With the death of Steve Jobs we have lost one of our most brilliant minds and successful entrepreneurs. Many tributes are being written about his impacts on the computer and communication industries. To really appreciate the genuine genius of Steve Jobs, we need to understand the cultural climate in which he grew up. He was a self-identified “child of the sixties counterculture” who attributes much of his success to the Silicon Valley and San Francisco communities in which he spent his early years (same time and place where the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane and others started.) This article explores the nature and extent of the counterculture’s influence over the development of the computer in general, and on Apple computers in particular. This type of insight is vital if we ever hope to find “the next Steve Jobs.”
This article collects most of what has been written about Steve Jobs’ early life. Particular attention is paid to how extensively Steve and other computer pioneers were greatly influenced by the values and vision of the hippie counterculture. Steve came of age in the epicenter of this social movement. He clearly embraced the hippies’ practices and philosophy. Many of the tributes included here show how his business behavior was shaped by his distrust of authority and willingness to expand his mind in many directions. To provide further context, I include a seminal article written by Stewart Brand in 1995 called “We Owe it all to the Hippies.” I also collect detailed reviews of an important book called “What the Dormouse Said.” This article also includes a letter sent to Steve Jobs from Albert Hofman (discoverer and proponent of LSD). Steve Jobs acknowledged the importance of this psychedelic compound in shaping his own life and career. It is entirely possible that we will never see “another Steve Jobs” unless another form of “hip counterculture” is allowed to flourish. Given the conservative and corporate nature of modern American society, that is very unlikely. Click Below to Learn More:
On his Friday night program (October 7, 2011), Maher advised conservatives not to try to claim the former Apple CEO as one of their own.
“I want to say one other thing about Steve Jobs – agree or don’t,” Maher said. “But, I know that he’s one of the few people who liberals and conservatives both like, you know, in the partisan country that we live in. And I just know that the right-wingers are going to try to claim him because he was a giant success. Please don’t do it, right-wingers. He was not one of you. He was not a corporate type. He was an Obama voting, pot-smoking Buddhist. He wasn’t one of you. So don’t try to claim Steve Jobs.”
Maher reminded his audience and viewers Jobs was cut loose by the Apple board of directors, only to come back and run the company again in the late-1990s.
“He got fired by corporate America. Remember – he got his ass thrown out because he was a little too innovative. He didn’t play the game the way they do.”
Maher’s panelist P.J. O’Rourke, a conservative, gave his reasons for not wanting to claim Jobs. Nonetheless, Maher doubled-down on his “hippie” claim. “But he was a hippie and I know you have problems with hippies,” Maher said to O’Rourke when explaining why Jobs would identify with the left, which according to the “Real Time” host is what the so-called “Occupy Wall Street” movement is comprised of.
The recently released biography of Steve Jobs by Walter Issacson also confirms my hypothesis that Steve Jobs would not have been as successful as he was if he did not drop acid (i.e., take LSD.) Below are a couple excerpts from the books first few chapters. Hope you enjoy and get the full book.
THE DROPOUT – Turn On, Tune In . . .
Jobs’s craziness was of the cultivated sort. He had begun his lifelong experiments with compulsive diets, eating only fruits and vegetables, so he was as lean and tight as a whippet. He learned to stare at people without blinking, and he perfected long silences punctuated by staccato bursts of fast talking. This odd mix of intensity and aloofness, combined with his shoulder-length hair and scraggly beard, gave him the aura of a crazed shaman. He oscillated between charismatic and creepy. “He shuffled around and looked half-mad,” recalled Chrisann Brennan. “He had a lot of angst. It was like a big darkness around him.”
Jobs had begun to drop acid by then, and he turned Brennan on to it as well, in a wheat field just outside Sunnyvale. “It was great,” he recalled. “I had been listening to a lot of Bach. All of a sudden the wheat field was playing Bach. It was the most wonderful feeling of my life up to that point. I felt like the conductor of this symphony with Bach coming through the wheat.”
That summer of 1972, after his graduation, he and Brennan moved to a cabin in the hills above Los Altos. “I’m going to go live in a cabin with Chrisann,” he announced to his parents one day. His father was furious. “No you’re not,” he said. “Over my dead body.” They had recently fought about marijuana, and once again the younger Jobs was willful. He just said good-bye and walked out.
