“A visionary who redefined the digital age”, “one of the greatest American innovators”, “ a unique tech pioneer”.
These are just a few of the tributes directed at Steve Jobs after the Apple boss lost his battle against cancer in 2011.
While the entrepreneur was one of the most famous and successful people on the planet at the time of his death, there are many things that are not so obvious about him at first glance. Jobs lived a varied and interesting life, and there was much more to him than meets the eye.
Read on to find out more about the man behind some of the greatest tech achievements of our times.
He was moved to the night shift at Atari due to poor personal hygiene
As a young employee at Atari in the 1970s, Jobs developed a reputation for having a brilliant mind.
Unfortunately, he was also known to clash with people at the company, as well as having questionable personal hygiene. The combination of the two is probably the reason why the young Jobs was moved to the night shift at the firm, and it’s also why he decided to embark on a life-changing journey…
He shaved his head in honor of Buddhist monks
Jobs dealt with problems of his own while growing up. He found out he was adopted and suffered bullying at school for standing out in the crowd.
These might explain why he decided to go on a 7-month pilgrimage to India in the early 70s, where he explored the zen-like teachings of Buddhism.
When he returned, he kept his head shaved and liked to walk around bare-footed, much like a Buddist monk. He also adopted a pescatarian diet, which he stuck to until the day he died.
His annual salary was $1
When Jobs went back to Apple in 1997, it was on the verge of going out of business. The company he’d founded was in a bad way, so, in an act of compassion, the entrepreneur agreed to take on the task of saving them – for a $1 salary.
Besides, Jobs still owned a lot of shares in the company. He knew that if he made it a success, something he was confident of doing, then he’d be rewarded through the increase in share value.
Now, to say he was rewarded is an understatement. The inventors of the Mac and the iPhone went on to remarkable success over the next decade: but at least we can all say one thing – most of us have had a higher salary than Steve Jobs!
He dated the folk singer Joan Baez
Steve Jobs was a huge music fan and he worshipped the folk singers of the 1960s, like Bob Dylan and Joan Baez. He met Baez through her sister Mimi in 1982, and the pair got on very well, despite a 14-year age gap.
It developed into a romantic relationship, and it was rumored that Jobs was attracted to her part because she used to date his hero Dylan.
The relationship ended later on over a disagreement on whether to have children – Jobs wanted to, but Baez didn’t.
His biological father was a Syrian businessman
The story of Jobs’ adoption is something that was touched upon in Walter Isaacson’s biography of him, as well as the subsequent movie, but little was made of his biological parents.
In 2011, months before his son’s death, Abdulfattah Jandali gave an interview saying how he’d like to go for a coffee with Jobs just the one time. The entrepreneurial spirit clearly ran in the bloodline: Jandali had successfully run a chain of casinos in Nevada for over half a century.
But Jobs was interested in gambling of a different kind, instead of trying to earn his fortune in the world of games of chance, he put everything into a struggling Apple company and turned it into the biggest company in the world – meanwhile, his father looked on in awe.
The two never did meet for that coffee. Jobs refused to reach out to the parents that had given him up, while Jandali put it down to “Syrian pride” for never making the first move himself.
He taught his staff the ‘joy of opening a box’ as part of their training
Jobs’ fascination with Buddhism didn’t stop at a shaved head and bare feet. He believed in the beauty of simplicity, in accordance with the teachings of the Dalai Lama.
We can see this in Apple products even today. Take the success of the Apple logo, for example a vivid, yet simple icon that springs to mind instantly.
It also meant that Apple staff were instructed to go back to basics. Part of their training included opening an Apple product again and again so that they could appreciate the simple joy of discovering what was inside. Jobs wanted them to take this in so that their efforts were trained towards making the customer feel the same way. It seems to have worked quite well.
He changed the color of the second ‘O’ in Google
As well as adopting a minimalist attitude to work, Jobs was also famous for extraordinary attention to detail.
When Google became a global force at the turn of the millennium, millions of people used the search engine daily. Not many of them would have noticed a slight error in its design, though.
Jobs did. He called the then Google VP, Vic Gundotra, and told him that the second ‘O’ in Google was the wrong shade of yellow. Gundotra looked at it, and after a lot of scrutiny, he found out that he was right. The color was corrected to the shade that we all know today.
His last words were “oh wow, oh wow, oh wow”
Steve Jobs was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2003. He resisted treatment for a long time, preferring alternative therapy such as acupuncture and a vegan diet.
After a long battle, one of the greatest innovators of his time lay on his deathbed surrounded by his family in 2011. As his life ebbed away, he was heard to say “Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow”. These were his last words, and nobody knows why he said them to this day.