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There are many things that will surprise you from a Steve Jobs biography.
We all feel that we know the man well.
We have read the stories of success, heard the tales of peculiar behavior and used the products that the man left behind.
But what you will find when you start researching Steve Jobs, is a man who I don’t think anyone will truly understand.
A man with so many layers of personality, and distinct characteristics, that we all had the potential to see the type of person that Steve Jobs wanted us to see.
So where do we start on the Join Up Dots take, on the Steve Jobs Biography?
Well we can clearly see on the Join Up Dots timeline, that Steve Jobs was from the moment he was born looking for identity.
Steven Paul Jobs was brought into the world on the 24th February 1955 in San Francisco California, by two students of the University of Wisconsin, who for whatever reason felt that this new born boy, who would grow up to become the king of techonology, was not theirs to keep.
Joanne Schieble and Abdulfattah “John” Jandali, played such an amazing part in bringing this child to the world, but would also play such a small part too, and gave the young Steve Jobs up for adoption shortly after birth.
And this was one of the dots in the Steve Jobs biography that Steve spoke so candidly about in 2005, when he addressed the graduating students on Stanford in a commencement address that has become a firm favourite to the world.
Not least becoming the basis of what became the theme behind the show “Join Up Dots with David Ralph”
The Steve Jobs Biography is a fascinating tale of clearly defined dots that shape what he was going to become right from the start, which would make it fascinating if we could ever go back in time and show the young Steve Jobs the steps that he should take.
Would he follow them, or would this young child with such a fascination for technology, and understanding of the components that made early electronic devices work, listen?
Well probably not, but you can see in the Steve Jobs biography those dots were clearly working in his favour right from the start.
His adopted parents lived in Mountain View California, which would fortuitously become what is known as silicon valley in later years, planting the budding entrepreneur in the centre of where he would later go on to rule.
His father, Paul Jobs who worked as a Coast Guard veteran and machinist, also had an interest in electronics and would show his young son from the confines of the family garage (the birthplace of Apple) how to take electronic devices a part, and then have the confidence to put them all back together.
Paul Jobs could have had fishing as a hobby, but once again the Steve Jobs biography shows that the skills that he would later utilize to such astonishing success were laid before him.
Yes of course, he needed the interest and persistence to make these skills work, but Steve Jobs was nothing but tenacious when that interest was in evidence.
A completely different Steve Jobs, to the one we would see throughout his career when he was bored, or things didn’t quite go his way!
And those opposing, and not so dynamic and conscientious personality traits, were more than evident to everyone during his schooling. Steve Jobs was an innovative thinker. He could see things long before most people had started to even consider there was even something to be seen.
Which meant that during school, he struggled with the confines of formal schooling, and the structure of his lessons which as we all know, more often than not are anything but innovative.
The young Steve Jobs, would attempt to keep himself entertained by playing pranks and creating mischief, even once being bribed by his fourth grade teacher to get his head down and study.
But there was no getting away from the fact that being born to two University graduates had provided him with the genes of intelligence. And school tests, even from a boy who had little interest in the work were a breeze. He would sail through the testing with such apparent ease that the school administrators were keen to push him ahead to High School, which his parents were reluctant to sanction.
So already at school age, the Steve Jobs biography shows that we have a child who is living smack bang in the middle of the soon to be formed Silicon Valley, had an interest in electronics, possessed an innovative and questioning mind, and was born in 1955.
And this last fact is probably one of the most interesting of all, as Malcom Gladwell attested to in his bestselling book the Outliers” in the chapter “Timing Is Everything”
Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen was born in 1953, Apple founder Steve Jobs in 1955, Sun Microsystems founders Bill Joy and Scott McNealy in 1954, Bill Gates in 1955.
Which made them the prime age when the first do it yourself home computers came to market in 1975.
Old enough to see the potential, and risk their futures by working on what someone already established in a career in computers would consider too much a risk to take on.
But not old enough to be already settled down with children and responsibilities, frightened to take the leap of faith and risk what they had already gained in life.
