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!”
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.
Raskin’s former student Bill Atkinson sided with Jobs. They both wanted a powerful processor that could support whizzier graphics and the use of a mouse.
“Steve had to take the project away from Jef,” Atkinson said. “Jef was pretty firm and stubborn, and Steve was right to take it over. The world got a better result.”
“Ron was an amazing guy,” said Jobs. “He started companies.
I had never met anybody like that.” He proposed to Wayne
that they go into business together; Jobs said he could borrow
$50,000, and they could design and market a slot machine.
But Wayne had already been burned in business, so he declined.
“I said that was the quickest way to lose $50,000,” Wayne recalled,
“but I admired the fact that he had a burning drive to start his own business.”
One weekend Jobs was visiting Wayne at his apartment, engaging as they
often did in philosophical discussions, when Wayne said that there was
something he needed to tell him. “Yeah, I think I know what it is,”
Jobs replied. “I think you like men.” Wayne said yes. “It was my
first encounter with someone who I knew was gay,” Jobs recalled.
“He planted the right perspective of it for me.” Jobs grilled him:
“When you see a beautiful woman, what do you feel?” Wayne replied,
“It’s like when you look at a beautiful horse. You can appreciate it, but you
don’t want to sleep with it. You appreciate beauty for what it is.”
Wayne said that it is a testament to Jobs that he felt like revealing this to
him. “Nobody at Atari knew, and I could count on my toes and fingers
the number of people I told in my whole life. But I guess it just felt right to
tell him, that he would understand, and it didn’t have any effect on our relationship.”
One reason Jobs was eager to make some money in early 1974 was that
Robert Friedland, who had gone to India the summer before, was urging
him to take his own spiritual journey there. Friedland had studied in India with
Neem Karoli Baba (Maharaj-ji), who had been the guru to much of the sixties
hippie movement. Jobs decided he should do the same, and he recruited
Daniel Kottke to go with him. Jobs was not motivated by mere adventure.
“For me it was a serious search,” he said. “I’d been turned on to the idea of
enlightenment and trying to figure out who I was and how I fit into things.”
Kottke adds that Jobs’s quest seemed
driven partly by not
knowing his birth parents.
“There was a hole in him,
and he was trying to fill it.”
Throughout 1979 and early 1980 the Macintosh project led a tenuous existence. Every few months it would almost get killed off, but each time
Raskin managed to cajole Markkula into granting clemency. It had a research team of only four engineers located in the original Apple office space next to the Good Earth restaurant, a few blocks from the company’
and I was very hungry.” As Jobs was eating, the holy man—who was
not much older than Jobs—picked him out of the crowd, pointed at him,
and began laughing maniacally. “He came running over and grabbed me
and made a tooting sound and said, ‘You are just like a baby,’” recalled Jobs.
“I was not relishing this attention.” Taking Jobs by the hand, he led him
out of the worshipful crowd and walked him up to a hill, where there was
a well and a small pond. “We sit down and he pulls out this straight razor.
I’m thinking he’s a nutcase and begin to worry. Then he pulls out a bar
of soap—I had long hair at the time—and he lathered up my hair and shaved
my head. He told me that he was saving my health.”
Daniel Kottke arrived in India at the beginning of the summer, and Jobs
went back to New Delhi to meet him. They wandered, mainly by bus, rather
aimlessly. By this point Jobs was no longer trying to find a guru who could impart
wisdom, but instead was seeking enlightenment through ascetic experience,
deprivation, and simplicity. He was not able to achieve inner calm.
Kottke remembers him getting into a furious shouting match with a
Hindu woman in a village marketplace who, Jobs alleged, had been
watering down the milk she was selling them.
Yet Jobs could also be generous. When they got to the town of Manali,
Kottke’s sleeping bag was stolen with his traveler’s checks in it.
“Steve covered my food expenses and bus ticket back to
Delhi,” Kottke recalled.
He also gave Kottke
the rest of his own money,
$100, to tide him over.
