Steve Jobs: Revelations from a tech giant
His products - the Mac, iPhone, iPad and others - forever changed the way we think about technology. But how should we think about the man behind them, Apple's hard-driving co-founder Steve Jobs? In the years before his death, Jobs granted biographer Walter Isaacson more than 40 interviews, many recorded on tape. The result, as Steve Kroft reveals in this two-part story, is a rich portrait of an extraordinary innovator, whose outsized talents were matched by very human limitations.
The following script is from "Steve Jobs" which aired on Oct. 23, 2011. Steve Kroft is the correspondent. Graham Messick, producer.
Seven years ago, Steve Jobs asked Walter Isaacson, a former editor of TIME Magazine, if he would write his biography. Isaacson, who has done books about Benjamin Franklin and Albert Einstein, thought the request presumptuous and premature, since Jobs was still a young man. What Isaacson didn't know at the time, and only a few people did, was that Jobs was about to undergo surgery for pancreatic cancer and was feeling his mortality. It speaks to the secrecy with which Jobs conducted his life and his business, adding mystery to an already compelling figure.
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In 2009, with Jobs already gravely ill, Isaacson began the first of more than 40 interviews with him - the last was conducted a few weeks before his death. Some of them were tape recorded and you will hear parts of them tonight. "I have no skeletons in my closet that can't be allowed out," Jobs said. And like a well-timed Apple launch, the book titled simply - "Steve Jobs" - will be in stores tomorrow just two-and-a-half weeks after he died.
When Walter Isaacson first began working on the book, which is published by Simon and Schuster, a division of CBS, Steve Jobs' wife, Laurene Powell, told him, "Be honest with his failings as well as his strengths. There are parts of his life and his personality that are extremely messy. You shouldn't whitewash it. I'd like to see that it's all told truthfully."
Walter Isaacson: He's not warm and fuzzy.
And to do it, Isaacson interviewed more than 100 people - Jobs' friends, family, co-workers and competitors.
Steve Kroft: I think it's a tough book.
Isaacson: It's a book that's fair. I mean, this is a real human being.
Kroft: He had lots of flaws.
Isaacson: He was very petulant. He was very brittle. He could be very, very mean to people at times. Whether it was to a waitress in a restaurant, or to a guy who had stayed up all night coding, he could just really just go at them and say, "You're doin' this all wrong. It's horrible." And you'd say, "Why did you do that? Why weren't you nicer?" And he'd say, "I really wanna be with people who demand perfection. And this is who I am."
Isaacson believes that much of it can be traced to the earliest years of his life, and to the fact that Jobs was born out of wedlock, given up by his birth parents, and adopted by a working class couple from Mountain View, California.
Isaacson: Paul Jobs was a salt-of-the-earth guy who was a great mechanic. And he taught his son Steve how to make great things. And he--once they were building a fence. And he said, "You got to make the back of the fence that nobody will see just as good looking as the front of the fence. Even though nobody will see it, you will know, and that will show that you're dedicated to making something perfect."
Jobs always knew he was adopted, but it still had a profound effect on him. He told Isaacson this story from his early childhood during one of their many taped interviews:
[Steve Jobs, audio: I was, I remember right here on the lawn, telling Lisa McMoylar from across the street that I was adopted. And she said, "So does that mean your real parents didn't want you?" Ooooh, lightning bolts went off in my head. I remember running into the house, I think I was like crying, asking my parents. And they sat me down and they said, "No, you don't understand. We specifically picked you out."]
Isaacson: He said, "From then on, I realized that I was not just abandoned. I was chosen. I was special." And I think that's the key to understanding Steve Jobs.
Another factor was geography. Jobs grew up in Northern California, not far from Palo Alto. He was a gifted child, who tested off the charts, in a neighborhood populated by engineers.
Isaacson: Yeah, he was raised in the place that was just learning how to turn silicon into gold. It had not yet been named Silicon Valley, but you had the defense industry, you had Hewlett-Packard. But you also had the counter-culture, the Bay Area. That entire brew came together in Steve Jobs. He was sort of a hippie-ish rebel kid, loved listening to Dylan music, dropped acid, but also he loved electronics.
Jobs would eventually cross paths with a computer wizard at Berkeley five years his senior named Steve Wozniak. They became fast friends, sharing a love of high tech pranks and a disdain for authority. One of the things they did was to copy and improve an illicit device called a "blue box," which reproduced the tones that the phone company used and allowed users to make free long distance phone calls.
Isaacson: Wozniak loves the "blue box," he's doing it as a prank. Steve says, "We can sell them. We can market them." And they sold about 100 of 'em, and Jobs said to me, "That's the beginning of Apple. When we started doing that 'blue box,' I knew that with Wozniak's brilliant designs and my marketing skills, we could sell anything."
