Markkula and some others could never quite appreciate Jobs’s obsession with typography. “His knowledge of fonts was remarkable, and he kept insisting on having great ones,” Markkula recalled. “I kept saying, ‘Fonts?!? Don’t we have more important things to do?’” In fact the delightful assortment of Macintosh
fonts, when combined with laser-writer printing and great graphics capabilities, would help launch the desktop publishing industry and be a boon for Apple’s bottom line. It also introduced all sorts of regular folks, ranging
from high school journalists to moms who edited PTA newsletters, to the quirky joy of knowing about fonts, which was once reserved for printers, grizzled editors, and other ink-stained wretches.
The company’s first office, after it moved out of his family garage, was in a small building it shared with a Sony sales office. Sony was famous for its signature style and memorable product designs, so Jobs would drop by to
study the marketing material. “He would come in looking scruffy and fondle the product brochures and point out design features,” said Dan’l Lewin, who
worked there. “Every now and then, he would ask, ‘Can I take this brochure?’” By 1980, he had hired Lewin.
His fondness for the dark, industrial look of Sony receded around June 1981, when he began attending the annual International Design Conference in Aspen. The meeting that year focused on Italian style, and it featured the
architect-designer Mario Bellini, the filmmaker Bernardo Bertolucci, the car maker Sergio Pininfarina, and the Fiat heiress and politician Susanna Agnelli. “I had come to revere the Italian designers, just like
the kid in Breaking
Away reveres the Italian bikers,”
“so it was an amazing inspiration.”
Jobs from insisting that one of his suggestions had been ignored. “By the fourth model, I could barely distinguish it from the third one,” said Hertzfeld,
“but Steve was always critical and decisive, saying he loved or hated a detail that I could barely perceive.”
One weekend Jobs went to Macy’s in Palo Alto and again spent time studying appliances, especially the Cuisinart. He came bounding into the Mac office that Monday, asked the design team to go buy one, and made a raft of new suggestions based on its lines, curves, and bevels.
simple. Really simple.” Apple’s design mantra would remain the one featured on its first brochure: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
Jobs felt that design simplicity should be linked to making products easy to use. Those goals do not always go together. Sometimes a design can be so sleek and simple that a user finds it intimidating or unfriendly to navigate.
“The main thing in our design is that we have to make things intuitively obvious,” Jobs told the crowd of design mavens. For example, he extolled the desktop metaphor he was creating for the Macintosh. “People know how to
deal with a desktop intuitively. If you walk into an office, there are papers on the desk. The one on the top is the most important. People know how to
switch priority. Part of the reason we model our computers on metaphors like the desktop is that we can leverage this experience people already have.”
Speaking at the same time as Jobs that Wednesday afternoon, but in a smaller seminar room, was Maya Lin, twenty-three, who had been catapulted into fame the previous November when her Vietnam Veterans Memorial was
dedicated in Washington, D.C. They struck up a close friendship, and Jobs invited her to visit Apple. “I came to work with Steve for a week,” Lin
recalled. “I asked him, ‘Why do computers look like clunky TV sets? Why don’t you make something thin? Why not a flat laptop?’”
Jobs replied that this
was indeed his goal,
as soon as the
technology was ready.
“No, that’s not right,” Ferris replied. “The lines should be voluptuous, like a Ferrari.”
“Not a Ferrari, that’s not right either,” Jobs countered. “It should be more like a Porsche!” Jobs owned a Porsche 928 at the time. When Bill Atkinson was over one weekend, Jobs brought him outside to admire the car. “Great art
stretches the taste, it doesn’t follow tastes,” he told Atkinson. He also admired the design of the Mercedes. “Over the years, they’ve made the lines softer but the details starker,” he said one day as he walked around the parking lot. “That’s what we have to do with the Macintosh.”
by Canon to build the machine he wanted. “It was the Canon Cat, and it was a total flop,” Atkinson said. “Nobody wanted it. When Steve turned the Mac into a compact version of the Lisa, it made it into a computing platform instead of a consumer electronic device.”1
He is a dreadful manager. . . . I have always liked Steve, but I have found it impossible to work for him. . . . Jobs
regularly misses appointments. This is so well-known as to be almost a running joke. . . . He acts without thinking and
with bad judgment. . . . He does not give credit where due. . . . Very often, when told of a new idea, he will immediately attack it and say that it is worthless or
even stupid, and tell you that it was a waste of time to work on it. This alone is bad management, but if the idea is a good one he will soon be telling people about it as though it was his own.
