Walter Isaacson's biography, "Steve Jobs," has arrived. It's a good read, and we'll be teasing out some tidbits for those who want a glimpse of the 656-page book.
Jobs died earlier this month at age 56 after a fight with pancreatic cancer, and the book arrives when interest in Apple, the company he co-founded and led, is perhaps at an all-time high. Jobs is about more than the iPhone 4S, though. Isaacson has brought forth an ocean of anecdotes.
Here's a look at some of the details in the book, which we'll be updating as we go. "Steve Jobs" is published by Simon & Schuster, which like CNET is owned by CBS.
The book begins as biographies sensibly often begin: with ancestry. Jobs had two sets of parents, biological and adoptive. The latter were Paul Reinhold Jobs, a repo man who repaired cars after serving in the Coast Guard during World War II, married Clara Hagopian, a daughter of Armenian immigrants, who couldn't have children after an ectopic pregnancy. The former, "were my parents 1,000 percent," Jobs told Isaacson. The latter, though, "were my sperm and egg bank. That's not harsh, it's just the way it was, a sperm bank thing, nothing more."
Though some suggest being put up for adoption by his biological parents was a seminal part of his personality--his desire to control, his ability to be cruel--Jobs agreed only with the notion that it helped make him independent. When a girl suggested to a six- or seven-year-old Jobs that being adopted meant he'd been abandoned, "lightning bolts went off in my head," he said, and he talked to his parents about it. "They were very serious and looked me straight in the eye. They said, 'We specifically picked you out,'" Jobs told Isaacson.
Paul Jobs "knew how to build anything," Jobs said, and marked off a section of his workbench for Jobs. One lesson, from building the fence around their Mountain View, Calif., home: finish the backs of cabinets and fences well even though they're hidden. Ever look inside a Mac Pro?
He grew up steeped in the Silicon Valley milieu, with "mysterious and high-tech" defense companies, and an engineer from Hewlett-Packard bringing him electronics "stuff to play with." One such object, a carbon microphone, led Jobs to the realization that "I was smarter than my parents." They accommodated him with ever-better schools, but it was a rough start for the boy: "They came close to really beating any curiosity out of me," he said, and he played pranks and got sent home.
His savior was Imogene "Teddy" Hill, his fourth-grade teacher, who bribed him into doing challenging work with a giant lollipop. The bribes became unnecessary, though: "I just wanted to learn and to please her...if it hadn't been for her I'm sure I would have gone to jail."
His Lutheran upbringing ended at age 13 when he saw starving children on the cover of Life magazine and his pastor didn't have a satisfactory explanation about how God could know about it. "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," Jobs told Isaacson. He took up Zen Buddhism, but eventually said: "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."
In the ninth grade, he took up with counterculture kids interested in electronics and LSD, with pot smoking beginning at age 15 and LSD by his senior year. At the same time, he took up Heathkit electronics projects and landed an assembly-line job at Hewlett-Packard after calling Bill Hewlett at his Palo Alto home phone number. He got along better with the engineers upstairs, though, and got early schooling in business by buying and reselling used electronics. At the end of high school, he discovered literature and music, too.
Update 11:02 p.m. PT: Apple seeds
Steve Wozniak, who built a 100-transistor calculator in eighth grade but didn't find school a good match for his engineering talent, met the future Apple co-founder when Jobs was in high school but Wozniak was in college. The two bonded over pranks, electronics, and Bob Dylan bootleg recordings. When in 1971 "Woz" discovered Ron Rosenbaum's "Secrets of the Little Blue Box," which described how hackers figured out how to make long-distance calls for free by using audio tones to control AT&T network, the two snuck into the two Stanford Linear Accelerator Center library through an unlocked door Sunday to find the necessary electronics frequencies.
Their first version, built by midnight that same day with the analog recipe, couldn't produce stable enough tones, but a later digital version did work. Jobs decided to start selling the Blue Boxes, going through about 100 of them at $150 apiece before calling it quits when somebody robbed them of one at gunpoint.
It was enough to get the bigger ball rolling, though. "If it hadn't been for the Blue Boxes, there wouldn't have been an Apple," Jobs said. The pattern worked well: Woz led the engineering, and Jobs led the user design, marketing, and making money.
In 1972, Jobs started going to Reed College in Portland, Ore., where he discovered Zen Buddhism and vegetarnianism. He was bored but found Reed more to his liking after dropping out and instead auditing courses. And LSD remained a part of his life. He told Isaacson: "Taking LSD was a profound experience, one of the most important things in my life. LSD shows you that there's another side to the coin, and you can't remember it when it wears off, but you know it. It reinforced my sense of what was important--creating great things instead of making money, putting things back into the stream of history and of human consciousness as much as I could."
In 1974, he returned to his parents' house and found work at video game maker Atari, drawn by an ad that said, "Have fun, make money." He arrived in the lobby, demanded a job, and chief engineer Al Alcorn hired him. Jobs was wrongly convinced his diet would eliminate body odor, so Alcorn put Jobs on a night shift so he didn't have to deal with complaining coworkers.
After a dysentery-afflicted interlude in India, Jobs returned to Atari, where founder Nolan Bushnell did a little meta-engineering: he gave Jobs the challenge of creating a game that he suspected would bring Woz into the picture. Woz, who often hung around the Atari offices although working at HP, rose to the challenge. Woz designed the system while Jobs built the electronics, and the design was done in four days. They split the pay, but Jobs kept all of the bonus Bushnell paid for a design that used fewer than 50 microchips.