Article

New book describes Steve Jobs as a bully, "a complicated and exhausting man"

by Rachel Ogbu

“Steve Jobs”, the title of a new biography on the Apple founder gives an insightful peek into the many questions that surrounded the genius’s life. Questions like ‘What is the purpose of a sofa?’, ‘…Did we care most about getting our wash done in an hour versus an hour and a half?’, ‘…did we care most about our clothes feeling really soft and lasting longer?’, Steve Job’s wife,  Laurene Powell tells of how the family spent years talking about furniture in theory. Jobs’s sensibility was editorial, not inventive. His gift lay in taking what was in front of him—the tablet with stylus—and ruthlessly refining it.
Walter Isaacson’s biography on Jobs describes him as a complicated and exhausting man. Jobs, we learn, was a bully. “He had the uncanny capacity to know exactly what your weak point is, know what will make you feel small, to make you cringe,” a friend of his tells Isaacson.
Several example shows his not so noble side. Jobs gets his girlfriend pregnant, and then deny that the child is his. He parks in handicapped spaces. He screams at subordinates. He cries like a small child when he does not get his way. He gets stopped for driving a hundred miles an hour, honks angrily at the officer for taking too long to write up the ticket, and then resumes his journey at a hundred miles an hour. He sits in a restaurant and sends his food back three times. He arrives at his hotel suite in New York for press interviews and decides, at 10 P.M., that the piano needs to be repositioned, the strawberries are inadequate, and the flowers are all wrong: he wanted calla lilies. (When his public-relations assistant returns, at midnight, with the right flowers, he tells her that her suit is “disgusting.”) “Machines and robots were painted and repainted as he compulsively revised his colour scheme,” Isaacson writes.
So what really makes this man the role model and highly exalted mortal he has somehow become in death? Isaacson sounds baffled as to how much the world didn’t know about the man called Steve Jobs.  When Jobs returns to Apple in the late nineties after being ousted, most people expected that Jobs will emerge wiser and gentler from his tumultuous journey. He never does. In the hospital at the end of his life, he runs through sixty-seven nurses before he finds three he likes.
According to a review, in the eulogies that followed Jobs’s death, last month, he was repeatedly referred to as a large-scale visionary and inventor. But Isaacson’s biography suggests that he was much more of a tweaker. He borrowed the characteristic features of the Macintosh—the mouse and the icons on the screen—from the engineers at Xerox PARC.  Even within Apple, Jobs was known for taking credit for others’ ideas. Jonathan Ive, the designer behind the iMac, the iPod, and the iPhone, tells Isaacson, “He will go through a process of looking at my ideas and say, ‘That’s no good. That’s not very good. I like that one.’ And later I will be sitting in the audience and he will be talking about it as if it was his idea.”
The book claims that Jobs was someone who took other people’s ideas and changed them. But he did not like it when the same thing was done to him. In his mind, what he did was special.
I’ll know it when I see it. That was Jobs’s credo, and until he saw it,  his perfectionism kept him on edge.

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