That afternoon Scott called in Jobs and Raskin for a showdown in front of Markkula. Jobs started crying. He and Raskin agreed on only one thing: Neither
could work for the other one. On the Lisa project, Scott had sided with Couch. This time he decided it was best to let Jobs win. After all, the Mac was a minor
development project housed in a distant building that could keep Jobs occupied away from the main campus. Raskin was told to take a leave of absence. “They
wanted to humor me and give me something to do, which was fine,” Jobs recalled. “It was like going
garage for me.
back to the
I was in control.”
At that time there was not much exciting happening in the realm of industrial design, Jobs felt. He had a Richard Sapper lamp, which he admired, and he also liked the furniture of Charles and Ray Eames and the Braun products of
Dieter Rams. But there were no towering figures energizing the world of industrial design the way that Raymond Loewy and Herbert Bayer had done. “There really wasn’t much going on in industrial design, particularly in Silicon Valley, and Steve was very eager to change that,” said Lin. “His design
sensibility is sleek but not slick, and it’s playful. He embraced minimalism, which came from his Zen devotion to simplicity, but he avoided allowing that to make his products cold. They stayed fun. He’s passionate and super-serious about design, but at the same time there’s a sense of play.”
things harder. He would keep the picture fuzzy until someone touched the antenna. Eventually he would make people
think they had to hold the antenna while standing on one foot or touching the top of the set. Years later, at a keynote
presentation where he was having his own trouble getting a video to work, Jobs broke from his script and recounted
the fun they had with the device. “Woz would have it in his pocket and we’d go into a dorm . . .
where a bunch of folks would be, like, watching Star Trek, and he’d screw up the TV,
and someone would go up to fix it, and just as they had the foot off the ground he would turn it back on,
and as they put their foot back on the ground he’d screw it up again.” Contorting himself into a pretzel onstage, Jobs
concluded to great laughter, “And within five minutes he would have someone like this.”
The Blue Box
The ultimate combination of pranks and electronics—and the escapade that helped to create Apple—was
launched one Sunday afternoon when Wozniak read an article in Esquire that his mother had left for him
on the kitchen table. It was September 1971, and he was about to drive off the next day to Berkeley,
his third college. The story, Ron Rosenbaum’s “Secrets of the Little Blue Box,” described how hackers and
phone phreakers had found ways to make long-distance calls for free by replicating the tones that routed
signals on the AT&T network. “Halfway through the article, I had to call my best friend, Steve Jobs, and
read parts of this long article to him,” Wozniak recalled. He knew
that Jobs, then beginning
his senior year, was
one of the few people who
would share his excitement.
No one had ever created a digital version of a Blue Box, but
Woz was made for the challenge. Using diodes and transistors
from Radio Shack, and with the help of a music student in his
dorm who had perfect pitch, he got it built before Thanksgiving.
“I have never designed a circuit I was prouder of,” he said. “I still think it was incredible.”
One night Wozniak drove down from Berkeley to Jobs’s house
to try it. They attempted to call Wozniak’s uncle in Los Angeles,
but they got a wrong number. It didn’t matter; their device had
worked. “Hi! We’re calling you for free! We’re calling you for free!”
Wozniak shouted. The person on the other end was confused and annoyed. Jobs chimed in,
“We’re calling from California! From California! With a Blue Box.” This probably
baffled the man even more, since he was also in California.
At first the Blue Box was used for fun and pranks. The most daring of these was
when they called the Vatican and Wozniak pretended to be Henry Kissinger
wanting to speak to the pope. “Ve are at de summit meeting in Moscow,
and ve need to talk to de pope,” Woz intoned. He was told that it was 5:30 a.m. and
the pope was sleeping. When he called back, he got a bishop who was supposed
to serve as the translator. But they never actually got the pope on the line.
“They realized that Woz wasn’t Henry Kissinger,” Jobs recalled. “We were at a public phone booth.”
It was then that they reached an important milestone, one that would
establish a pattern in their partnerships: Jobs came up with the idea that
the Blue Box could be more than merely a hobby; they could build and sell them.
“I got together the rest of the components, like the casing and power supply and
keypads, and figured out how we could price it,” Jobs said, foreshadowing roles he
would play when they founded Apple. The finished product was about the size of two
decks of playing cards.
The parts cost about $40,
and Jobs decided they
should sell it for $150.
In February 1974, after eighteen months of hanging around Reed,
Jobs decided to move back to his parents’ home in Los Altos and look
for a job. It was not a difficult search. At peak times during the 1970s,
the classified section of the San Jose Mercury carried up to sixty pages
of technology help-wanted ads. One of those caught Jobs’s eye.
