Steve Jobs meets Bill Gates

By 1981, Steve Jobs and Apple are suddenly worth 300 million dollars. Apple was the fastest growing company in American business history.[1] The Apple II was the world's favourite computer. This was the year of Dynasty, Duran Duran, and Donkey Kong. MTV was televised for the first time to a generation of kids whose tastes have become less guitar and more synthetic. The song Computer Love by Kraftwerk peaked at number thirteen on the U.S. Billboard Hot Dance Club Charts. The group’s album, Computer World was recorded in a circuit-filled studio using Texas Instruments Speak and Spell, Mattel’s Bee Gees Rhythm Machine, and the Casio FX-501P Programmable Calculator with FA-1 Cassette Interface. 

This was the Digital Decade.

There is a 97-second YouTube clip of Steve getting ready for his first television interview. Witness the young nouveu riche fixated by his own image on the Night Line TV monitor: “I’m on TV! It IS amazing!"[2]

Apple engineer, and uber-geek, Andy Hertzfeld later became the keeper of the company’s early folklore. Printed a quarter century later, his coffee-table book, Revolution in the Valley is a first-hand collection of tales of the young Steve.[3] Andy entertains with anecdotes of a frustrated megalomaniac. A picture forms of someone who has won a position of power before he understood how not to abuse it. 

Around the time he became a millionaire, Steve began to wear suits and even had regular showers. The latter practice began after Apple president, Mike Scott, advised Steve he was stinking up the office. The only thing Steve reeked of now was his own hubris. The poverty of India was a long-forgotten bad dream. He speeds into the car park of his silicon-valley office in his new silver Mercedes 380SL Roadster. This Mercedes roadster, like all those that will follow, was silver and the licence plates were thrown in the trunk. Steve felt the state-required plates messed up the aesthetics of his roadster. "It's a little game I play," he explained to his fellow millionaire readers of Fortune Magazine.[4] To this day, Steve prefers to park in Apple’s handicapped zone. “I never realized those spaces were for the emotionally handicapped”, quipped the Apple exec Jean-Louis Gassee. Jean-Louis would state in the aforementioned Fortune article a quarter century later that, “Democracies don't make great products. You need a competent tyrant”. Occasionally you would hear Steve swearing a blue streak after discovering someone had dragged their keys along his roadster’s paintwork in protest. Staff prankster and Employee #1, Steve Wozniak, called the police and reported a silver Mercedes parked in a handicapped space. “Woz” could get away with such shenanigans, as he was the guy whose chip and code wizardry was behind the product that had made Steve a millionaire.

A non-descript Buick sedan pulled into the same parking lot. A plainly dressed man and his balding companion stepped out of the car. He is the same age as Steve - but that is where the similarities end. The visitor has a stoop, a squeaky voice, and an unblinking gaze behind massive spectacles.

Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer entered Apple's silicon palace. They are the present and future CEOs of a brand new little company called Microsoft.

Steve and Bill had met before. Each man thought he was better than the other. Steve thought Bill had no taste. Bill derided Steve because he couldn't actually program. Bill believed the future of the PC was in the office. Steve believed in the PC as a revolution for the common people. Steve had invited Bill to show off his new "insanely great" project - the Macintosh. It had a neat gadget called a mouse that helped you navigate around a series of windows that you could click on and move around the screen. It’s called a graphical user interface, or GUI. Bill was hypnotised by this wonderful cursor thing gliding all over the screen. He had a question for Apple employee #435, Andy Hertzfeld: "What kind of hardware do you use to draw the cursor?" Bill never suspected the Mac's mouse action used soft- rather than hard-ware. "We don't have any special hardware for it," Andy babbled proudly. "In fact..." Steve screamed at Andy, "SHUT UP! SHUT UP!" trying to drown out employee #435, in case he continued to spill secrets.

Steve is a jealous guy. He doesn’t like to share ideas or money. On the day Apple went public he made $217 million. He gave no stock to employee #12, Dan Kottke who had endured the disaster in India.

If psychotherapist Nancy Verrier put Steve on the couch, she may conclude that his jealousy is caused by the overwhelming trauma of abandonment and rage he felt during the separation from his mother as an infant. For baby Steve, there was an utter lack of control during the defining moment of his birth. Nancy Verrier is an author, lecturer and adoptive parent. She’s best known for work in the areas of adoption and adoption reform. She says, “Having been manipulated at the beginning of their lives makes some adoptees manipulating and controlling.”[5]

Steve’s desire for quality control reached dizzying heights at Apple. Steve refused to believe that his engineers could not make a PC without a cooling fan. He simply didn’t like the sound of a fan. His timid engineers built a fan anyway, but referred to the part as a “banana” in case Steve overheard their discussion.
Steve considered himself a new breed of employer who encouraged a more fun work atmosphere. However, his engineers worked longer hours than their fathers’ generation, often wasting time on Steve’s capricious whims. After many long weeks of carefully hand-wrapping chips and wires, the Mac team presented Steve with a prototype of the Mac circuit board. Steve began judging the layout purely on the way it looked. "That part's really pretty", he proclaimed. "But look at the memory chips. That's ugly. The lines are too close together". George Crow, an analogue engineer was flabbergasted. "Who cares what the PC board looks like? The only thing that's important is how well that it works. Nobody is going to see the PC board…" Steve interrupted him , "I'M gonna see it! I want it to be as beautiful as possible, even if it’s inside the box. A great carpenter isn't going to use lousy wood for the back of a cabinet, even though nobody's going to see it." Well, actually even the best carpenters do that, Steve. Anyway, Apple invested another $5,000 or so to make a few boards the way Steve wanted it. It didn’t work as well, so they secretly reverted to the old design. This is how Apple does its marketing. Steve is Apple’s “focus group of one”. He decides what people want. His ex cathedra approach has some historical credence. Henry Ford once said, "If I'd asked people what they wanted, they would have said ‘a faster horse’."

He wrestled for control at work, but had little control over a secret part of his life. Chris-Ann from his commune days had given birth to his daughter Lisa lived not very far away from Steve with her mother. They both got by on welfare.  Fatherhood doesn’t always agree with adoptees. It was easier for him to deny that she was his child.  In a legal statement he declared he was "sterile and infertile, and as a result thereof, did not have the physical capacity to procreate a child".[6] This was a lie. Steve became a father three more times. However, somewhere deep inside Steve was a need to integrate Lisa into his life. Finally, he had a little person related by blood. No one at Apple would dare mention that Steve had named one of his computers after his secret daughter that he rarely saw. In the year Lisa turned 20-years-old, Fortune Magazine would ask Steve, “What's your biggest screw up in your adult life?”  His answer was, “Personal Stuff.”[7]

[1] Linzmayer, O.W. (2004) Apple Confidential 2.0: The Definitive History of the World’s Most Colorful Company. San Francisco: No Starch Press.

[3] Hertzfeld (2004) Revolution in the Valley: The Insanely Great Story of How the Mac Was Made. Massachusetts: O'Reilly Media.

[4] Elkind, P. (2008 March 5) The Trouble With Steve Jobs. Fortune Magazine.

[5] Verrier, N. (1993) The Primal Wound: Understanding the Adopted Child. California: Nancy Verrier.
[6] Elkind, P. (2008 March 5) The Trouble With Steve Jobs. Fortune Magazine.

[7] Schlender, B. (1998, November 9) The Three Faces Of Steve. Fortune Magazine.

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