Brennan spent a lot of her time that summer painting; she was talented, and she did a picture of a clown for Jobs that he kept on the wall. Jobs wrote poetry and played guitar. He could be brutally cold and rude to her at times, but he was also entrancing and able to impose his will. “He was an enlightened being who was cruel,” she recalled. “That’s a strange combination.” …
Reed had only one thousand students, half the number at Homestead High. It was known for its free-spirited hippie lifestyle, which combined somewhat uneasily with its rigorous academic standards and core curriculum. Five years earlier Timothy Leary, the guru of psychedelic enlightenment, had sat cross-legged at the Reed College commons while on his League for Spiritual Discovery (LSD) college tour, during which he exhorted his listeners, “Like every great religion of the past we seek to find the divinity within.” These ancient goals we define in the metaphor of the present—turn on, tune in, drop out.” Many of Reed’s students took all three of those injunctions seriously; the dropout rate during the 1970s was more than one-third. …
In late 1972, there was a fundamental shift happening in American campus life. The nation’s involvement in the Vietnam War, and the draft that accompanied it, was winding down. Political activism at colleges receded and in many late-night dorm conversations was replaced by an interest in pathways to personal fulfillment. Jobs found himself deeply influenced by a variety of books on spirituality and enlightenment, most notably Be Here Now, a guide to meditation and the wonders of psychedelic drugs by Baba Ram Dass, born Richard Alpert. “It was profound,” Jobs said. “It transformed me and many of my friends.” …
Jobs’ engagement with Eastern spirituality, and especially Zen Buddhism, was not just some passing fancy or youthful dabbling. He embraced it with his typical intensity, and it became deeply ingrained in his personality. “Steve is very much Zen,” said Kottke. “It was a deep influence. You see it in his whole approach of stark, minimalist aesthetics, intense focus.” Jobs also became deeply influenced by the emphasis that Buddhism places on intuition. “I began to realize that an intuitive understanding and consciousness was more significant than abstract thinking and intellectual logical analysis,” he later said. His intensity, however, made it difficult for him to achieve inner peace; his Zen awareness was not accompanied by an excess of calm, peace of mind, or interpersonal mellowness. …
Vegetarianism and Zen Buddhism, meditation and spirituality, acid and rock—Jobs rolled together, in an amped-up way, the multiple impulses that were hallmarks of the enlightenment-seeking campus subculture of the era. And even though he barely indulged it at Reed, there was still an undercurrent of electronic geekiness in his soul that would someday combine surprisingly well with the rest of the mix. …
Jobs quickly became bored with college. He liked being at Reed, just not taking the required classes. In fact he was surprised when he found out that, for all of its hippie aura, there were strict course requirements. When Wozniak came to visit, Jobs waved his schedule at him and complained, “They are making me take all these courses.” Woz replied, “Yes, that’s what they do in college.” Jobs refused to go to the classes he was assigned and instead went to the ones he wanted, such as a dance class where he could enjoy both the creativity and the chance to meet girls. “I would never have refused to take the courses you were supposed to, that’s a difference in our personality,” Wozniak marveled. …
He didn’t actually want to leave Reed; he just wanted to quit paying tuition and taking classes that didn’t interest him. Remarkably, Reed tolerated that. “He had a very inquiring mind that was enormously attractive,” said the dean of students, Jack Dudman. “He refused to accept automatically received truths, and he wanted to examine everything himself.” Dudman allowed Jobs to audit classes and stay with friends in the dorms even after he stopped paying tuition.
“The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn’t interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting,” he said. Among them was a calligraphy class that appealed to him after he saw posters on campus that were beautifully drawn. “I learned about serif and sans serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating.” …
In the meantime Jobs eked out a bohemian existence on the fringes of Reed. He went barefoot most of the time, wearing sandals when it snowed. Elizabeth Holmes made meals for him, trying to keep up with his obsessive diets. He returned soda bottles for spare change, continued his treks to the free Sunday dinners at the Hare Krishna temple, and wore a down jacket in the heatless garage apartment he rented for $20 a month. When he needed money, he found work at the psychology department lab maintaining the electronic equipment that was used for animal behavior experiments. Occasionally Chrisann Brennan would come to visit. Their relationship sputtered along erratically. But mostly he tended to the stirrings of his own soul and personal quest for enlightenment.
“I came of age at a magical time,” he reflected later. “Our consciousness was raised by Zen, and also by LSD.” Even later in life he would credit psychedelic drugs for making him more enlightened. “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 San Francisco and the Santa Clara Valley during the late 1960s, various cultural currents flowed together. There was the technology revolution that began with the growth of military contractors and soon included electronics firms, microchip makers, video game designers, and computer companies. There was a hacker subculture—filled with wireheads, phreakers, cyberpunks, hobbyists, and just plain geeks—that included engineers who didn’t conform to the HP mold and their kids who weren’t attuned to the wavelengths of the subdivisions. There were quasi-academic groups doing studies on the effects of LSD; participants included Doug Engelbart of the Augmentation Research Center in Palo Alto, who later helped develop the computer mouse and graphical user interfaces, and Ken Kesey, who celebrated the drug with music-and-light shows featuring a house band that became the Grateful Dead. There was the hippie movement, born out of the Bay Area’s beat generation, and the rebellious political activists, born out of the Free Speech Movement at Berkeley. Overlaid on it all were various self-fulfillment movements pursuing paths to personal enlightenment: Zen and Hinduism, meditation and yoga, primal scream and sensory deprivation, Esalen and est.
This fusion of flower power and processor power, enlightenment and technology, was embodied by Steve Jobs as he meditated in the mornings, audited physics classes at Stanford, worked nights at Atari, and dreamed of starting his own business. “There was just something going on here,” he said, looking back at the time and place. “The best music came from here—the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Joan Baez, Janis Joplin—and so did the integrated circuit, and things like the Whole Earth Catalog.”
Initially the technologists and the hippies did not interface well. Many in the counterculture saw computers as ominous and Orwellian, the province of the Pentagon and the power structure. In The Myth of the Machine, the historian Lewis Mumford warned that computers were sucking away our freedom and destroying “life-enhancing values.” An injunction on punch cards of the period—“Do not fold, spindle or mutilate”—became an ironic phrase of the antiwar Left.