That was still a few years off. Jobs enrolled at Reed College in Oregon at a time when Timothy Leary was telling students across the country to turn on, tune in and drop out. Jobs did after one semester.
[Steve Jobs, audio: The time we grew up in was a magical time. And it was also a very, you know, spiritual time in my life. Definitely taking LSD was one of the most important things in my life and not the most important. But right up there.]
He eventually drifted back to his parents' house and became one of the first 50 employees to work for the video game maker Atari. But he was not a big hit with his co-workers.
Kroft: He never wore shoes. Had very long hair. Never bathed. In fact, when he went to work for Atari they put him on the night shift because people said he smelled so bad that they didn't want to work with him.
Isaacson: You know, he believed that his vegan diet, and-- the way he lived made it so he didn't have to use deodorant or shower that often. It was an incorrect theory as people kept pointing out to him at Atari. You know, he was a pretty abrasive and in some ways, you know, cantankerous character. But these people at Atari, they kind of get him. And they say, "Well, we don't want you to leave, but how about working the night shift."
Jobs took a leave from Atari and spent seven months wandering across India looking for spiritual enlightenment. And it turned out not to be a waste of time.
Isaacson: And when he comes back he says, "The main thing I've learned is intuition, that the people in India are not just pure rational thinkers, that the great spiritual ones also have an intuition. Likewise, the simplicities of Zen Buddhism, really informed his design sense. That notion that simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.
When he returned from his trek, Jobs and Wozniak started building and peddling a primitive computer for hobbyists. With a $1,300 investment, they founded Apple computer in his parents' garage.
Kroft: Explain to me how somebody who was a hippie, a college dropout, somebody who drops LSD and marijuana goes off to India and comes back deciding he wants to be a businessman?
Isaacson: Jobs has within him sort of this conflict, but he doesn't quite see it as a conflict between being hippie-ish and anti-materialistic but wanting to sell things like Wozniak's board. Wanting to create a business. And I think that's exactly what Silicon Valley was all about in those days. Let's do a startup in our parents' garage and try to create a business.
Kroft: So we don't have to work for somebody else?
Isaacson: Right. And Steve Jobs wasn't all that eager to be an employee at Hewlett-Packard.
He was never much of an engineer. Isaacson says he didn't know how to write code or program a computer. That was Wozniak's department. But Jobs understood their importance and their future. He was obsessed with making an attractive, simple, inexpensive computer - the Apple II - marketed as the first home computer. It really didn't do much, but tech savvy people snapped them up along with school systems. And as he tells Isaacson on tape, he was soon worth millions of dollars.
[Jobs: It wasn't very many years before on paper we were worth a lot of money. And I was like 25 when, you know, we were worth maybe $50 million, I knew I never had to worry about money again. And so I went from not worrying about money cuz I was pretty poor to not worrying about money cuz I had a lot of money.]
Kroft: Jobs becomes rich.
Isaacson: Jobs became wildly rich. Makes about a hundred people millionaires when Apple goes public. One of the things he does, though, that, you know, still caused a little ill will. There were old friends who used to be with him in the garage, his parents' garage, and they were working at Apple. But they hadn't quite gotten to the level of chief engineer. So they got no stock options. Wozniak, being incredibly generous is giving away his stock options, trying to make everybody a millionaire. And Steve Jobs is like very strict on who can get the stock options.
One of the people who didn't get them was Daniel Kottke, who had been with Jobs at Reed College, and India, and in the garage where Apple was founded.
Isaacson: And at one point, tries to go to Steve and just starts crying. But Steve can be very cold about these things. Finally, one of the engineers at Apple said, you know, "We have to take care of your buddy Daniel. I'll give him some stock, if you match it or whatever." And Jobs says, "Yeah, I'll match it. I'll give zero, you give zero."
It was not the only instance of his callous behavior during that time period. Just before Apple went public, his longtime girlfriend became pregnant, producing a daughter, Lisa. Jobs who had himself been born out of wedlock and abandoned, denied paternity and refused to pay support until the courts intervened. His behavior was typical of a phenomenon that Apple employees openly referred to as Steve's "reality distortion field," a term out of Star Trek, the ability to convince himself and others to believe almost anything using his indomitable will and charisma to bend any fact to suit his purpose.
Isaacson: When he was creating the original Macintosh, Steve Jobs would come in and he would say, "We need to have this done by next month." And people would say, "No, no. you can't actually write this much code by next month." And he would say, "Yes, you can do it." And in the end, he would not take no for an answer. And he would sort of make the dent in the universe he wanted to. He would bend reality, and they would accomplish it.