“Have fun, make money,” it said. That day Jobs walked into the lobby
of the video game manufacturer Atari and told the personnel director,
who was startled by his unkempt hair and attire, that he
wouldn’t leave until they gave him a job.
Atari’s founder was a burly entrepreneur named Nolan Bushnell,
who was a charismatic visionary with a nice touch of showmanship
in him—in other words, another role model waiting to be emulated.
After he became famous, he liked driving around in a Rolls, smoking dope,
and holding staff meetings in a hot tub. As Friedland had done and as Jobs
would learn to do, he was able to turn charm into a cunning force, to cajole
and intimidate and distort reality with the power of his personality.
His chief engineer was Al Alcorn, beefy and jovial and a bit more grounded,
the house grown-up trying to implement the vision and curb the enthusiasms
of Bushnell. Their big hit thus far was a video game called Pong, in which two
players tried to volley a blip on a screen with two movable lines that acted as
paddles. (If you’re under thirty, ask your parents.)
When Jobs arrived in the Atari lobby wearing sandals and demanding a job,
Alcorn was the one who was summoned. “I was told, ‘We’ve got a hippie
kid in the lobby.
He says he’s not going to leave until
we hire him. Should we call
the cops or let him in?’
I said bring him on in!”
Following the lead of other phone phreaks such as Captain Crunch,
they gave themselves handles. Wozniak became “Berkeley Blue,”
Jobs was “Oaf Tobark.” They took the device to college dorms and
gave demonstrations by attaching it to a phone and speaker. While the
potential customers watched, they would call the Ritz in London or a dial-a-joke service in Australia.
“We made a hundred or so Blue Boxes and sold almost all of them,” Jobs recalled.
The fun and profits came to an end at a Sunnyvale pizza parlor. Jobs and Wozniak
were about to drive to Berkeley with a Blue Box they had just finished making. Jobs
needed money and was eager to sell, so he pitched the device to some guys at the next table.
They were interested, so Jobs went to a phone booth and demonstrated it with a call to Chicago.
The prospects said they had to go to their car for money. “So we walk over to the car, Woz and me,
and I’ve got the Blue Box in my hand, and the guy gets in, reaches under the seat, and he pulls out a gun,”
Jobs recounted. He had never been that close to a gun, and he was terrified. “So he’s pointing the gun right at
my stomach, and he says, ‘Hand it over, brother.’ My mind raced. There was the car door here, and I thought
maybe I could slam it on his legs and we could run, but there was this high probability that he would shoot me.
So I slowly handed it to him, very carefully.” It was a weird sort of robbery. The guy who took the Blue
Box actually gave Jobs a phone number and said he would try to pay for it if it worked. When Jobs later called
the number, the guy said he couldn’t figure out how to use it. So Jobs, in his felicitous way, convinced the guy
to meet him and Wozniak at a public place. But they ended up deciding not to have another encounter with
the gunman, even on the off chance they could get their $150.
The partnership paved the way for what would be a bigger adventure together. “If it hadn’t been for the
Blue Boxes, there wouldn’t have been an Apple,” Jobs later reflected. “I’m 100% sure of that. Woz and
I learned how to work together, and we gained the confidence that we could solve technical problems and
partnership that would soon be born. Wozniak would be the gentle wizard coming up with a neat invention
that he would have been happy just to give away, and Jobs would figure out how to
make it user-friendly,
put it together
in a package, market it,
and make a few bucks.
Jobs thus became one of the first fifty employees at Atari,
working as a technician for $5 an hour. “In retrospect,
it was weird to hire a dropout from Reed,” Alcorn recalled.
“But I saw something in him. He was very intelligent, enthusiastic,
excited about tech.” Alcorn assigned him to work with a straitlaced
engineer named Don Lang. The next day Lang complained,
“This guy’s a goddamn hippie with b.o. Why did you do this to me?
And he’s impossible to deal with.” Jobs clung to the belief that his fruit-heavy
vegetarian diet would prevent not just mucus but also body odor,
even if he didn’t use deodorant or shower regularly. It was a flawed theory.
Lang and others wanted to let Jobs go, but Bushnell worked out a solution.
“The smell and behavior wasn’t an issue with me,” he said. “Steve was prickly,
but I kind of liked him. So I asked him to go on the night shift. It was a way
to save him.” Jobs would come in after Lang and others had left and work through most
of the night. Even thus isolated, he became known for his brashness.
