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To think they can change 2 page

February 24, 1955—the designated couple decided that they wanted a girl and backed out. Thus it

was that the boy became the son not of a lawyer but of a high school dropout with a passion for

mechanics and his salt-of-the-earth wife who was working as a bookkeeper. Paul and Clara named

their new baby Steven Paul Jobs.

When Joanne found out that her baby had been placed with a couple who had not even

graduated from high school, she refused to sign

the adoption papers. The standoff lasted weeks, even after the baby had settled into the Jobs

household. Eventually Joanne relented, with the stipulation that the couple promise—indeed sign a

pledge—to fund a savings account to pay for the boy’s college education.

There was another reason that Joanne was balky about signing the adoption papers. Her father

was about to die, and she planned to marry Jandali soon after. She held out hope, she would later

tell family members, sometimes tearing up at the memory, that once they were married, she could

get their baby boy back.

Arthur Schieble died in August 1955, after the adoption was finalized. Just after Christmas that

year, Joanne and Abdulfattah were married in St. Philip the Apostle Catholic Church in Green

Bay. He got his PhD in international politics the next year, and then they had another child, a girl

named Mona. After she and Jandali divorced in 1962, Joanne embarked on a dreamy and

peripatetic life that her daughter, who grew up to become the acclaimed novelist Mona Simpson,

would capture in her book Anywhere but Here. Because Steve’s adoption had been closed, it

would be twenty years before they would all find each other.

Steve Jobs knew from an early age that he was adopted. “My parents were very open with me

about that,” he recalled. He had a vivid memory of sitting on the lawn of his house, when he was

six or seven years old, telling the girl who lived across the street. “So does that mean your real

parents didn’t want you?” the girl asked. “Lightning bolts went off in my head,” according to

Jobs. “I remember running into the house, crying. And my parents said, ‘No, you have to

understand.’ They were very serious and looked me straight in the eye. They said, ‘We

specifically picked you out.’ Both of my parents said that and repeated it slowly for me. And they

put an emphasis on every word in that sentence.”

Abandoned. Chosen. Special. Those concepts became part of who Jobs was and how he

regarded himself. His closest friends think that the knowledge that he was given up at birth left

some scars. “I think his desire for complete control of whatever he makes derives directly from his

personality and the fact that he was abandoned at birth,” said one longtime colleague, Del Yocam.

“He wants to control his environment,

and he sees the product as an extension of himself.” Greg Calhoun, who became close to Jobs

right after college, saw another effect. “Steve talked to me a lot about being abandoned and the

pain that caused,” he said. “It made him independent. He followed the beat of a different



drummer, and that came from being in a different world than he was born into.”

Later in life, when he was the same age his biological father had been when he abandoned him,

Jobs would father and abandon a child of his own. (He eventually took responsibility for her.)

Chrisann Brennan, the mother of that child, said that being put up for adoption left Jobs “full of

broken glass,” and it helps to explain some of his behavior. “He who is abandoned is an

abandoner,” she said. Andy Hertzfeld, who worked with Jobs at Apple in the early 1980s, is

among the few who remained close to both Brennan and Jobs. “The key question about Steve is

why he can’t control himself at times from being so reflexively cruel and harmful to some

people,” he said. “That goes back to being abandoned at birth. The real underlying problem was

the theme of abandonment in Steve’s life.”

Jobs dismissed this. “There’s some notion that because I was abandoned, I worked very hard so

I could do well and make my parents wish they had me back, or some such nonsense, but that’s

ridiculous,” he insisted. “Knowing I was adopted may have made me feel more independent, but I

have never felt abandoned. I’ve always felt special. My parents made me feel special.” He would

later bristle whenever anyone referred to Paul and Clara Jobs as his “adoptive” parents or implied

that they were not his “real” parents. “They were my parents 1,000%,” he said. When speaking

about his biological parents, on the other hand, he was curt: “They were my sperm and egg bank.

That’s not harsh, it’s just the way it was, a sperm bank thing, nothing more.”

Silicon Valley

The childhood that Paul and Clara Jobs created for their new son was, in many ways, a stereotype

of the late 1950s. When Steve was two they adopted a girl they named Patty, and three years later

they moved to a tract house in the suburbs. The finance company where Paul worked as a repo

man, CIT, had transferred him down to its Palo Alto office, but he could not afford to live there,

so they landed in a subdivision in Mountain View, a less expensive town just to the south.

There Paul tried to pass along his love of mechanics and cars. “Steve, this is your workbench

now,” he said as he marked off a section of the table in their garage. Jobs remembered being

impressed by his father’s focus on craftsmanship. “I thought my dad’s sense of design was pretty

good,” he said, “because he knew how to build anything. If we needed a cabinet, he would build

it. When he built our fence, he gave me a hammer so I could work with him.”