But by the early 1970s a shift was under way. “Computing went from being dismissed as a tool of bureaucratic control to being embraced as a symbol of individual expression and liberation,” John Markoff wrote in his study of the counterculture’s convergence with the computer industry, What the Dormouse Said. It was an ethos lyrically expressed in Richard Brautigan’s 1967 poem, “All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace,” and the cyberdelic fusion was certified when Timothy Leary declared that personal computers had become the new LSD and years later revised his famous mantra to proclaim, “Turn on, boot up, jack in.” The musician Bono, who later became a friend of Jobs, often discussed with him why those immersed in the rock-drugs-rebel counterculture of the Bay Area ended up helping to create the personal computer industry. “The people who invented the twenty-first century were pot-smoking, sandal-wearing hippies from the West Coast like Steve, because they saw differently,” he said. “The hierarchical systems of the East Coast, England, Germany, and Japan do not encourage this different thinking. The sixties produced an anarchic mind-set that is great for imagining a world not yet in existence.”
One person who encouraged the denizens of the counterculture to make common cause with the hackers was Stewart Brand. A puckish visionary who generated fun and ideas over many decades, Brand was a participant in one of the early sixties LSD studies in Palo Alto. He joined with his fellow subject Ken Kesey to produce the acid-celebrating Trips Festival, appeared in the opening scene of Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, and worked with Doug Engelbart to create a seminal sound-and-light presentation of new technologies called the Mother of All Demos. “Most of our generation scorned computers as the embodiment of centralized control,” Brand later noted. “But a tiny contingent—later called hackers—embraced computers and set about transforming them into tools of liberation. That turned out to be the true royal road to the future.”
He was a great artist in the sense that Bob Dylan and Andy Warhol are great artists: talented jackdaws who took other people’s half-baked innovations and converted them into beautifully made products with mass appeal. Apple didn’t build the first desktop computer based on a microprocessor: the Micral N and the MITS Altair predated the landmark Apple II. Steve Jobs didn’t create the mouse, either: he lifted it from a version he saw at the Xerox Parc research center in Palo Alto. George Lucas, and not Jobs, created Pixar. The Nomad Jukebox, a digital music player made by a company from Singapore, predated the iPod.
Jobs’s real genius was seeing, before practically anybody else, that the computer industry was melding with the consumer-goods industry, and that success would go to products that were useful and well designed, but also nice to look at and cleverly branded. He took genuine innovations and improved upon them. …
In the bigger picture, Jobs’s success owed a lot to the good fortune he had to grow up in Mountain View and Los Altos during the nineteen-seventies. With the invention of the microprocessor and the development of the Internet—both the products of government-financed research programs—Silicon Valley was brimming with technical ideas and snazzy components waiting to be converted into mass-market applications. Jobs saw the opportunity, and seized it brilliantly.
If Jobs is to be categorized, he was a hippie capitalist—the leading member of a species that emerged from the nineteen-sixties and includes Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, the creators of Ben & Jerry’s; Richard Branson, the man behind Virgin Airlines; Anita Roddick, the founder of the Body Shop; Felix Dennis, the magazine impresario; and Jann Wenner, the founder of Rolling Stone. With their background in a movement that sneered at working for “the man,” these groovy entrepreneurs realized that one of the greatest advantages a business can have is to be considered hip and sensitive to larger issues.
As their businesses grew, they tried, with varying degrees of success, to maintain their reputations as outsiders and renegades. Of course, it didn’t always work. Ironically, Wenner was quoted in the Times today complaining about the amount of control that Jobs and Apple sought to exert over the magazine industry. “There is no point for me or any other publisher to give them the name of my customer in exchange for two or three thousand replacement readers, so that ultimately, like the music business, I will be totally out of touch and not control the delivery,” Wenner said.
Evidently, Wenner has come to sympathize with the sentiments behind the old punk-rock slogan “Never trust a hippie.” Many other technology and media executives who dealt with Jobs at the height of his success and power reached a similar conclusion. But few of them could hide their admiration for their tormentor. Even when he was acting like a nineteenth-century railroad magnate and mashing your business into the digital ether, Jobs was cool.
Yesterday we learned of the death of one of the handful of people who drove the technological revolution of the past 30 years, Apple co-founder and visionary Steve Jobs.
Formed in the hippie generation – and likely a consumer of cannabis at some point – Steve Jobs realized early on that life isn’t all music festivals and chanting. Sometimes you have to put on a suit and tie and change the system from within.
Whatever your feelings about Apple Inc. and its products, one thing is certain. The mind and abilities of Steve Jobs affects hundreds of millions of people everyday, and most of them would say their lives are the better for it.
Around 1970, Jobs met Steve Wozniak, who shared his interest in electronics and knew more than he did on the subject. By the time he left high school in 1972, Jobs had worked with Wozniak on several projects. By then Jobs was a “hippie,” with long hair and ripped jeans. He went to Reed College in Oregon for two years then dropped out to pursue another interest—Eastern religions, particularly Zen Buddhism. He and a friend planned to travel to India, the birthplace of Buddhism more than twenty-five hundred years ago.