When Jobs was looking for someone to write a manual for the Apple II in 1976, he called Raskin, who had his own little consulting firm. Raskin went to the
garage, saw Wozniak beavering away at a workbench, and was convinced by Jobs to write the manual for $50. Eventually he became the manager of Apple’s
publications department. One of Raskin’s dreams was to build an inexpensive computer for the masses, and in 1979 he convinced Mike Markkula to put him in charge
to pick him up. They immediately drove up from Los Altos. “
My head had been shaved, I was wearing Indian cotton robes,
and my skin had turned a deep, chocolate brown-red from the sun,”
he recalled. “So I’m sitting there and my parents walked past me about
five times and finally my mother came up and said ‘Steve?’ and I said ‘Hi!’”
They took him back home, where he continued trying to find himself.
It was a pursuit with many paths toward enlightenment. In the mornings
and evenings he would meditate and study Zen, and in between he would
drop in to audit physics or engineering courses at Stanford.
Jobs’s interest in Eastern spirituality, Hinduism, Zen Buddhism,
and the search for enlightenment was not merely the passing phase
of a nineteen-year-old. Throughout his life he would seek to follow
many of the basic precepts of Eastern religions, such as the emphasis
on experiential praj?ā, wisdom or cognitive understanding that is intuitively
experienced through concentration of the mind. Years later, sitting in his
Palo Alto garden, he reflected on the lasting influence of his trip to India:
Coming back to America was, for me, much more of a cultural shock than
going to India. The people in the Indian countryside don’t use their intellect
like we do, they use their intuition instead, and their intuition is far more
developed than in the rest of the world. Intuition is a very powerful thing,
than intellect, in my
opinion. That’s had
a big impact on my work.
Jobs said. “They had a life they were happy with.”
Their only splurge was to take a Princess cruise each year.
The one through the Panama Canal “was the big one for my dad,”
according to Jobs, because it reminded him of when his
Coast Guard ship went through on its way to
San Francisco to be decommissioned.
Jobs confided to close friends that he was driven by the pain he was feeling
about being put up for adoption and not knowing about his birth parents.
“Steve had a very profound desire to know his physical parents so he could
better know himself,” Friedland later said. He had learned from Paul and
Clara Jobs that his birth parents had both been graduate students at a university
and that his father might be Syrian. He had even thought about hiring
a private investigator, but he decided not to do so for the time being.
“I didn’t want to hurt my parents,” he recalled, referring to Paul and Clara.
“He was struggling with the fact that he had been adopted,” according to
Elizabeth Holmes. “He felt that it was an issue that he needed to get hold
of emotionally.” Jobs admitted as much to her. “This is something that is
bothering me, and I need to focus on it,” he said. He was even more open with
Greg Calhoun. “He was doing a lot of soul-searching about being adopted, and
he talked about it with me a lot,” Calhoun recalled. “The primal scream and the
mucusless diets, he was trying to cleanse himself and get deeper into his
frustration about his birth. He told me he was deeply angry about the
fact that he had been given up.”
John Lennon had undergone the same primal scream therapy in 1970,
and in December of that year he released the song “Mother” with the
Plastic Ono Band. It dealt with Lennon’s own feelings about a father who
had abandoned him and a mother who had been killed when he was a teenager.
The refrain includes
the haunting chant “
Mama don’t go, Daddy come
home.” Jobs used to
play the song often.
hatever the truth, Wozniak later insisted that it
was not worth rehashing. Jobs is a complex person,
he said, and being manipulative is just the darke
facet of the traits that make him successful. Wozniak
would never have been that way, but as he points out,
he also could never have built Apple.
“I would rather let it pass,” he said when I pressed the point.
“It’s not something I want to judge Steve by.”
He confirmed his memory with Nolan
Bushnell and Al Alcorn. “I remember
talking about the bonus money to Woz,
and he was upset,” Bushnell said. “I said yes,
there was a bonus for each chip they saved,
and he just shook his head and
then clucked his tongue.”
In addition to their interest in computers,
they shared a passion for music.