All of them fascinated with what was in front of them, and on their own paths to becoming household names in computing, making them richer than anyone could hope to be.
So we are building quite a list of dots on the Join Up Dots timeline, and of course the Steve Jobs biography.
We can now add perfect timing of his birth, to the perfect location, an interest in electronics, questioning mind, and a passion to go against the norm.
We can almost see already, the Steve Jobs that we would see a few years later, in the young man huddled over a box of wires and fuses.
But no matter how inspired and intellectual a person is, they will need the support of others.
And Steve Jobs found this when he was introduced to Steve Wozniak, who became his future business partner.
The two hit it off straight away, and as Wozniak spoke about in a 2007 interview, it was obvious from the start that the two had similar outlooks and passions. Passions that back in the early years of the 1970’s very few people had.
As he says “We both loved electronics and the way we used to hook up digital chips. And very few people, especially back then, had any idea what chips were, how they worked and what they could do. I had designed many computers, so I was way ahead of him in electronics and computer design, but we still had common interests. We both had pretty much sort of an independent attitude about things in the world.”
And that was how Steve Jobs life was throughout High School. Limited interest in what was happening within the education system, but along with Wozniack fascinated and consumed by the potential outside its walls.
And now in the Steve Jobs biography we arrive at that definitive time in his life.
The definitive time in everyone’s life. They are now ready to go out into the world as young adults and create their own paths.
Would Steve Jobs follow the course that so many people follow and play it safe, getting a job just because it’s money in the bank, following in the footsteps of his father, or would he strive boldly into a new future, and create his legacy.
Well surprisingly Steve Jobs did neither, and even against a background off disinterest in studying and education, Steve Jobs enrolled in Reed College in Portland Oregon.
This appears a decision that was not well thought out, as Steve Jobs quickly realised that he wasn’t suited for further education and made the decision to drop out of college and do his own thing.
And that thing was to start attending classes that he thought would be interesting.
He would choose classes to attend, just because he was intrigued by their content, not because how they would look on his resume.
One of those classes, as Steve Jobs recounted once again in the Stanford Commencement address changed his life. The course was in calligraphy, and developed the love of typography that he brought to the world in such a dramatic and successful way with his first foray into the home computer market.
As he said to the students hanging on his every word on that day “None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But 10 years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it’s likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backward 10 years later.”
In 1974, the Steve Jobs biography shows, what you would think was a great starting point to his career as a computer genius, and the young Jobs accepted a position with the promising and innovative games company Atari, as a video game designer.
Atari would go onto to dominate the home games console market in the late seventies and early eighties, with children across the world clambering for one of these wooden boxes that they could plug into their television sets. The demand was astonishing.
But Steve Jobs would not play a big part of the success of the company, as just six months later he quit, to go and find himself by traveling the huge continent of India, high on drugs most of the time.
When he did return to the United States of America it was now 1976, Steve Jobs was twenty years old and about get serious about what he saw the future of home computing to be.
Alongside his friend Steve Wozniak, still spending hours and hours inside the Jobs family garage, they would create what would grow to become the most valuable company on Earth.
The two friends set to work experimenting with the knowledge that they had fostered, more often than not unknowingly throughout their lives.
The hours spent fiddling with chips, and electronic circuit boards as a hobby, now finding its true importance in their lives.
Which is of course one of the truths of every episode of Join Up Dots.
Perceived failures, or what seemed like pure time wastage can later on turn out to be the holder of the very thing that you are looking for.
And that was certainly the case with young Mr Steve Jobs.
However greatness does not appear without a belief and a willingness to take risks. And the Steve Jobs biography is littered with incidents where he seemed to have the desire to go further and quicker than anyone else around him would consider acceptable..
Selling his Volkswagen bus, whilst his friend Wozniak sold his beloved scientific computer they funded their fledgling enterprise, and began to work changing the world. Empowering every home to believe they could posses their own computer, which several years previously would have been thought an impossible dream.
With Jobs in charge of marketing— Apple, which they decided to call their untested enterprise, initially marketed the computers for $666.66 each. The Apple I earned the corporation around $774,000. Three years after the release of Apple’s second model, the Apple II, the company’s sales increased by 700 percent, to $139 million.