Before the trip, Jobs worked at Atari, a computer and video-game manufacturer based in Silicon Valley. An assignment with the company took him to Germany, and from there Jobs went on to India. After exploring Indian religions, Jobs returned to California and his job at Atari. The trip, and some later psychological therapy, seemed to change Jobs. One friend told Jeffrey S. Young, author of the Jobs biography The Journey is the Reward, “He was a lot easier to be with after that. He started to think a little more about how things he said might affect other people.”
Only one day after Steve Jobs’ death, Jesse Jackson managed to align the Apple founder with the growing Occupy Wall Street movement.
Jackson began an interview on MSNBC’s “Jansing & Co.” yesterday by offering condolences to the Jobs family, saying he “knew Steve over a period of time, not as a technical computer genius, but also he had an acute sense of social justice and a peace warrior. So he was a well-rounded guy, not just a computer genius we talk about today.”
When host Chris Jansing asked if Jobs would have supported the Wall Street protesters, Jackson said “no doubt about it” and then used his airtime to promote the movement.
“[Jobs] had the sense, this idea of making computers available for the common people. He was kind of the people’s people. As for the Wall Street protests, you are looking at the reaction of the abuses of Wall Street power extremes.”
The respect that Steve Jobs commanded didn’t stem exclusively from his position as the co-founder and visionary CEO of Apple. A man of diverse interests, hailed as a revolutionary, Jobs strictly kept his personal life to himself. But he always stood by what he believed in with little concern about his image. Here are some lesser-known facts about Jobs, whose personal life was marked by experiments with the obscure.
- Experiments with Psychedelics – Albert Hofmann, the creator of LSD, once wrote a letter to Steve Jobs who had publicly praised the positive influence the drug had on his creative thought process. Jobs was among many computer pioneers who attended the 2006 LSD conference “Problem Child and Wonder Drug,” which celebrated the 100th birthday of its creator Hofmann. In the 2005 book “What the Dormouse Said,” New York Times reporter John Markoff quotes Jobs describing his LSD experience as “one of the two or three most important things he has done in his life.”
- Embracing Buddhism – After graduating from high school in 1972, Jobs enrolled at Reed College in Portland, Ore., only to drop out after the first semester. He continued auditing classes at Reed, while sleeping on the floor in friends’ rooms, returning Coke bottles for food money, and getting weekly free meals at the local Hare Krishna temple. Jobs later said, “If I had never dropped in on that single calligraphy course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts.” He also traveled to India to visit the Neem Karoli Baba at his Kainchi Ashram with a Reed friend (and, later, the first Apple employee), Daniel Kottke, seeking spiritual enlightenment. He came back a Buddhist with his head shaved and wearing traditional Indian clothing. His marriage to Laurene Powell on March 18, 1991, was presided over by the Zen monk Kobun Chino Otogawa.
- Roots in 1960s Counterculture – Early photographs (when Jobs was 21 and had only recently founded Apple) show Jobs sporting long and hippie-like hair and, as late as 1988, a photograph from the Douhlas Menuez Photography Collection shows him barefoot at a business meeting, according to a Stanford University press release. Moving on, although Jobs participated in the 1970s counterculture, he interpreted his role in it differently. “Steve Jobs and Bill Gates are the true revolutionaries of our time. Not the students who occupied the dean’s office in the late ’60s. Not the anti-war marchers who were determined to overthrow the establishment. Jobs and Gates are the ones who changed the way the world thinks, acts and communicates,” said Martyn Burke, director of the film “Pirates of Silicon Valley”, which documented the rise of Personal Computers, in an interview.
- Dating Joan Baez – In the unauthorized biography, “The Second Coming of Steve Jobs,” author Alan Deutschman reports that Jobs once dated Joan Baez, the folk musician, human rights and peace activist and Bob Dylan’s onetime girlfriend. Deutschman quotes Elizabeth Holmes, a friend of Jobs from his time at Reed, as saying she “believed that Steve became the lover of Joan Baez in large measure because Baez had been the lover of Bob Dylan.” In another unauthorized biography, “iCon: Steve Jobs” by Jeffrey S. Young and William L. Simon, the authors suggest that Jobs might have married Baez but her age at the time (41) meant it was unlikely the couple could have children.
- Fan of The Beatles. He referred to them on multiple occasions at keynotes and was also interviewed when he showed up at a Paul McCartney concert. When asked about his business model on “60 Minutes,” he replied: “My model for business is The Beatles: They were four guys that kept each other’s negative tendencies in check; they balanced each other. And the total was greater than the sum of the parts. Great things in business are not done by one person, they are done by a team of people.”
Steve Jobs, Apple’s mastermind who took charge of the golden era of personal computing, led a full life characterized by several idiosyncrasies, some of which portray the amusing personality he was. …
- Car Without a License Plate – Jobs drove a silver Mercedes which had a barcode without a license plate. However, he never really got into trouble for a license plate-less car.
- Disabled Parking Spots – Jobs didn’t really care to find parking space when disabled parking spots were available. Andy Hertzfeld, who was a member of the original Macintosh development team once said, Jobs “seemed to think that the blue wheelchair symbol meant that the spot was reserved for the chairman.” According to a popular Jobs legend, reported by Fortune, Apple employees often joked about Jobs being too busy to find a parking space and once put a “Park Different” note under his windshield wiper.