On those occasions when he happened to interact with others, he was prone
to informing them that they were “dumb shits.” In retrospect, he stands
by that judgment. “The only reason I shone was that everyone else was so bad,” Jobs recalled.
Despite his arrogance (or perhaps because of it) he was able to charm Atari’s boss.
“He was more philosophical than the other people I worked with,” Bushnell recalled.
“We used to discuss free will versus determinism. I tended to believe that things
were much more determined, that we were programmed. If we had perfect information,
we could predict people’s actions. Steve felt the opposite.” That outlook accorded
with his faith in the power of the will to bend reality.
Jobs helped improve some of the games by pushing the chips to produce fun designs,
and Bushnell’s inspiring willingness to play by his own rules rubbed off on him.
In addition, he intuitively appreciated the simplicity of Atari’s games. They came
with no manual and needed to be uncomplicated enough that a stoned freshman could
figure them out. The only
instructions for Atari’s Star
Trek game were “1. Insert
quarter. 2. Avoid Klingons.”
Jobs was enthralled by Raskin’s vision, but not by his willingness to make compromises to keep down the cost. At one point in the fall of 1979 Jobs told him instead to focus on building what he repeatedly called an “insanely great”
product. “Don’t worry about price, just specify the computer’s abilities,” Jobs told him. Raskin responded with a sarcastic memo. It spelled out everything you would want in the proposed computer:
sick, a really high fever. I dropped from 160 pounds to 120 in about a week.”
Once he got healthy enough to move, he decided that he needed to get out
of Delhi. So he headed to the town of Haridwar, in western India near the
source of the Ganges, which was having a festival known as the Kumbh Mela.
More than ten million people poured into a town that usually contained fewer
than 100,000 residents. “There were holy men all around. Tents with this teacher
and that teacher. There were people riding elephants, you name it. I was there
for a few days, but I decided that I needed to get out of there too.”
He went by train and bus to a village near Nainital in the foothills of the Himalayas.
That was where Neem Karoli Baba lived, or had lived. By the time Jobs got there,
he was no longer alive, at least in the same incarnation. Jobs rented a room with a
mattress on the floor from a family who helped him recuperate by feeding him
vegetarian meals. “There was a copy there of Autobiography of a Yogi in English that
a previous traveler had left, and I read it several times because there was not a lot to do,
and I walked around from village to village and recovered from my dysentery.”
Among those who were part of the community there was Larry Brilliant, an
epidemiologist who was working to eradicate smallpox and who
later ran Google’s
philanthropic arm and the Skoll
Foundation. He became
Jobs’s lifelong friend.
he challenged Burrell Smith, without telling Raskin, to make a redesigned prototype that used the more powerful chip. As his hero Wozniak would have done, Smith threw himself into the task around the clock, working nonstop for
three weeks and employing all sorts of breathtaking programming leaps. When he succeeded, Jobs was able to force the switch to the Motorola 68000, and Raskin had to brood and recalculate the cost of the Mac.
making kits and shipping them to Munich, where they were built into
finished machines and distributed by a wholesaler in Turin. But there was
a problem: Because the games were designed for the American rate of sixty
frames per second, there were frustrating interference problems in Europe,
where the rate was fifty frames per second. Alcorn sketched out a fix with Jobs
and then offered to pay for him to go to Europe to implement it. “It’s got to be
cheaper to get to India from there,” he said. Jobs agreed. So Alcorn sent him on his
way with the exhortation, “Say hi to your guru for me.”
Jobs spent a few days in Munich, where he solved the interference problem,
but in the process he flummoxed the dark-suited German managers. They
complained to Alcorn that he dressed and smelled like a bum and behaved rudely.
“I said, ‘Did he solve the problem?’ And they said, ‘Yeah.’ I said, ‘If you got any more
problems, you just call me, I got more guys just like him!’ They said,
‘No, no we’ll take care of it next time.’” For his part, Jobs was upset that the
Germans kept trying to feed him meat and potatoes. “They don’t even have a word for
vegetarian,” he complained (incorrectly) in a phone call to Alcorn.
He had a better time when he took the train to see the distributor in Turin,
where the Italian pastas and his host’s camaraderie were more simpatico. “
I had a wonderful couple of weeks in Turin, which is this charged-up industrial town,”
he recalled. “The distributor took me every night to dinner at this place where there
were only eight tables and no menu. You’d just tell them what you wanted, and they made it.
One of the tables was on reserve for the chairman of Fiat. It was really super.” He next
went to Lugano, Switzerland,
where he stayed with
Friedland’s uncle, and from
there took a flight to India.