How Jobs bent reality with LSD, Apple hype
Biography reveals scruffy hippy past
Out today on iTunes and Amazon, the highly anticipated Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson has had a level of hype normal for a new Apple product.
OK, there was no keynote speech and we already knew the specifications - £25*, hardback, 656 pages - but the media, amateur and mainstream, has been going bonkers over Steve Jobs by Isaacson. The former Time editor presented the book on CBS show 60 Minutes last night and the programme played out some fascinating little clips from the hack's taped interviews with Jobs. Isaacson conducted about 40 interviews with the billionaire iPhone baron after he was asked by the Cupertino supremo in 2003 to write a bio.
From conflicted feelings about his biological parents to delayed cancer treatment - the unusual life of Steve Jobs has been raked over in the media, but a couple of less-discussed things that come out of the biography include just how much of a scruffy hippie the young Jobs was.
In one of his first jobs at games maker Atari, Jobs ended up being pushed onto the night shift because he never washed and other employees complained they were distracted by how bad he smelled. Jobs didn't wear shoes, had long hair and simply refused to bathe. "He was a pretty abrasive and in some ways cantankerous character," Isaacson said.
And Jobs didn't just try out drugs, he thought that taking them was one of the best things he'd ever done, telling Isaacson: "Definitely taking LSD was one of the most important things in my life." Jobs relates in an interview: "Not the most important but right up there."
Check out the CBS anchor's face when he talks about the hippy days.
There are more anecdotes of just how hard the perfectionist could be on human error: "He could be very mean to people at times," said Isaacson, "whether it was a waitress in a restaurant or to a guy who had stayed up all night coding." Top of the list comes his former girlfriend Chrisann Brennan and their daughter Lisa, whom he abandoned just before she was born when he was 23 and initially refused to pay child maintenance.
On the genius of Jobs, Isaacson is not dazzled. "He was never much of an engineer," Isaacson said. "He didn't know how to code or programme a computer. That was Wozniak's job." But, as he does in his biography of Einstein, Isaacson makes a case for how Steve's rebelliousness, disbelief in rules and stance at the crossroads of the liberal arts and the sciences gave him a perspective that no one else had.
That and what Apple employees openly referred to as Steve's reality distortion field: "His ability to convince himself and others to believe almost anything, to bend any fact to suit his purpose. That was how he made a dent in the universe," Isaacson explained.
*reduced to £12.99 on Amazon