- Wannabe Buddhist Monk Who Sold Computers — Jobs traveled to India, after dropping out of Reed college, to visit Neem Karoli Baba at his Kainchi Ashram with a college friend (and, later, the first Apple employee), Daniel Kottke, seeking spiritual enlightenment. He came back a Buddhist with his head shaved and wearing traditional Indian clothing. He was quoted saying that he thought of becoming a monk up in a monastery in Japan instead of starting Apple, but his guru Kobun Chino convinced him otherwise. However, Jobs’ critics often questioned his stringent management style given that he was a devout Buddhist: “Imagine what he’d be like if he hadn’t studied buddhism…”
- Bob Dylan’s Music – Jobs loved playing Bob Dylan’s tunes with his guitar during his youth. He liked discussing Dylan’s lyrics with his close friends and went as far as dating folk musician Joan Baez, mostly because she was Dylan’s unofficial ex-girlfriend, according to his close associates.
- French Love – Jobs liked visiting Yosemite, Europe, in general, and Paris, in particular. According to a personal Web site on Jobs, he once said to French journalists that one of his proudest moments was to see an Apple billboard next to the Louvre.
Today we have lost a visionary, Steve Jobs died at the age of 56. He was the co-founder of one of the most popular and successful companies in the world. Lets take a look at his life and times. …
Jobs early life also show us the highlights of his entrepreneur skills. In 1968 when he was in high school, he created a device named as blue box, with the help of a friend. The main purpose of the device was to allow users to make long distance calls by attaching it to the phone. In his high school years he also used to sell and repair stereos.
He was very much interested in counter culture. In 1974 he worked at Atari and earned money to travel to India where he sought spiritual enlightenment. In his 20s, he also dated a folk music icon Joan Baez. His favorite musician was Bob Dylan and he also used to wear informal attire to work from then. Jobs met and became friends with Woznaik at Hewlett Packard where they worked in 1971. The both built the Apple I computer in Jobs’ parents garage. To finance this little venture, Jobs had to sell his Volkswagen minibus and Woznaik sold his HP scientific calculator and raised $1750.
The most fitting tribute a grieving world can make to the late Steve Jobs is to assure and secure a business environment committed to the standard of innovation embodied by Apple’s founding chairman. …
The caliber of innovation Jobs’ exemplified and put into motion emanated from inside the soul of a driven, visionary leader who took his cues from no one (except, maybe, consumers) and made no excuses. He defied the executive leadership gurus like Peter Drucker who insist that innovation is the result of methodical analysis of opportunity within particular companies or industries, and beyond in broader social and demographic trends.
Jobs relied more on his gut instincts for focus and simplicity, and less on consumer research. “You have to trust in something,” Jobs told a Stanford commencement audience in June 2005, “your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”
That cornerstone of Jobs’ innovative fire has made all the difference in all our lives. In the three years that the U.S. economy and much of the global economy have been on the skids, Jobs and Apple introduced the first iterations of iPhones and the first and second generation iPad, igniting a global tablet market. …
So while economics, politics and society in general wrestle with their many demons, innovation generally has been left to the whims and wishes of a relative few companies ,compared to the whole sprinkled throughout nearly every industry. The problem: there just aren’t enough players keeping the innovation light as bright as the iconic Jobs.
Sadly, a cover story on “The Failed Promise of Innovation in the U.S.” published in BusinessWeek (now Bloomberg) in June 2009 still holds true: An undeniable innovation shortfall of more than a decade continues to prevail, contributing to-rather than helping to solve-the current economic crisis.
Unlike Apple’s designed disruption, any unpredictable technological breakthroughs have been “positive black swans,” the result of unexpected events with huge positive consequences that look inevitable but aren’t, according to economic author Nassim Nicholas Taleb.
Jobs’ legacy is that he didn’t wait to be told, or funded or fumble into transformation. He integrated his inventive spirit into the fabric of Apple and made it the standard against which everything the company did would be measured. Jobs demonstrated how innovation can be a productive, lucrative change agent if completely incorporated and embraced within a company for the long-term. …
Acknowledging it will take a generation for the U.S. to regain its innovation footing and reverse its innovation decline, Nussbaum calls for federal policy mandates: invest in the making of things, encourage venture capital models, and shifting focus to start-ups and entrepreneurship away from big corporations. Good luck with that or accomplishing anything in Washington until well after the 2012 election!
I’ve got a better idea. Leverage all the well-deserved adulation for Jobs into creating simple templates, campaigns and argument for making innovation a prerequisite for any company fixed on value creation. Keep it simple: Start with the fundamental advice Jobs offered in his oft-quoted Stanford commencement address that seems eerily prophetic now and far from stereotypical corporate sturm und drang.
“Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary. … stay hungry, stay foolish,” he said.
And go forth and innovate to celebrate the life of Jobs.