Fifty years later the fence still surrounds the back and side yards of the house in Mountain

View. As Jobs showed it off to me, he caressed the stockade panels and recalled a lesson that his

father implanted deeply in him. It was important, his father said, to craft the backs of cabinets and

fences properly, even though they were hidden. “He loved doing things right. He even cared about

the look of the parts you couldn’t see.”

His father continued to refurbish and resell used cars, and he festooned the garage with pictures

of his favorites. He would point out the detailing of the design to his son: the lines, the vents, the

chrome, the trim of the seats. After work each day, he would change into his dungarees and retreat

to the garage, often with Steve tagging along. “I figured I could get him nailed down with a little

mechanical ability, but he really wasn’t interested in getting his hands dirty,” Paul later recalled.

“He never really cared too much about mechanical things.”

“I wasn’t that into fixing cars,” Jobs admitted. “But I was eager to hang out with my dad.” Even

as he was growing more aware that he had been adopted, he was becoming more attached to his

father. One day when he was about eight, he discovered a photograph of his father from his time

in the Coast Guard. “He’s in the engine room, and he’s got his shirt off and looks like James Dean.

It was one of those Oh wow moments for a kid. Wow, oooh, my parents were actually once very

young and really good-looking.”

Through cars, his father gave Steve his first exposure to electronics. “My dad did not have a

deep understanding of electronics, but he’d

encountered it a lot in automobiles and other things he would fix. He showed me the rudiments

of electronics, and I got very interested in that.” Even more interesting were the trips to scavenge

for parts. “Every weekend, there’d be a junkyard trip. We’d be looking for a generator, a

carburetor, all sorts of components.” He remembered watching his father negotiate at the counter.

“He was a good bargainer, because he knew better than the guys at the counter what the parts

should cost.” This helped fulfill the pledge his parents made when he was adopted. “My college

fund came from my dad paying $50 for a Ford Falcon or some other beat-up car that didn’t run,

working on it for a few weeks, and selling it for $250—and not telling the IRS.”

The Jobses’ house and the others in their neighborhood were built by the real estate developer

Joseph Eichler, whose company spawned more than eleven thousand homes in various California

subdivisions between 1950 and 1974. Inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s vision of simple modern

homes for the American “everyman,” Eichler built inexpensive houses that featured floor-toceiling

glass walls, open floor plans, exposed post-and-beam construction, concrete slab floors,

and lots of sliding glass doors. “Eichler did a great thing,” Jobs said on one of our walks around

the neighborhood. “His houses were smart and cheap and good. They brought clean design and

simple taste to lower-income people. They had awesome little features, like radiant heating in the

floors. You put carpet on them, and we had nice toasty floors when we were kids.”

Jobs said that his appreciation for Eichler homes instilled in him a passion for making nicely

designed products for the mass market. “I love it when you can bring really great design and

simple capability to something that doesn’t cost much,” he said as he pointed out the clean

elegance of the houses. “It was the original vision for Apple. That’s what we tried to do with the

first Mac. That’s what we did with the iPod.”

Across the street from the Jobs family lived a man who had become successful as a real estate

agent. “He wasn’t that bright,” Jobs recalled, “but he seemed to be making a fortune. So my dad

thought, ‘I can do that.’ He worked so hard, I remember. He took these night classes, passed the

license test, and got into real estate. Then the bottom fell out

of the market.” As a result, the family found itself financially strapped for a year or so while

Steve was in elementary school. His mother took a job as a bookkeeper for Varian Associates, a

company that made scientific instruments, and they took out a second mortgage. One day his

fourth-grade teacher asked him, “What is it you don’t understand about the universe?” Jobs

replied, “I don’t understand why all of a sudden my dad is so broke.” He was proud that his father

never adopted a servile attitude or slick style that may have made him a better salesman. “You had

to suck up to people to sell real estate, and he wasn’t good at that and it wasn’t in his nature. I

admired him for that.” Paul Jobs went back to being a mechanic.

His father was calm and gentle, traits that his son later praised more than emulated. He was also

resolute. Jobs described one example:

Nearby was an engineer who was working at Westinghouse. He was a single guy, beatnik type. He had

a girlfriend. She would babysit me sometimes. Both my parents worked, so I would come here right

after school for a couple of hours. He would get drunk and hit her a couple of times. She came over one

night, scared out of her wits, and he came over drunk, and my dad stood him down—saying “She’s

here, but you’re not coming in.” He stood right there. We like to think everything was idyllic in the

1950s, but this guy was one of those engineers who had messed-up lives.