Kroft: The reality distortion field. It seems like sometimes you use that phrase to speak to which you see as sort of a self-delusion.
Isaacson: He could drive himself by magical thinking. By believing something that the rest of us couldn't possibly believe, and sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't.
And at the root of this reality distortion theory, Isaacson says was Jobs' belief that he was special and chosen, and that the rules didn't apply to him.
Isaacson: He had a great Mercedes sports coupe with no license plate on it. That was his affectation.
Kroft: No license plate?
Isaacson: He always believed--I said, "Why don't you have a license plate." At one point he said, "Well I don't want people following me. I don't want people--" and I said, "Having no license plate is actually more noticeable." He said, "Yeah, you're probably right. You know why I don't have a license plate?" I said, "Why?" He said, "I don't have a license plate." And I think he felt the normal rules just shouldn't apply to-- and he had his little everyday acts of rebellion that were showing, "Hey, I'm a little bit different."
Kroft: Parking in handicapped spots?
Isaacson: Yeah. I mean, he always kind of felt, "I don't succumb to authority." So, you know, it's just who he is.
That disregard for the establishment helped him achieve some of his biggest successes, allowing him to see products and applications that no one else imagined. So in 1984, Apple introduced a truly revolutionary product, the Macintosh. It used graphics, icons, a mouse and the point-and-click technology that is still standard. It was innovative and influential, but sales were disappointing. And Jobs' confrontational management style became even more brittle. He would try and rationalize it in this taped interview with Isaacson.
[Jobs: I feel totally comfortable going in front of everybody else, you know, "God we really f***d up the engineering on this, didn't we?" That's the ante for being in the room. So we're brutally honest with each other and all of them can tell me they think I'm full of s**t, and I can tell anyone I think they're full of s**t. And we've had some rip-roaring arguments where we're yelling at each other.]
Jobs loved the arguments, but not everybody else did. And Isaacson writes some of his top people began defecting.
Isaacson: He was not the world's greatest manager. In fact, he could have been one of the world's worst managers, you know? He was always, you know, upending things. And, you know, throwing things into turmoil. This made great products, but it didn't make for a great management style.
Jobs would eventually provoke a boardroom showdown with Apple president John Sculley over who would lead the company. The board chose Sculley.
Kroft: So he was out of his own company?
Isaacson: Kicked out of his own company. And, you know, he always had that feeling of abandonment. There was nothing worse than being abandoned by Apple.
He sold his stock and used the company to start a new venture called NeXT Computer, which made great products that no one bought. But Jobs would be saved by a tiny company that he acquired from George Lucas for five million dollars. Pixar Studios would eventually revolutionize movie animation and make Jobs a multi-billionaire. Apple hadn't done so well. And a decade after Jobs left, it decided to buy NeXT Computer and the services of Jobs as a consultant. But he would soon take over as CEO.
Kroft: And when he goes back, it's almost bankrupt?
Isaacson: It's like 90 days away from bankruptcy. They're totally out of money. And it's lost its way totally. So he says, "Here's the 27, 30 things you're making, printers or whatever." And he draws a chart that just has four squares. And he says, "Professional, home consumer. Laptop, desktop. We're gonna make four computers."
He retrenched, firing 3,000 people, and launched a new advertising campaign.
["Think Different" ad: Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers...]
Isaacson: Steve Jobs helped write that himself. He edited it under - he put in "they changed the world." By the end, Jobs, along with four or five other people, have written this not as ad copy, but as a manifesto.
["Think Different" ad: ...They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.]
The campaign announced what would become the biggest comeback in business history, and it did change the world. That, Steve Jobs' search for his birth parents and his battle with cancer when "60 Minutes" returns.
When Steve Jobs retuned to Apple in 1997, the company had just five percent of the computer market and was almost broke. When Jobs died of cancer 14 years later, Apple was the second most valuable corporation in the world, just slightly behind Exxon-Mobil. In his new biography of Jobs, Walter Isaacson writes that he revolutionized or re-imagined seven industries: personal computers, animated movies, music, telephones, tablet computing, digital publishing and retail stores. He did it, Isaacson says by standing at the crossroads of science and the humanities, connecting creativity with technology and combining leaps of imagination with feats of engineering to produce new devices that consumers hadn't even thought of.
[Jobs: Thank you for coming. We're gonna make some history together today.]
If you had to pick a day where it all came together January 9th, 2007 is not a bad one. Jobs is in San Francisco at the Macworld conference in full pitchman mode as he unveils his latest product to the faithful.
[Jobs: These are not three separate devices. This is one device. And we are calling it iPhone.]
