Some thoughts about Steve Jobs

Question from Mark B.

I was just browsing through your website and I just thought I'd offer my two cents and ask you a question regarding Pirates of Silicon Valley.

The main character in the movie seems to be Steve Jobs, described by the director in an interview as a complex Shakespearean character. While this maybe true, I found your character equally compelling, and ironically, an opposite in many respects to Steve Jobs in desires and ambitions. After reading your comments and seeing the movie, I came away with a greater sense of the history at Apple, and your your significant role, to create revolutionary rather than evolutionary products. It was interesting for me to see that, although computers can perform many of the same functions, Apple's early focus on creativity (both at Apple and in there users) remains as compelling today as it was back then. Kudos to you for defining the essence of Apple early on.

I guess, if I could ask one question: Why was Steve Jobs so cruel, especially with regards to his own child? The director eluded to his adoption and the search for his mother but no evidence for a link was ever given. Is this one of those things that only Steve Jobs knows the answer to? Did you ever get any insight to the source of this behavior? I have to believe this is beyond the simple desire to have people perform at 110% for 90 hrs/wk.

Thanks again for creating and defining a tool millions of people can use to learn, express, and communicate ideas.

Sincerely, Mark B.


First, you are accurately observant. I look back at the importance of making computers quite unlike any that had ever been done and can see how great that was. The Apple I was the first low cost computer to come with an alphanumeric keyboard standard. I just couldn't see the waste and effort to build some general techie product that needed a lot more junk to start typing. And until you type, nothing is worth much. I'd been through the other computer paradigm my whole life before. Also, our calculators at HP had meaningful (to humans) keyboards when turned on. I also made the Apple I display on the cheapest device possible, your own home TV. I also wrote the BASIC for it. I only left out floating point after thinking hard in order to have the first BASIC for a 6502 and maybe get a little fame in my club. The Apple ][ was the first to have BASIC in ROM, the first to have DRAMs, expandable hugely on the motherboard, the first to have so few chips, the first to be completely built, the first with a plastic case, the first with color graphics, the first with hi-res, the first with sound, the first with paddles for games, the first to include built-in casette interface, the first to have color and game commands in the BASIC, etc. It was the third ever to look like a typewriter (the Apple I was the first). I'm especially that I helped the concept of computers are for games develop so early.

Steve and I are very different. Mainly, I want to be an engineer and make neat things for my own fun, forever. I told Steve and Mike Markkula that I wouldn't expand Apple into a real company because I had to quit HP (I'd designed all the Apple stuff moonlighting for a year!). I loved HP. But I finally realized that I could do it and not have to run it. From the start, Steve wanted to run a company and learn the ways to. Otherwise, what was his contribution? He didn't design any of it.

Steve's management style has left a lot of bad impressions. I never saw it personally and it was different than I would have expected from knowing him. I don't think that he was ever cruel to his daughter, at least as far as the movie. He may have indirectly been cruel to the mother. Well, here's my take on that. All the people that lived in the Cupertino house with the two of them agreed that it was Steve's child for sure. I'm assuming he didn't like her idea to have the baby. But he wasn't in control. I think that's why he said "I don't know" about why he was being this way. He couldn't pinpoint the fact that he was being told by someone else what was going to happen. Does this make sense. It's my theory. Taking that into account, it's understandable. He had strong feelings to fight this baby thing and it came out the way it came out, maybe not exactly intentionally.

I don't get a lot of insight into Steve's behavior. A lot of it, or what infuences it, is more secret than in people like myself. But he always seems to be thinking well and just wanting to do things that make sense most of the time. Sometimes Steve doesn't listen fully but he tries to.

I admire you more than Steve Jobs or Bill Gates.

Comment from E-mail

I just saw "Pirates of Silicon Valley" on TNT. I have enjoyed using computers for several years, but I was unaware of all the things that took place between Micorsoft and Apple. I just wanted to tell you that if the movie was accurate, I admire you more than Steve Jobs or Bill Gates. You are incredibly talented and you kept everything in perspective. Keep up the good work.


The personalities and incidents are accurate in the sense that they all occured but they are often with the wrong parties (Bill Fernandez, Apple employee #4, was with me and the computer that burned up in 1970) and at the wrong dates (when John Sculley joined, he had to redirect attention from the Apple III, not the Mac, to the Apple ][ ) and places (Homebrew Computer Club was at Stanford Linear Accelerator Center).


I did give a lot of stock to employees that were with us from the beginning, etc. I also designed 2 computers (the Apple I being the first typewriter model with a keyboard ever and the Apple II being too spectacular to detail :o) ), a mini OS, app software, my own BASIC, lots of interfaces (cassette, printer, serial, modem, floppy) and more. Heck, in the movie Ed Roberts had the Altair computer KIT and Bill Gates and Paul Allen wrote the BASIC. That's the last real design any of the other principals did. The part about me being the only true engineer wasn't played out much.

Wouldn't you have made a great CEO?

Question from E-mail


Why didn't you go back to Apple after they fired Steve Jobs? Shouldn't you have gotten most of the credit since you created most of the things? Wouldn't you have made a great CEO?


I didn't totally quit. I always kept a small employment status at Apple. I should ALWAYS be a part of it. But I'm non-political and could not run a company or manage people well. Its not my thing.


Thanks for your confidence. I know that I'd have done things differently, but I wouldn't want to say that things would have turned out better. It's a hard question.


Many feel that I, the sole inventor and engineer of some incredible products and software and even our Apple ][ BASIC, that kicked this whole revolution off, deserves the most credit. Well, I'm happy that people and books generally accept me as a good engineer. I don't need the political credit. That seems to go with whoever is currently "in office" and that part is not for me.