“It was an incredible time for music,”
Jobs recalled. “It was like living at a time when
Beethoven and Mozart were alive. Really. People
will look back on it that way. And Woz and I were
deeply into it.” In particular, Wozniak turned Jobs
on to the glories of Bob Dylan.
“We tracked down this guy in Santa Cruz who put
out this newsletter on Dylan,” Jobs said. “Dylan
taped all of his concerts, and some of the people
around him were not scrupulous, because soon
there were tapes all around. Bootlegs of everything.
And this guy had them all.”
Hunting down Dylan tapes soon became a joint
venture. “The two of us would go tramping through
San Jose and Berkeley and ask about Dylan bootlegs
and collect them,” said Wozniak. “We’d buy brochures
of Dylan lyrics and stay up late interpreting them.
Dylan’s words struck chords of creative thinking.”
Added Jobs, “I had more than a hundred hours,
including every concert on the ’65 and ’66 tour,”
the one where Dylan went electric. Both of them
bought high-end TEAC reel-to-reel tape decks.
“I would use mine at a low speed to record many
concerts on one tape,” said Wozniak.
Jobs matched his obsession:
“Instead of big speakers I bought a pair
of awesome headphones and would just
lie in my bed and listen to that stuff for hours.”
Jobs had formed a club at Homestead High to
put on music-and-light shows and also play
pranks. (They once glued a gold-painted toilet
seat onto a flower planter.) It was called the
Buck Fry Club, a play on the name of the principal.
Even though they had already graduated, Wozniak
and his friend Allen Baum joined forces with Jobs,
at the end of his junior year, to produce a farewell
gesture for the departing seniors. Showing off the
Homestead campus four decades later, Jobs paused
at the scene of the escapade and pointed. “See that
balcony? That’s where we did the banner prank that
sealed our friendship.” On a big bedsheet Baum had
tie-dyed with the school’s green and white colors,
they painted a huge hand flipping the middle-finger
salute. Baum’s nice Jewish mother helped them draw
it and showed them how to do the shading and
shadows to make it look more real.
“I know what that is,” she snickered. They devised a
system of ropes and pulleys so that it could be
dramatically lowered as the graduating class
marched past the balcony, and they signed it
“SWAB JOB,” the initials of Wozniak and Baum
combined with part of Jobs’
s name. The prank
became part of school
lore—and got Jobs
suspended one more time.
Bushnell agreed. “There is something indefinable in an entrepreneur,
and I saw that in Steve,” he said. “He was interested not just in
engineering, but also the business aspects. I taught him that if you
act like you can do something, then it will work. I told him, ‘Pretend
to be completely in control and people will assume that you are.’”
Much of the work was done in the garage of a friend just around the corner,
Bill Fernandez, who was still at Homestead High. To lubricate their efforts, they drank large amounts of Cragmont cream
soda, riding their bikes to the Sunnyvale Safeway to return the bottles, collect the deposits, and buy more. “That’s how we started referring to it as the Cream Soda Computer,” Wozniak recalled.
It was basically a calculator capable of multiplying numbers entered by a set of switches and displaying the results in binary code with little lights.
When it was finished, Fernandez told Wozniak there was someone at Homestead High he should meet. “His name is Steve. He likes to do pranks like you do, and he’s also into building electronics like you are.” It may have been the most significant meeting in a Silicon Valley garage since Hewlett went into
Packard’s thirty-two years earlier. “Steve and I just sat on the sidewalk in front of Bill’s house for the longest time, just sharing stories—mostly about pranks we’d pulled, and also what kind of electronic designs we’d done,” Wozniak recalled. “We had so much in common. Typically, it was really hard for me to
explain to people what kind of design stuff I worked on, but Steve got it right away. And I liked him. He was kind of skinny and wiry and full of energy.” Jobs was also impressed. “Woz was the first
person I’d met who knew more electronics than I did,” he once said, stretching his own expertise. “I liked him right away. I was a little more mature than my years, and he was a little less
mature than his, so it
evened out. Woz was
very bright, but
emotionally he was my age.”