenheimer, at a Disney board meeting just after the company bought Jobs's other company, Pixar, introduced himself to Jobs. At the time, in 2006, ESPN was launching a mobile phone in partnership with Samsung.

According to the book, Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN, Jobs just looked at Bodenheimer and said nothing other than "your phone is the dumbest f---ing idea I have ever heard", then turned and walked away. Jobs was right - the phone flopped spectacularly.

After Apple collaborated with Nike on the Nike+ project, Mark Parker, Nike's president and CEO, asked Jobs if he had any advice for him.

"Nike makes some of the best products in the world - products that you lust after, absolutely beautiful stunning products. But you also make a lot of crap," Jobs told him, according to Parker.

"Just get rid of the crappy stuff, and focus on the good stuff."

Employees have described how presenting projects to Jobs struck fear into their hearts as he would often immediately narrow in on a tiny user interface quirk that he didn't like and launch into a tirade. But employees universally agree that Jobs was always correct in his reasoning.

'Soft-spoken and gracious'

Jobs had a complex personality and to dismiss it as arrogance appears to be selling him short. Rick Lucas, managing partner with Lucas Design in the 1980s, described him as soft-spoken and gracious.

Lucas joined Jobs's "inner circle" when he was developing a third-party software product for NeXT, the company Jobs created during his decade in exile from Apple. Lucas worked alongside Jobs over a period of several months.

"In my entire experience with Steve I found him to be soft-spoken and gracious to the point of being deferential," Lucas recalled.

"What others have characterised as bluntness struck me as simply an efficiency of words. Each word spoken by Steve furthered an objective."

As the world reflects on all that Jobs has achieved in his career, and his ruthless business mind, it is these obscure details of his life and personality that help reveal how he grew to become one of the most celebrated business leaders of our time.

- Sydney Morning Herald

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