Not bad for two guys, who just three years before were unsure as to which direction their future would go.
However this was simply the beginning of what Apple was to become and in 1980, Apple Computer became a publicly traded company, with a market value of $1.2 billion.
By the end of its very first day of trading, and buoyed by its success Jobs looked to find someone with the business acumen and vision to drive the company to even greater heights, and made the decision to bring marketing expert John Sculley of Pepsi-Cola in as the President of Apple.
A decision that among all the decisions made in the Steve Jobs biography was as bad for Steve as it could possibly be.
A decision that would bring Steve Jobs to one of the lowest points of his life, being told to leave the company he had founded.
Steve Jobs was sacked from Apple.
As we had already discovered in Part One of the Join Up Dots take on the Steve Jobs story, he was born at the right time, the right place, with the right interests, and the rest as they say is history.
He co-founded Apple Computer when he was 21, and by the time he hit 23 was a millionaire.
In just two years, Steve Jobs had become a wildly successful, fabulously wealthy global celebrity.
Not bad for a man who just a few years before, had travelled the continent of India, unsure of his path in life, seeking spiritual enlightenment, whilst seeking as many mind altering drugs as he could get his hands on.
And then, at 30, Jobs had the kind of humiliating defeat that for so many would signal game over, he was made to leave the company that he had helped create.
He was in the most harshest of environments hung out to dry in the newspapers, and reports across the world.
Total humiliation was forced on a man who had became legendary, and it seemed could do no wrong.
But why persist to put yourself out there, and face the world’s media and consumers head on, if in all sense and purpose you had already made it, and could quite easily live the dream.
But Steve Jobs, was a man unable to seek an easy version of his future and as Alan Deutschman, author of “Change or Die, The Second Coming of Steve Jobs. tells
“Steve Jobs persisted, he had this incredible tenacity. He held on and came back with triumph after triumph, driving the company to new heights, creating the greatest corporate success of our time. It’s a unique story.”
So how did it occur?
How did everything that Steve Jobs had worked so hard to build, be taken away from him?
And looking back was this the key to his later success, or just another obstacle to climb over as he followed his passions and interests within the computer world.
Well we need to step back a few years in time, when this fledgling company was tittering on financial collapse to gain a clear understanding of the path that Steve Jobs was unknowingly about to undertake.
As amazing as it seems now Apple Computer was a home enterprise, and a bootstrapped company that was prone to the same issues that all new home start ups endure.
Cashflow is the killer of so many dreams, and to raise the money they needed to get the Apple II off the ground, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak knew that they needed to bring in investors.
Interested outside parties who had the kind of financial clout they needed to see their visions begin to prosper.
Finding these people in a myriad of locations, their much needed investments stabilised the company, and allowed the continued development of the Apple II, which just a few months previously had been in question.
However as the two Steve’s discovered during this period, most of the investors were not too keen to see their money handed over to the two computer whizzkids without some semblance of control on their part.
Why would you simply hand over the money for others to use as they see fit, if you also had business experience, and a background of success in the financial and industrial markets of the world, to help direct the returns from those investments?
Why wouldn’t you seek a place within the company to really keep things moving in your direction?
And that is what occurred, with many of the investors claiming themselves a place on the board.
And this is fascinating part to the Steve Jobs biography, to which you can clearly see the first division of the dreamer and activator Steve Jobs, and the board of Apple.
Moneymen, believed the way to grow a company was to protect the bottom line, and to hell with the vision of consumer perfection that so intoxicated the budding entrepreneur.
Make the products, shift the products and move on.
Whilst Steve Jobs wanted to change the world and create a legacy.
The skills that Jobs would display in such astonishing fashion upon his return to Apple years later were sorely missing at this time, and the board were of the opinion that Steve Jobs was brilliant, but quite simply too young and temperamental to run the company.
He had not yet learned how to balance the desire and (occasional) ability to create insanely great products with the need to also ship them — preferably on time and on budget. The lack of this skill doomed not just Steve’s tenure as the head of Apple’s Mac division, but also one of his subsequent projects, NeXT.