Steven Paul Jobs was literally a child of Silicon Valley. Born out of wedlock in San Francisco, his birth mother, Joanne Simpson, was a graduate student he tracked down as an adult with the aid of a private detective. Mr. Jobs never publicly discussed his biological father, Abdulfattah “John” Jandali, a native of Syria. Simpson put the baby up for adoption, with the understanding that he be placed with a well-educated family. Simpson initially balked when his adoptive family turned out to be high-school dropout Paul Jobs and his wife, Clara, who never finished college.
Mr. Jobs said his birth mother signed the papers only when his adoptive parents promised to send him to college. But he considered it lucky that his adoptive father, a machinist, moved the family to Mountain View when Mr. Jobs was a boy and gave him a workbench in their garage.
“My father, Paul, was a pretty remarkable man,” Mr. Jobs said in a 1995 oral history for the Smithsonian Institution. He “was kind of a genius with his hands (who) spent a lot of time with me … teaching me how to build things, how to take things apart, put things back together.”
When he was 12, Mr. Jobs wrote to William Hewlett, co-founder of Hewlett-Packard Co., seeking parts for a school project. The precocious youth ended up getting a summer job that would fuel his love of electronics as well as introduce him to future Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, several years his senior, who worked for HP.
Mr. Jobs’ fascination with the electronics industry stood in contrast to his disdain for an educational system that, as he told the Smithsonian, “came close to really beating any curiosity out of me.” Nevertheless, when he graduated from Homestead High School in Cupertino in 1972, his parents, true to their word, sent him to the school of his choice, Reed College, an expensive liberal arts institute in Oregon. …
Mr. Jobs followed his gut back to Silicon Valley, which was just gaining a reputation as an incubator for new technology companies. Mr. Jobs helped that process along when he joined the Homebrew Computer Club. This was a group of electronics buffs who realized that a circuit of new-fangled silicon chips, put to some useful purpose by clever software, could turn the computer – then a room-size monstrosity – into something as small and personal as a television set. …
Mr. Jobs and Wozniak continued working together to design a personal computer that would work right out of the box, instead of a do-it-yourself kit that required assembly. Legend has it that Mr. Jobs sold his Volkswagen bus and Wozniak his Hewlett-Packard scientific calculator to raise the $1,300 they used to set up a production line in Mr. Jobs’ garage. In 1976, when they introduced the $666 Apple I, the Byte Shop in Mountain View ordered 50.
“On that basis the Apple Corporation was founded,” according to the Apple Museum website. “The name is allegedly based on Jobs’ favorite fruit and the logo chosen to play on both the company name and the word byte.” In 1977, Mr. Jobs and Wozniak introduced the Apple II, which remained the company’s mainstay product into the early 1980s. But the restless Mr. Jobs soon lost interest in the nerdy Apple II and instead fell under the spell of an “insanely great” idea that he would pursue to both his glory and ruin – the Macintosh.
“There may be no greater tribute to Steve Jobs’ success than the fact that much of the world learned of his passing on a device he invented.” -Barack Obama
The world is full of visionaries. We are, as a species, endlessly blessed with numerous beings of every shape, size and nationality who can see entire industries, economies, human conditions, nation-states, biological phenomena, the bend of history and the arc of time itself and then imagine or re-imagine ways they can work differently, more humanely, altogether better. …
This, more than anything, appears to be the Jobs way. From chaos to grace. From confusion and incoherence to a singular, Zen-like clarity, ease, a mystical, trademark je ne sais quoi that no other visionary, no other CEO or company on the planet has been able to match. And from the looks of things, it might be awhile.
Do you want to try it? Imagining what the world would have been like without the Jobs influence, his design perfectionism, his Cassandra-like ability to see what would make our computers, our music, our conversations, our digital worlds more interesting, more gratifying, more all-around enchanting to use? It’s a bit like imagining the world if chocolate had never been invented. Or light bulbs. Or singing. Sure it’s OK and all, but, you know, damn.
Maybe this is the only question that matters, and the one that so easily puts Jobs on par with the most revered visionaries of this, or any age. What price grace? How to properly value not merely Chinese-made gizmos, but an entire liberal arts-inspired ethos that insists on making the messy, ridiculous modern world a thousandfold more lucid and enthralling, on making products that actually enrich lives, that inspire you to create beyond your normal range and capabilities? …
There’s a word for this sort of emotionally charged human/object interface, and it’s a word that’s almost never used when speaking of the cold, drab world of computer technology. The word is intimacy.
Simply put, Apple products make you want to touch them, interact with them, develop a personal relationship. They somehow spontaneously weave into your personality, like they were there all along, obvious and welcome and true. In other words, spend a week with a new iPhone and you start pitying the sad, lost person you must’ve been before you had it. Now that’s love. …
And there’s really only one person to thank for it all, and he was a quiet, blue-collar Zen Buddhist college dropout multibillionaire who credits LSD for giving him a “Think Different” approach to the world. So much for business school. …
For new energy to emerge, for a new visionary to step up, for the massive creative void Jobs left to be adequately filled? Impossible to say. Because while the world may be full of visionaries, it turns out Jobs was a bit more than that. Or a lot more. How do we know? Because as it stands right now, the world without him already feels a little more drab, murky, lost. Let us iPray.