What made the neighborhood different from the thousands of other spindly-tree subdivisions

across America was that even the ne’er-do-wells tended to be engineers. “When we moved here,

there were apricot and plum orchards on all of these corners,” Jobs recalled. “But it was beginning

to boom because of military investment.” He soaked up the history of the valley and developed a

yearning to play his own role. Edwin Land of Polaroid later told him about being asked by

Eisenhower to help build the U-2 spy plane cameras to see how real the Soviet threat was. The

film was dropped in canisters and returned to the NASA Ames Research Center in Sunnyvale, not

far from where Jobs lived. “The first computer terminal I ever saw was when my dad brought me

to the Ames Center,” he said. “I fell totally in love with it.”

Other defense contractors sprouted nearby during the 1950s. The Lockheed Missiles and Space

Division, which built submarine-launched ballistic missiles, was founded in 1956 next to the

NASA Center; by the time Jobs moved to the area four years later, it employed twenty thousand

people. A few hundred yards away, Westinghouse built facilities that produced tubes and

electrical transformers for the missile systems. “You had all these military companies on the

cutting edge,” he recalled. “It was mysterious and high-tech and made living here very exciting.”

In the wake of the defense industries there arose a booming economy based on technology. Its

roots stretched back to 1938, when David Packard and his new wife moved into a house in Palo

Alto that had a shed where his friend Bill Hewlett was soon ensconced. The house had a garage—

an appendage that would prove both useful and iconic in the valley—in which they tinkered

around until they had their first product, an audio oscillator. By the 1950s, Hewlett-Packard was a

fast-growing company making technical instruments.

Fortunately there was a place nearby for entrepreneurs who had outgrown their garages. In a

move that would help transform the area into the cradle of the tech revolution, Stanford

University’s dean of engineering, Frederick Terman, created a seven-hundred-acre industrial park

on university land for private companies that could commercialize the ideas of his students. Its

first tenant was Varian Associates, where Clara Jobs worked. “Terman came up with this great

idea that did more than anything to cause the tech industry to grow up here,” Jobs said. By the

time Jobs was ten, HP had nine thousand employees and was the blue-chip company where every

engineer seeking financial stability wanted to work.

The most important technology for the region’s growth was, of course, the semiconductor.

William Shockley, who had been one of the inventors of the transistor at Bell Labs in New Jersey,

moved out to Mountain View and, in 1956, started a company to build transistors using silicon

rather than the more expensive germanium that was then commonly used. But Shockley became

increasingly erratic and abandoned his silicon transistor project, which led eight of his engineers—

most notably Robert Noyce and Gordon Moore—to

break away to form Fairchild Semiconductor. That company grew to twelve thousand

employees, but it fragmented in 1968, when Noyce lost a power struggle to become CEO. He took

Gordon Moore and founded a company that they called Integrated Electronics Corporation, which

they soon smartly abbreviated to Intel. Their third employee was Andrew Grove, who later would

grow the company by shifting its focus from memory chips to microprocessors. Within a few

years there would be more than fifty companies in the area making semiconductors.

The exponential growth of this industry was correlated with the phenomenon famously

discovered by Moore, who in 1965 drew a graph of the speed of integrated circuits, based on the

number of transistors that could be placed on a chip, and showed that it doubled about every two

years, a trajectory that could be expected to continue. This was reaffirmed in 1971, when Intel was

able to etch a complete central processing unit onto one chip, the Intel 4004, which was dubbed a

“microprocessor.” Moore’s Law has held generally true to this day, and its reliable projection of

performance to price allowed two generations of young entrepreneurs, including Steve Jobs and

Bill Gates, to create cost projections for their forward-leaning products.

The chip industry gave the region a new name when Don Hoefler, a columnist for the weekly

trade paper Electronic News, began a series in January 1971 entitled “Silicon Valley USA.” The

forty-mile Santa Clara Valley, which stretches from South San Francisco through Palo Alto to San

Jose, has as its commercial backbone El Camino Real, the royal road that once connected

California’s twenty-one mission churches and is now a bustling avenue that connects companies

and startups accounting for a third of the venture capital investment in the United States each year.

“Growing up, I got inspired by the history of the place,” Jobs said. “That made me want to be a

part of it.”