And also as most young men are, he was headstrong, full of his own importance, and of the belief that his products were the key to the success of everything.
It was his god driven right to bring his ideals and visions to the world, which would be the saviour of the company.
Which in all honesty was probably right, but there is a way to go about bringing this desire for perfection to the world, which Steve Jobs had not mastered.
He was petulant, abrasive, and likely to steamroller the weaker members of his teams, even though he loved nothing more than people standing up to him. Even presenting awards to the one who showed this brave trait each year.
He would argue, shout, demand and put the most amazing pressure on his teams, with very few thriving, and many falling by the wayside.
In a fascinating interview many years later Steve Jobs reminisces about an old man who lived down the street when he was a young boy. The man showed him a rock tumbler, and he and Jobs went out and got a handful of plain old rocks, then put them into the can with liquid and grit powder. They closed up the rock tumbler, turned it on, and then the man told Jobs to “come back tomorrow.”
The next day, the man opened the can and inside were these “amazingly beautiful polished rocks. The same common stones that had gone in through rubbing against each other like this (clapping his hands), creating a little bit of friction, creating a little bit of noise, had come out these beautiful polished rocks.”
Jobs goes on to say how that is a “metaphor for a team that is working really hard on something they’re passionate about. It’s that through the team, through that group of incredibly talented people bumping up against each other, having arguments, having fights sometimes, making some noise, and working together they polish each other and they polish the ideas, and what comes out are these beautiful stones.”
People can only find their greatest strengths, and polish their inherent talents by being tested and challenged constantly. By being placed into the Steve Jobs tumblr they ultimately would find what they are capable of. Providing Steve Jobs and Apple with the kind of groundbreaking products that the world cannot get enough off.
So realising, that at that moment Steve Jobs was not the man the board wanted to run the company, Jobs himself set out to find someone that could demonstrate the skills, characteristics and behaviours that he would want in place of him.
And he found that very man, in 1983, when he recruited Pepsi executive John Sculley to run Apple, famously asking him “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water, or do you want a chance to change the world?”
John Sculley was inspired by these words and accepted this position. Not realising that less than three years later, he would also be changing Steve Jobs life too.
Things did not seem doomed for collision when the relationship was first formed, as both considered the other a close friend. Being on the same wavelength, it was a common occurrence for one to finish the sentences of the other.
They thrived in each other’s company and were seen to many as a dynamic duo that contributed greatly to the amazing press that the company was receiving across the world at that time.
They complemented each other personally, but professionally were very different.
They had their own responsibilities and demands on their time and energies that neither could possibly understand.
Within the walls of Apple there was no getting away from the fact that things were turning for the worse.
Jobs was Apple’s chief visionary, a role that put him in charge of the team developing Apple’s next revolutionary product, the Macintosh computer.
John Scully on the other hand, was interested in appeasing the views of the concerned board members who saw Jobs as a loose cannon, and ensuring that the vision of Jobs did not ultimately become the death warrant of Apple.
The Mac debuted in 1984 to rave reviews but disappointing sales, putting a financial strain on the company -– and fraying Jobs’ relationship with Sculley.
Jobs basically had created his own team to create his own product, the Macintosh. His team actually having its own building. He even flew the pirate flag there.
As he often would say, ‘It is better to be a pirate, than to be in the navy.’
What Steve Jobs had done was ultimately created a company-within-a-company, that became pitted against other parts of the company that actually made money. The cracks were growing wider and wider by the day.
The downfall came soon, when buoyed by Steve Jobs largely overestimated expectations of the Macintosh sales, they found that their euphoria about the revolutionary Mac, which they thought they would ship 80,000 units by the end of 1984, and had produced anything but euphoria.
They had built, developed and stored 80,000 computers ready for the rush, but encountered a return just a quarter of what was expected.
And not only was the figure disappointing, but so was the performance of the Macintosh, that Steve Jobs had deemed as perfection in the making.
In fact with its 128 KByte RAM it was not simply not powerful enough, and there were hardly any software applications available yet.