I first realized Steve Jobs was not merely lucky, but a true – and uniquely American – genius when, with several small children in tow, I saw the first “Toy Story” movie in 1995. Jobs’ launch of Apple was impressive, to be sure, but Apple in the late ’80s and early ’90s was not so clearly superior in its technology or vision to the legions of other startups making first-generation personal computers.
Then came Pixar, which Jobs bought when the company had zero revenue (and lots of human capital). Its first full-length computer-animated film was so good – and such a leap, in every possible way, from everything that had come before – that there was no escaping that Jobs was a truly gifted corporate leader. With Pixar, lightning had struck a second time for Jobs. It would strike for him again and again and again.
Steve Jobs died at 56, a young man. But one of the things that stands out about him is the longevity of his superstardom. Jimmy Carter was president when Jobs first appeared on the scene as the bearded personification of high-tech cool. From the early Apple PCs to the launch of the Mac, his involvement in Pixar, his return to a humbled Apple and its reinvention as a dominant force in the media world (iPod, iTunes, iPhone, iPad), Jobs spent more than 30 years at the very top of his game.
It’s as though the Beatles, instead of breaking up in 1970, had kept on writing and recording and performing new songs at the same level of creative intensity and productivity for three decades. Interestingly, one of the few people who come to mind as possibly rivaling Jobs in this regard is his career-long nemesis, Bill Gates. That they were both children of the California culture in the ’60s and ’70s is not a coincidence.
Jobs was super-rich, but nonetheless super-cool. The lionizing of Steve Jobs, one of the world’s richest men, is in sharp contrast to the public thrashing of America’s super-rich: CEOs, hedge fund managers, investment bankers, venture capitalists (and most of the residents of Manhattan’s Upper East Side). As Jobs lay dying, New York’s anti-Wall Street demonstrations drew ever bigger crowds of participants and onlookers.
Jobs’ stature reflects America’s ambivalence about personal wealth. Jobs is spared the groundswell of populist anger because he is seen as deserving his fortune (more than $8 billion based on his stock holdings alone). He is classed not with corporate chieftains and financiers for this purpose, but with professional athletes and Nobel Prize winners. Jobs’ oversized compensation is viewed as the just reward for a personal talent so great and so rare it is like a national asset. …
I think he would have been struck by the outpouring of tributes and affection: their volume and depth reflected more than just his importance in the business world or the history of computers. Jobs would have seen that he had connected in some fundamental way with his customers who, by the millions, not only had opened their wallets to buy Apple’s cool, lifestyle-defining products, but also identified with Jobs’ personal narrative: the college dropout who followed his dream from his parents’ garage to the top of the Fortune 500, all the while staying true to some inner compass wired to a uniquely California culture prizing intuition, creativity, community and risk-taking. Not a bad legacy.
I’m old enough to remember the young, brash and bold Steve Jobs from the 70’s. Back then he fancied himself as the Che’ Guevara of the PC Revolution and Anti-IBM movement. Steve was our 70’s Freedom Fighter. He fought against the powerful forces of the IBM Centralized Command & Control Mainframe work world baby boomers grew up in. In the 80’s he viewed himself as a Pirate againest the forces of IBM, Xerox, Hewett Packard and Microsoft.
There was never anything evil about IBM, Xerox or Hewett Packard. Baby-Boomers, like Steve Jobs, were just expressing the usual rebellious youth thinking of the time. Every new generation has their youthful rebellious side and hero’s. We had Steve Jobs and my parents had James Dean. Todays generation even has a song “Rebellious Youth” by Mortal Sin. I doubt they realize just how “Old School” thinking their lyrics are. …
Steve Jobs real gift was his vision and powerful group communications skills to inspire. In 1974 Steve Jobs was a college drop-out searching for the meaning of life in India. Two years later (in 1976) he had found the meaning of his life by starting Apple Computer Company in his parents garage. Wozniak and Jobs designed the Apple I computer in Jobs’s bedroom and they built the prototype in the Jobs’ family garage. …
Steve Jobs also had a dark-side to his self-taught management style. Steve sometimes didn’t understand the technical limitations of his product and his “I know best” attitute lost sight of the customer and market trends. Given his success as a college drop-out and hippie roots he gave little respect to those who wore suits or had great academic success. He micro-managed people and allowed damaging frictions to develop within the company.
Computers had been around long before Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak (The WOZ) entered the field, but their contributions revolutionized the personal-computer industry. Henry Ford didn’t invent the car but he did make it affordable and desirable for ever American to own. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak did the same for the PC. As the co-founders of Apple in 1976, Wozniak and Jobs introduced the concept of a small, relatively inexpensive desktop computer that the average person could own and operate. …
Jobs has presided over a number of technological innovations with Apple and his NeXT computer workstation company. He has also made an impact in the field of animated movies as the head of Pixar, the studio responsible for such blockbusters as Toy Story, Monsters, Inc., and Finding Nemo. Jobs headed up yet another innovative success story with Apple’s online music shop, iTunes, and with its portable digital music player, iPod. …
During his internship at Hewlett-Packard, Jobs met Steve Wozniak (1950–), an electronics whiz who had attended Homestead High School a few years prior. They formed an immediate bond and soon began collaborating on various projects, including a device that would allow users to make free long-distance phone calls. Wozniak supplied the technological know-how, while Jobs dreamed up ways for consumers to use the products they developed. These roles would remain the same years later, when the two men became reacquainted for a new venture. In the meantime, Jobs graduated from high school in 1972 and then enrolled at Reed College in Portland, Oregon. He dropped out after one semester, but he continued to spend time on campus, searching for life’s meaning: he studied philosophy and meditation, experimented with drugs, and became a vegetarian.