Like most kids, he became infused with the passions of the grown-ups around him. “Most of

the dads in the neighborhood did really neat stuff, like photovoltaics and batteries and radar,” Jobs

recalled. “I grew up in awe of that stuff and asking people about it.” The most important of these

neighbors, Larry Lang, lived seven doors away. “He was my model of what an HP engineer was

supposed to be: a big ham radio

operator, hard-core electronics guy,” Jobs recalled. “He would bring me stuff to play with.” As

we walked up to Lang’s old house, Jobs pointed to the driveway. “He took a carbon microphone

and a battery and a speaker, and he put it on this driveway. He had me talk into the carbon mike

and it amplified out of the speaker.” Jobs had been taught by his father that microphones always

required an electronic amplifier. “So I raced home, and I told my dad that he was wrong.”

“No, it needs an amplifier,” his father assured him. When Steve protested otherwise, his father

said he was crazy. “It can’t work without an amplifier. There’s some trick.”

“I kept saying no to my dad, telling him he had to see it, and finally he actually walked down

with me and saw it. And he said, ‘Well I’ll be a bat out of hell.’”

Jobs recalled the incident vividly because it was his first realization that his father did not know

everything. Then a more disconcerting discovery began to dawn on him: He was smarter than his

parents. He had always admired his father’s competence and savvy. “He was not an educated man,

but I had always thought he was pretty damn smart. He didn’t read much, but he could do a lot.

Almost everything mechanical, he could figure it out.” Yet the carbon microphone incident, Jobs

said, began a jarring process of realizing that he was in fact more clever and quick than his

parents. “It was a very big moment that’s burned into my mind. When I realized that I was smarter

than my parents, I felt tremendous shame for having thought that. I will never forget that

moment.” This discovery, he later told friends, along with the fact that he was adopted, made him

feel apart—detached and separate—from both his family and the world.

Another layer of awareness occurred soon after. Not only did he discover that he was brighter

than his parents, but he discovered that they knew this. Paul and Clara Jobs were loving parents,

and they were willing to adapt their lives to suit a son who was very smart—and also willful. They

would go to great lengths to accommodate him. And soon Steve discovered this fact as well.

“Both my parents got me. They felt a lot of responsibility once they sensed that I was special.

They found ways to keep feeding me stuff and putting me in better schools. They were willing to

defer to my needs.”

So he grew up not only with a sense of having once been abandoned, but also with a sense that

he was special. In his own mind, that was more important in the formation of his personality.

School

Even before Jobs started elementary school, his mother had taught him how to read. This,

however, led to some problems once he got to school. “I was kind of bored for the first few years,

so I occupied myself by getting into trouble.” It also soon became clear that Jobs, by both nature

and nurture, was not disposed to accept authority. “I encountered authority of a different kind than

I had ever encountered before, and I did not like it. And they really almost got me. They came

close to really beating any curiosity out of me.”

His school, Monta Loma Elementary, was a series of low-slung 1950s buildings four blocks

from his house. He countered his boredom by playing pranks. “I had a good friend named Rick

Ferrentino, and we’d get into all sorts of trouble,” he recalled. “Like we made little posters

announcing ‘Bring Your Pet to School Day.’ It was crazy, with dogs chasing cats all over, and the

teachers were beside themselves.” Another time they convinced some kids to tell them the

combination numbers for their bike locks. “Then we went outside and switched all of the locks,

and nobody could get their bikes. It took them until late that night to straighten things out.” When

he was in third grade, the pranks became a bit more dangerous. “One time we set off an explosive

under the chair of our teacher, Mrs. Thurman. We gave her a nervous twitch.”

Not surprisingly, he was sent home two or three times before he finished third grade. By then,

however, his father had begun to treat him as special, and in his calm but firm manner he made it

clear that he expected the school to do the same. “Look, it’s not his fault,” Paul Jobs told the

teachers, his son recalled. “If you can’t keep him interested, it’s your fault.” His parents never

punished him for his transgressions at school. “My father’s father was an alcoholic and whipped

him with a belt, but I’m not sure if I ever got spanked.” Both of his parents, he added, “knew the

school was at fault for trying to make me memorize stupid stuff rather than stimulating me.” He

was already starting to show the admixture of sensitivity and insensitivity, bristliness and

detachment, that would mark him for the rest of his life.

When it came time for him to go into fourth grade, the school decided it was best to put Jobs

and Ferrentino into separate classes. The teacher for the advanced class was a spunky woman

named Imogene Hill, known as “Teddy,” and she became, Jobs said, “one of the saints of my life.”

After watching him for a couple of weeks, she figured that the best way to handle him was to bribe

him. “After school one day, she gave me this workbook with math problems in it, and she said, ‘I

want you to take it home and do this.’ And I thought, ‘Are you nuts?’ And then she pulled out one

of these giant lollipops that seemed as big as the world. And she said, ‘When you’re done with it,

if you get it mostly right, I will give you this and five dollars.’ And I handed it back within two

days.” After a few months, he no longer required the bribes. “I just wanted to learn and to please

her.”