During the annual board meeting in 1985, it became clear that the work that Steve Jobs deemed as important was not as important to what truly mattered: the financial bottom line.
Compared to the continued sales of the Apple II, Steve Jobs new masterpiece only accounted for 30% of the sales of Apple. It was a dead duck, and to many simply not worth pursuing with.
Steve Jobs became more and more angry and aggressive because of the continuing drop in Macintosh sales, and made sure that he blamed everyone for its failure, other than himself.
So blinkered was he to the world he had created, that he couldn’t see what everyone else would consider to be obvious. The failure was not with the product, but was with Steve Jobs belief in the product. The problem was with him.
In the end, he blamed even Sculley for the crisis and wanted to lead the company himself. But this seemed impossible to everyone else: “Steve was a big thinker, an inspirational motivator, but not a day-to-day manager. What was sad was that he could not see it.”
When Sculley was informed that Jobs intended to remove him from the company, he was quite concerned, but then decided to choose the company’s welfare over his friendship to its visionary co-founder.
Supported by Markkula and the other members of the board, in May 1985, he dismissed Steve from his positions as the vice-president and as the leader of the Macintosh division; Jobs did not have any managerial power anymore.
The record books make it clear that Steve Jobs wasn’t sacked, but was demoted. But such was his ego, and love for his creation that is a mute point.
Steve Jobs could no longer be seen as someone that could make the company fly high. His wings had been severely clipped, and now like the Macintosh was a dead duck. Perhaps not dead, but a shadow of what he had been previously.
Jobs, took awhile to decide on his next move, and by and large spent much of 1985 travelling around Europe and the Soviet Union under the orders of Sculley promoting the Apple II.
It was during these endless journeys that Steve Jobs lost interest in what he was doing. He lost interest in the company that he had co-founded. He was depressed and lost.
The charismatic young man from just a few month previously forgotten. He stopped coming to work and resigned from Apple
Jobs said during the speech at Stanford in 1985 that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that ever happened to him. “The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything,” he said.
“It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life; I’m pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn’t been fired from Apple,” Jobs said. “It was awful-tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it.”
And so started the third part of the Steve Jobs biography. The ability for him to assess, refocus, play, and learn from his weaknesses.
It was during this period when Steve Jobs, as we see everyday on the Join Up Dots interviews, came back stronger than ever. The darkest periods of his life, showed him the light that would lead him to blaze even more brightly than he had thought possible.
He would change from the petulant, abrasive, visionary, to as John Sculley himself says “The Greatest CEO the world has ever known”
But how did he do this?
How did Steve Jobs pull himself from the dark despair that hung all around him, and start to fight back? A despair so intense that some of his close friends were worried for his safety, and considered his moods suicidal in their depth.
Once again, as we need to do time and time again with this tale, we need to step back a few months to review the version of Steve Jobs who hadn’t yet decided on his next move.
The Steve Jobs that was still struggling to come to terms with his demotion from Apple, but not yet brave enough to walk away.
The telling part of the story, is the period when Steve Jobs began failing to turn up for work, and started looking around him.
Freed in many ways from the constraints of his responsibilities, he had time to think.
“Apple was founded when Steve was just 21 years old. So he never really had time to think about big picture, life issues. He obsessed on the same questions over and over: “What went wrong with Apple. What did I do wrong?”
It was an important question to ask, and within its few words would hold the answer to his true world changing legacy, ready to be unleashed on the world twelve years later.
After Jobs returned from the Apple II tour, he met with The Graphics Group, a team of 3D computer graphics technicians gathered by Star Wars director George Lucas.
Steve Jobs began to believe that the high-end 3D graphics business was going to be huge. “These guys were way ahead of anybody,” he said. “I just knew in my bones that this was going to be very important.”
He suggested to the Apple board that it consider buying the company — later called Pixar — from LucasFilm. But the board wasn’t paying attention to Steve anymore, and less than graciously decided to pass on the deal.
Jobs then floated. He spent more time with his daughter Lisa. He gardened. He mused about running for public office. He applied to fly on the Space Shuttle as a civilian, but that didn’t work out.