It is not only a remarkable achievement, but a validation of everything that Jobs believed in. If you made and controlled all of your own hardware and all of your own software, you could integrate all of your products and all of your content seamlessly into one digital hub. And no one but Steve Jobs had thought of it.
Isaacson: This is something Microsoft couldn't do 'cause it made software, but not the hardware. It's something Sony couldn't do, 'cause it made a lot of devices, but it didn't really make software operating systems. And so the only company that had end-to-end control was Apple.
Biographer Walter Isaacson writes that Jobs had created a walled garden. If you wanted to use any of his products, it was easier to buy into the whole Apple ecosystem. It was something only a complete control freak could have pulled off. His personality, passions, products and private life were all intertwined and closely guarded. The more of it that Walter Isaacson got to see, the more he learned.
Kroft: What was his house like?
Isaacson: His house in Palo Alto is a house on a normal street with a normal sidewalk. No big winding driveway. No big security fences.
Kroft: Could you drive in the driveway?
Isaacson: You could walk into the garden in the back gate, and open the back door to the kitchen, which used to not be locked. It was a normal family home. And he said, "I wanted to live in a normal place where the kids could walk, the kids could go over to other people's houses. And I did not want to live that nutso lavish lifestyle that so many people do when they get rich."
There was no live-in help, and no entourage. He was worth seven billion dollars, but not materialistic. And he told Isaacson in a taped interview that he had learned early on what money could do to people.
[Jobs: I saw a lot of other people at Apple, and especially after we went public, how it changed them. And a lot of people thought they had to start being rich, so they-- I mean, a few people went out and bought Rolls Royces and they bought homes, and their wives got plastic surgery, and they, and I saw these people who were really nice, simple people turn into these bizarro people. And I made a promise to myself. I said: "I'm not going to let this money ruin my life."]
Kroft: Do you have a picture of the family?
Isaacson: Oh sure.
Isaacson showed us some personal family pictures that Jobs had given him for his book, shortly before he died. It was a look into a part of Jobs' life that few people had seen.
Isaacson: This is Laurene, and that's Erin, Reed, Eve. And this is on their family vacation.
Jobs married Laurene Powell 20 years ago, a former investment banker who could hold her own with her mercurial husband.
Isaacson: And she's a great balance. He knows to pick strong people to be around him. And-- he sure did when he married Laurene.
Kroft: Now this is...
Isaacson: His son. Reed is very much like his father, except for he has his mother's kindness. Eve is a great horseback rider. Eve, I think might some day by in the Olympics with horseback riding. Erin has a great sense of design, is a really cool kid.
His fourth child is Lisa Brennan-Jobs, the daughter Jobs had with his girlfriend, 33 years ago and neglected for more than a decade until she moved in with the family as a teenager. Isaacson said their reconciliation was important to Jobs, because his own birth parents had abandoned him.
Isaacson: He felt there was a hole. He felt something was missing.
In 1986, he began searching for his biological mother, and found Joanne Schieble Simpson living in Los Angeles.
Kroft: Did she know that her son, the son that she gave up was Steve Jobs?
Isaacson: No. But she says to him, "There's one thing I have to tell you, you have a sister. And the sister, I raised. We did not put up for adoption. And I must tell her, 'cause I've never told this." And the sister turns out to be Mona Simpson, the novelist. And Mona Simpson and Steve Jobs totally bond. Separated at birth, as they say. And then they go on a quest, a journey to find the birthfather. Especially Mona wants to find what she calls, "the lost father."
Eventually they locate Abdulfattah "John" Jandali , a Syrian American with a PhD in political science, who was managing a restaurant in Sacramento. But as Jobs tells Isaacson on tape, he decides to let Mona go meet him alone.
[Jobs: When I was looking for my biological mother, obviously, you know, was looking for my biological father at the same time. And I learned a little bit about him and I didn't like what I learned. And I asked her to not tell him that we ever met and not tell him anything about me.]
Isaacson: So, Mona goes to the coffee shop, meets this guy, Mr. Jandali, who's running it, who says, among other things, when she asks, you know, how sorry he is, but then, he says, that he had had another child. And Mona said, "What happened to him?" He says, "Oh, I don't know. We'll never hear from him again." And then he says, "I wish you could've seen me when I was running a bigger restaurant. I used to run one of the best restaurants in Silicon Valley. Everybody used to come there, even Steve Jobs used to eat there." And Mona's sort of taken aback and bites her tongue and doesn't say, "Steve Jobs is your son." But she looks shocked. And he says, "Yeah, he was a great tipper."