She reciprocated by getting him a hobby kit for grinding a lens and making a camera. “I learned

more from her than any other teacher, and if it hadn’t been for her I’m sure I would have gone to

jail.” It reinforced, once again, the idea that he was special. “In my class, it was just me she cared

about. She saw something in me.”

It was not merely intelligence that she saw. Years later she liked to show off a picture of that

year’s class on Hawaii Day. Jobs had shown up without the suggested Hawaiian shirt, but in the

picture he is front and center wearing one. He had, literally, been able to talk the shirt off another

kid’s back.

Near the end of fourth grade, Mrs. Hill had Jobs tested. “I scored at the high school sophomore

level,” he recalled. Now that it was clear, not only to himself and his parents but also to his

teachers, that he was intellectually special, the school made the remarkable proposal that he skip

two grades and go right into seventh; it would be the easiest way to keep him challenged and

stimulated. His parents decided, more sensibly, to have him skip only one grade.

The transition was wrenching. He was a socially awkward loner who found himself with kids a

year older. Worse yet, the sixth grade

was in a different school, Crittenden Middle. It was only eight blocks from Monta Loma

Elementary, but in many ways it was a world apart, located in a neighborhood filled with ethnic

gangs. “Fights were a daily occurrence; as were shakedowns in bathrooms,” wrote the Silicon

Valley journalist Michael S. Malone. “Knives were regularly brought to school as a show of

macho.” Around the time that Jobs arrived, a group of students were jailed for a gang rape, and the

bus of a neighboring school was destroyed after its team beat Crittenden’s in a wrestling match.

Jobs was often bullied, and in the middle of seventh grade he gave his parents an ultimatum. “I

insisted they put me in a different school,” he recalled. Financially this was a tough demand. His

parents were barely making ends meet, but by this point there was little doubt that they would

eventually bend to his will. “When they resisted, I told them I would just quit going to school if I

had to go back to Crittenden. So they researched where the best schools were and scraped together

every dime and bought a house for $21,000 in a nicer district.”

The move was only three miles to the south, to a former apricot orchard in Los Altos that had

been turned into a subdivision of cookie-cutter tract homes. Their house, at 2066 Crist Drive, was

one story with three bedrooms and an all-important attached garage with a roll-down door facing

the street. There Paul Jobs could tinker with cars and his son with electronics.

Its other significant attribute was that it was just over the line inside what was then the

Cupertino-Sunnyvale School District, one of the safest and best in the valley. “When I moved

here, these corners were still orchards,” Jobs pointed out as we walked in front of his old house.

“The guy who lived right there taught me how to be a good organic gardener and to compost. He

grew everything to perfection. I never had better food in my life. That’s when I began to

appreciate organic fruits and vegetables.”

Even though they were not fervent about their faith, Jobs’s parents wanted him to have a

religious upbringing, so they took him to the Lutheran church most Sundays. That came to an end

when he was thirteen. In July 1968 Life magazine published a shocking cover

showing a pair of starving children in Biafra. Jobs took it to Sunday school and confronted the

church’s pastor. “If I raise my finger, will God know which one I’m going to raise even before I

do it?”

The pastor answered, “Yes, God knows everything.”

Jobs then pulled out the Life cover and asked, “Well, does God know about this and what’s

going to happen to those children?”

“Steve, I know you don’t understand, but yes, God knows about that.”

Jobs announced that he didn’t want to have anything to do with worshipping such a God, and

he never went back to church. He did, however, spend years studying and trying to practice the

tenets of Zen Buddhism. Reflecting years later on his spiritual feelings, he said that religion was at

its best when it emphasized spiritual experiences rather than received dogma. “The juice goes out

of Christianity when it becomes too based on faith rather than on living like Jesus or seeing the

world as Jesus saw it,” he told me. “I think different religions are different doors to the same

house. Sometimes I think the house exists, and sometimes I don’t. It’s the great mystery.”

Paul Jobs was then working at Spectra-Physics, a company in nearby Santa Clara that made

lasers for electronics and medical products. As a machinist, he crafted the prototypes of products

that the engineers were devising. His son was fascinated by the need for perfection. “Lasers

require precision alignment,” Jobs said. “The really sophisticated ones, for airborne applications

or medical, had very precise features. They would tell my dad something like, ‘This is what we

want, and we want it out of one piece of metal so that the coefficients of expansion are all the

same.’ And he had to figure out how to do it.” Most pieces had to be made from scratch, which

meant that Paul had to create custom tools and dies. His son was impressed, but he rarely went to


Date: 2015-12-17; view: 146


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