He went to Europe on business, but made time for museums. He spent a lot of time by himself, or with his girlfriend.
In Europe Steve Jobs met with heads of state, university presidents, artists. He’d been humbled in California, but was having his ego stroked in Europe, where he was still thought of as a “revolutionary business figure.”
Although none of these conversations, and museum visits were on their own important, they were in fact a series of dots, leading to the big dot.
The one that would create the inspiration within him, to go again.
Ready to return to the U.S. hungry for the next big thing.
He began meeting with scientists, who were telling him that they needed a personal computer with enough power for real research and modeling — “a radically new high-end computer ‘workstation.’”
Although far way from the Jobs family garage, where Apple was born, the same passion and ability for creative thinking was ready to ignite again.
Steve Jobs was on the march, and went straight into the boardroom of Apple, to declare that he was leaving start a new company, and would also be taking some low-level Apple employees with him.
And what came next, was NeXT.
Steve had arrived at a crossroads in his life.
After his spectacular rise to the top with Apple, things had turned sour, and he was looking for something to reignite his passions and of course his fortunes.
He was still a very rich man, but for the first time in his life had the stigma of failure hanging over him. This was quite unfair in many regards, but as we see time and time again, the world likes nothing more than pushing a person to the top of the pile, and then delighting as they fall back to earth with the rest of us.
As the story goes, Steve Jobs had returned from one of his many business trips to Europe promoting the Apple II and met a very old friend of his, Nobel prize winner Paul Berg From Stanford University.
The two old friends discussed Bergs work, and it became clear to Steve Jobs that this could be the thing he was looking for. The reason to build a new company thereby restoring the Apple boards faith in him.
His friend told him about his work on DNA, and inquired whether the molecules could be simulated on computers. Steve told him No, but that didn’t mean that it wasn’t possible.
And those possibilities excited him greatly.
Instead of focusing in on the home computer market as he had previously, he would instead build a supercomputer for the higher education and scientific markets. He did his research as to the computer capabilities he would need, and became even more excited by what he discovered.
Steve Jobs, was reinventing the wheel and giving the world something that no one else could, and as we have already seen he was not short of ego, which is why there is no surprise that the idea appealed so much.
However, if Steve Jobs had gone further and researched whether the higher education and scientific markets would actually be interested in buying such a super computer, he might have had a very different reaction to the concept.
Hindsight as they say, is a wonderful thing.
He was still an employee at Apple, so enthusiastically informed the board of his idea. And on the 13th of September 1985 boldly described the vision he had for the computer, the company, and of course himself.
Everything went well at first, and the board sided with his enthusiasm, even willing to invest in the plans that Steve Jobs had presented to them. That enthusiasm however was short lived, when Jobs started detailing who he would take with him to the new company. This is when the board of Apple turned bitter.
He advised that he would go away with Bud Tribble, the first Mac programmer; George Crow, a key Mac hardware engineer; Rich Page, who had supervised almost all of Apples’ development; Dan’l Lewin, and Susan Barnes, an MBA in finance.
Steve Jobs had presented these people as “Low-level”, but it was clear to all that they were anything but. These employees were integral to the future progress of Apple Computers, and the board felt threatened. With no other option and determined to push ahead with his idea, Steve Jobs resigned from Apple.
Next Computers was born, and it did not start easily.
The minute it was created, the six co-founders found themselves sued by their former employer, Apple. The fruit company was accusing them of stealing their technology. As a result, for its first year or so of existence, the new company could not work on any product in particular, since there was a chance they would lose the trial and give all the technologies they had worked on back to Apple. This didn’t phase Jobs at all, and in the meantime he set up to build the perfect company.
Building a new company from scratch needed huge investment which Steve Jobs for once had at his disposal. After his departure from Apple, Steve had sold almost all of his stock out of disgust. So by early 1986, he was sitting on more than $100 million. These were very different times from the earlier bootstrapping of Apple. He no longer needed to entice the investment of others to his new venture. This was going to be his baby. He was very much back in control.