[Jobs:...and I was in that restaurant once or twice and I remember meeting the owner who was from Syria. And it was most certainly him. And I shook his hand and he shook my hand. And that's all.]
Isaacson: And Jobs never spoke to him, never talked to him, never got in touch with him. Never wanted to see him.
Not even when Jobs was on his death bed. The cancer that eventually killed him was discovered accidentally while he was being checked for kidney stones back in 2004. A cat scan showed a shadow on his pancreas that turned out to be a malignant tumor.
Isaacson: And then they do a biopsy, and they're very emotional. They say this is good. It's one of these very slow-growing five percent of pancreatic cancers that can actually be cured. But Steve Jobs doesn't get operated on right away. He tries to treat it with diet. He goes to a spiritualist. He goes through various ways of-- of doing it macrobiotically, and he doesn't get an operation.
Kroft: Why doesn't he get it operated on immediately?
Isaacson: You know, I've asked him that, and he said, "I didn't want my body to be opened." And soon everybody is telling him, "Quit trying to treat it with all these roots and vegetables and things. Just get operated on." But he does it nine months later.
Kroft: Too late.
Isaacson: Well one assumes it's too late because by the time they operate on him, they notice that it has spread to the tissues around the pancreas.
Kroft: How could such a smart man do such a stupid thing?
Isaacson: Yeah, I think that he kind of felt that if you ignore something, if you don't want something to exist, you can have magical thinking. And it had worked for him in the past. He regretted it, you know, some of the decisions he made and certainly, I think he felt he should've been operated on sooner.
Jobs acknowledged his surgery, but soft pedaled the seriousness of the situation. Isaacson writes he continued to receive secret cancer treatments even though he was telling everyone he had been cured. And that is what people believed until 2008.
Kroft: In 2008, he unveiled the iPhone 3. But that wasn't the main story.
Isaacson: All of a sudden people are gasping because he's lost so much weight, he looks so frail. And suddenly people are realizing that he's very sick again. He denies it publicly. He puts out things that there's a hormone imbalance, which has a tiny kernel of truth to it because his liver was secreting the wrong hormones. But it wasn't just a hormonal imbalance. It was 'cause the cancer had gone to his liver. And he's trying to deny it to himself, and to the public, and this is a problem of course.
Kroft: It's a legal problem.
Isaacson: Well it's a publicly traded company and you have a great tension between two principles. One of which is you can't withhold material information from shareholders, the other is there's a certain privacy right to the CEO.
Jobs finally took a medical leave of absence, and in March of 2009 received a secret liver transplant in Memphis, that wasn't publicly acknowledged until three months later. The doctors who did the operation could tell that the cancer had spread. But Jobs returned to work to unveil the iPad, and continued working right up until the end.
Kroft: What were those last two and a half years of his life like?
Isaacson: He talked a lot to me about what happened when he got sick and how it focused him. He said he no longer wanted to go out, no longer wanted to travel the world. He would focus on the products. He knew the couple of things he wanted to do which was the iPhone and then the iPad. He had a few other visions. I think he would've loved to have conquered television. He would love to make an easy-to-use television set. So he had those things. But he started focusing on his family again as well. And it was a painful, brutal struggle. And he would talk, often to me about the pain.
In their final meetings, Jobs would occasionally bring up the subject of death.
[Jobs: I saw my life as an arc. And that it would end and compared to that nothing mattered. You're born alone, you're gonna die alone. And does anything else really matter? I mean what is it exactly is it that you have to lose Steve? You know? There's nothing.
He survived nearly eight years with his cancer. And in the final meeting with Isaacson in mid-August, still held out hope that there might be one new drug that could save him.
Isaacson: He asked me at one point, he said, "There are going to be things in this book I don't like, right?" And I kind of smiled and said, "Yep. You know, there'll be probably things you don't like." He said, "That's fine, that's fine. I won't read it when it comes out. I'll read it six months or a year from now."
Kroft: Did you have any discussions within that day or at any other time about an afterlife?
Isaacson: I remember sitting in his backyard in his garden one day and he started talking about God. He said, "Sometimes I believe in God, sometimes I don't. I think it's 50-50 maybe. But ever since I've had cancer, I've been thinking about it more. And I find myself believing a bit more. I kind of-- maybe it's 'cause I want to believe in an afterlife. That when you die, it doesn't just all disappear. The wisdom you've accumulated. Somehow it lives on." Then he paused for a second and he said, "Yeah, but sometimes I think it's just like an on-off switch. Click and you're gone." He said and paused again, and he said, "And that's why I don't like putting on-off switches on Apple devices."
Disclosure: Walter Isaacson's biography "Steve Jobs" is published by Simon & Schuster, a division of CBS corporation.
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