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Apple co-founder Steve Jobs memorialized with online archive of emails, guff

Top tip: Skip the memos with cancer advice

Comment At CodeCon 2022 on Wednesday, Apple CEO Tim Cook, former Apple chief design officer Jony Ive, and billionaire business executive Laurene Powell Jobs launched the Steve Jobs Archive, an online repository to honor the legacy of Apple's co-founder and CEO for many years.

"Steve’s legacy lives on in the company we are and the products and services we create," said Cook in a social media post. "The Steve Jobs Archive was created as a place to spark a sense of possibility in everyone."

The online hagiography of inspirational quotations, messages, and related audiovisual recordings offers a reminder of Jobs's mastery of marketing and many accomplishments.

The Steve Jobs Archive also contains some questionable material. For example, a 2010 email that Jobs sent to himself says, "When I needed medical attention, I was helpless to help myself survive."

That may not be correct. A 2011 Reuters article begins, "Apple Inc co-founder Steve Jobs refused potentially life-saving cancer surgery for nine months, shrugging off his family’s protests and opting instead for alternative medicine, according to the tech visionary’s biographer."

While a 2016 medical analysis concluded it's unknown whether Jobs's outcome would have been different had he pursued surgery immediately after his diagnosis of a rare form of pancreatic cancer, it seems remiss to include Jobs's claim he was helpless with regard to health.

What's more, The Steve Jobs Archive neglects to mention the perception of Jobs outside of his admiring apologists: that he was "a world-class asshole."

Here's how writer Michelle Atagana in 2011 described Jobs, based on Jobs's depiction by biographer Walter Isaacson:

He was a filthy narcissist, who didn't believe in showers, deodorant and apparently liked to dip his feet in the toilet. He was prone to childlike tantrums and apparently took credit for other people's ideas.

He was arrogant and a brutal boss who could reduce his employees to tears with phrases like: "fucking dickless assholes," and "That design looks like shit."

Several years ago, Elon Musk – described by Isaacson as "the Steve Jobs of our time" – told GQ, "[T]he one time I met Steve Jobs, he was kind of a jerk."

Not that assholery deters fawning over financially successful public figures. Perversely, being a jerk is seldom disqualifying and often rewarded in a leadership context. And in the decade since Jobs's passing, belligerence has become big business – it fuels the social ad business by driving engagement.

Thus today's sado-populists turn poor behavior into adoration and audience. As a recent US President put it, "I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn't lose any voters, OK?"

The Steve Jobs Archive should present Jobs as he really was: complicated, to put it politely.

It should include how Jobs told a customer who wrote to him out of concern about iPhone 4 signal problems to just avoid holding the phone in a way that interferes with reception.

It should include his poor treatment of his daughter, his insistence that firings at Pixar be done immediately without severance pay, his ability to alienate talented employees, and his willingness to berate service workers. It might also mention how Jobs, while at Atari, cheated his friend Steve Wozniak out of a bonus.

"We are building programs, fellowships, collections, and partnerships that reflect Steve’s values and carry his sense of possibility forward," The Steve Jobs Archive declares.

The Steve Jobs Archive reflects only the whitespace of Jobs's life. ®

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