Steve Jobs knew one thing and he did it better than most: When it came to recruiting he ensured that quality and integrity were at the top of his wishlist. He only recruited those individuals that were classed as extremely bright. Next even used to state that even their receptionist had a PHD, and one thing was certain, there was a buzz around silicon valley about this new start up. The hype was growing by the day, and Steve Jobs added more and more computer whizzkids, and extremely intelligent folk to the list of employees ready to create the next big thing in computing. Next appeared very much the place to be.
What made this remarkable was the company couldn’t work on anything due to the dispute from Apple, and so were not making any income. The salaries, relocation, logo, equipment costs were all being paid out of Steve Jobs very deep pockets. Not bottomless by any stretch of the imagination, but being emptied at an astonishing rate.
Why did Steve Jobs do this? Was it to prove a point to his old employers, or was it to prove a point to the industry?
Whatever the reason it got him noticed and the word on the street was “look out he’s on his way back!”
At the same time as this was all happening, the Star Wars legend George Lucas, came calling to enquire whether Steve’s previous interest in his company, working within the motion picture industry was still alive. Steve Jobs had taken a huge interest in the work of the team at Pixar, and had even requested that the Apple board buy the company, but was refused.
But now with the value of the company being substantially less than he was once offered, he decided to take matters into his own hands and fork out for the computer animation team. Once again, whether this was a dig at his old work colleagues we don’t know, but Steve Jobs paid £10,000,000 of his own money to buy Pixar as nothing more than an expensive hobby. His real passion was for the Next cube,the super computer that would change the industry, not for a group of budding artists trying to make splash in Hollywood.
It continued to be a very expensive hobby for many years, with him funding it solely something that he was reluctant to do with his bigger passion Next. He finally started to look for outside investors for that company.
Fortunately for Steve Jobs and Next, the Apple dispute fizzled out, and they could actually start getting to work. This occurred mainly by their lack of new creation. Holding back on working on anything new, appeared to be a very good decision
NeXT still didn’t have a business plan or concrete plans for its first product. Apple’s case was based on NeXT’s raiding of senior Macintosh executives and conspiring to use the confidential knowledge Jobs and the others had about upcoming Apple projects (like BigMac).
And that is where it faltered, Apple couldn’t then pinpoint any specific trade secrets that NeXT had violated, because they hadn’t. A week later, Apple came back with a list of twenty complaints but failed to demonstrate how NeXT had any plans against Apple.
The case proved to be a major embarrassment for Apple and just provided Next and of course Steve Jobs, with a great deal of free publicity: A true win win.
When we look back at Steve Jobs time working on The Next cube we can see quite clearly, two major flaws:
One was Steve’s personal obsession with perfection. Everything from the typeface. to the casing had to be perfect. That perfection only made it a pain to build: from the perfect right angles to its materials to its color, it was extremely complicated — and therefore expensive — to put together.
In addition, Steve had made a point on also designing a “beautiful” board for the Cube. All the electronic components, which are usually on several different pieces of plastic, were melded on a single square board that the chairman Steve Jobs considered as beautiful as the case itself. However it was a strenuous problem for engineers to solve.
The costs escalated beyond anything that a school or higher education department could afford. Steve Jobs obsession with making it cutting edge and radically ahead of its time was to be its ultimate failure. He had built the technological equivalent of the Ipad thirty years too soon.
No matter which way they turned, Next and Steve Jobs hit a brick wall. And through all the twists and turns, delays caused the development of what had been cutting edge two years previously to no longer be seen as such. The competitors had quietly brought their cheaper and user friendly machines to market and had killed any escape route that Next had. Steve Jobs had fallen further from grace, and now was being seen as a liability instead of a maverick and technological genius.
Interestingly the forgotten hobby Pixar had started making some progress. Only small steps but enough for the people at Disney to take an interest.
In the early 90’s times were hard at Pixar, and the company had survived several threats by Steve Jobs to cut his losses and close the whole thing down. But for some reason or another, he still persisted with its vision.
Pixar failed nine times over by normal standards, but Steve didn’t want another failure to be placed on his resume, so he kept writing the checks. He would have sold the company to anybody in a moment, and in fact tried very very hard to do just that, but the bottom line was he wanted to cover his loss of $50 million.
In March 1991, he declared he would continue to keep funding it only if he were given back all of the employees’ stock shares. The scheme involved shutting the company down on paper, and creating a “new Pixar” where he was the sole owner. He also fired almost half the staff, keeping only the software programmers as well as Lasseter’s animation department — which was, by then, the only part of the company to bring cash in, thanks to its work in TV advertisement.
The hardware that the company had developed to enable others to create the same groundbreaking animation was classed as finished. Disney who had an investment in the company could never understand why they should be funding a system to teach others to animate. They controlled animation, and certainly wanted to keep it that way.
Nearly twenty odd years after starting the company, the team at Pixar were given a lifeline. After receiving a few awards, and even an Oscar for a short animated film, Disney gave them the greenlight to go for the big one…..a full length computer animated movie.
Steve Jobs negotiated a three movie contract with Disney, and arranged to keep 12.5% percent of ticket sales received. Little did he know, as he had limited experience in the movie industry, that he had made a very bad deal. But I suppose a bad deal is better than no deal, and after years of self funding the unit, he was about to see money at last come his way. Or so he thought.
Toy Story was put into development, and like all things in Steve’s life, at that time, became a lot harder to get the product to the customer than he expected.
1993, was now upon us, and without doubt this was the year when everything that Steve Jobs had dreamt, worked on, and developed crumbled in front of him.
A year that many people couldn’t have imagined happening ten years previously, when Jobs could do no wrong.
Whether Steve Jobs had dwelled on the same dark realisations we can only guess, but it was at an end. He was 38 years old and at his lowest point ever.
Next computers crashed around him.
It began in January 1992, when Steve Jobs made the decision to allow the advanced operating systems to be used in his competitor’s machines. He had taken the view that the uniqueness of what he had created would need to be shared, if he had any chance of saving the company.
This was the first sign of the true failure to come for Steve, although many experts had the view that he should have done this from the very beginning. However Jobs was looking to create the system of all systems. The kind of processing speed that would leave all his competitors in the shade. Not to help them in their journeys also. The death warrant had been signed.
At the same time in an ironic retelling of a previous dot in Jobs life, things got even worse. COO Van Cuylenburg, who was hired by Steve Jobs, betrayed him in a cruel reminiscence of what had happened at Apple some seven years earlier.
Van Cuylenberg had phoned up NeXT’s competitor Sun, and asked its CEO Scott McNealy to buy NeXT and install him as manager of the new company getting rid of Jobs. Fortunately, McNealy had some sense of honor and told Steve about the outrage. Van Cuylenburg left, but Steve was completely devastated by everything that was going on around him.
How could this have happened?
How could all his hard work and investment end up in such a way?
How could it be that everyone of the company’s co-founders, except George Crow would abandon him.
He was Steve Jobs, the genius who had created an industry from nothing. A man who had lit up silicon valley and blazed a path across the world.
What had he done to deserve all this at once?
Next was finished, and in an even crueler twist of fate, his other venture Pixar was in serious trouble too. The lifeline that had been grabbed at when making the deal with Disney was slipping away from them. Disney’s Katzenberg had seen what the company had created, and quite simply hated Woody, Buzz Lightyear and all the other characters which we now see as classics.
Together with the majority of Disney’s creative staff, he declared that the characters were unappealing jerks and the dialogues inappropriately cynical for a children’s movie (while he was the one who pushed for such characteristics early in development). Pixar was back to making TV commercials just so it could survive — but it was obvious it would disappear if the work did not start again.
Steve Jobs had reached the bottom of his career. He had lost faith in himself, and disappeared behind the closed doors of his home, spending most of his days at home, playing with his two-year-old son.
Was there anyway that Steve Jobs could fight back from such a low point?
Could he recoup his investment, his self esteem, and be allowed to create the legacy that he so craved?
That part of the story will only come on part four of the Steve Jobs Biography.