Jobs returned to California in 1974, restless and looking for work. He answered a help-wanted ad in the newspaper and was hired to work for Atari, a video-game manufacturer that had risen to prominence with Pong, a game that today looks extremely primitive but at the time seemed quite high-tech. According to a profile in Time magazine, Jobs’s intense personality made him few friends at Atari. “His mind kept going a mile a minute,” reported Al Alcorn, the chief engineer at Atari. “The engineers in the lab didn’t like him. They thought he was arrogant and brash. Finally, we made an agreement that he come to work late at night.” After a short time at Atari, Jobs left to take a trip to India, continuing his quest for spiritual fulfillment. After his return to the United States, Jobs traveled for a time and then got involved with the Homebrew Computer Club in 1975. At meetings for this club, computer enthusiasts would gather to share information and technology. Jobs’s friend from Hewlett-Packard, Steve Wozniak, was a member of the club, and in 1975 Wozniak was still working at Hewlett-Packard and trying to build a computer in his spare time.
As a tribute to the late Steve Jobs, we’re re-publishing this piece from last year in which we got a peek into Jobs’ favorite records as captured in the short-lived iTunes function Ping. Jobs’ impact on the world was as much as an artist as an engineer—and he was pure rock and roll. We hope you’ll join us in paying tribute to one of America’s greatest innovators. He’ll be missed.
Music provides insight to the aura of mystery and brilliance that surrounds Steve Jobs, an album-oriented CEO. How does Steve Jobs, the most popular CEO in the world and head of Wall Street‘s most valuable technology company, describe himself? Like so:
“I grew up in the apricot orchards that later became known as Silicon Valley, and was lucky enough to have my young spirit infused with the social and artistic revolution of the day called rock and roll. It has never left me.”
Ah, the carefree days spent frolicking through the old apricot orchards listening to the revolutionary sounds of Peter, Paul and Mary. Where does the time go? Judging from his taste in music, and barring any statements made by former Apple employees, it’s safe to say that Jobs favors the mellow to the raucous. Steve Jobs likes to chill. Steve Jobs is a bro. His taste in music is pretty fantastic, and it says a lot of about him. Here are the ten records Jobs listed in his now-defunct Ping profile:
- Bob Dylan | “Highway 61 Revisited”
- Cat Stevens | “Tea for the Tillerman”
- The Grateful Dead | “American Beauty”
- Glenn Gould | “Bach: The Goldberg Variations”
- Jackson Browne | “Late for the Sky”
- John Lennon | “Imagine”
- Miles Davis | “Kind of Blue”
- Peter, Paul and Mary | “Around the Campfire”
- The Rolling Stones | “Some Girls”
- The Who | “Who’s Next”
So do you want to learn about music that can change the world? Well, a great place to start your mission is by purchasing these records. On iTunes, of course.
Steve Jobs was that talented, visionary and determined. He combined an innate understanding of technology with an almost supernatural sense of what customers would respond to. His conviction that design should be central to his products not only produced successes in the marketplace but elevated design in general, not just in consumer electronics but everything that aspires to the high end.
As a child of the sixties who was nurtured in Silicon Valley, his career merged the two strains in a way that reimagined business itself. And he did it as if he didn’t give a damn who he pissed off. He could bully underlings and corporate giants with the same contempt. But when he chose to charm, he was almost irresistible. His friend, Heidi Roizen, once gave advice to a fellow Apple employee that the only way to avoid falling prey to the dual attacks of venom and charm at all hours was not to answer the phone. That didn’t work, the employee said, because Jobs lived only a few blocks away. Jobs would bang on the door and not go away.
For most of his 56 years, Steve Jobs banged on doors, but for the past dozen or so very few were closed to him. He was the most adored and admired business executive on the planet, maybe in history. Presidents and rock stars came to see him. His fans waited up all night to gain entry into his famous”“Stevenote” speeches at Macworld, almost levitating with anticipation of what Jobs might say. Even his peccadillos and dark side became heralded.
His accomplishments were unmatched. People who can claim credit for game-changing products — iconic inventions that become embedded in the culture and answers to Jeopardy questions decades later — are few and far between. But Jobs has had not one, not two, but six of these breakthroughs, any one of which would have made for a magnificent career. In order: the Apple II, the Macintosh, the movie studio Pixar, the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad. (This doesn’t even include the consistent, brilliant improvements to the Macintosh operating system, or the Apple retail store juggernaut.) Had he lived a natural lifespan, there would have almost certainly been more.
Behind any human being is a mystery: What happened to make him … him? When considering extraordinary people, the question becomes an obsession. What produces the sort of people who create world-changing products, inspire by example and shock by justified audacity, and tag billions of minds with memetic graffiti? What led to his dead-on product sense, his haughty confidence, his ability to simultaneously hector and inspire people to do their best work? …
The turmoil in those sixties was also part of his make-up. “We wanted to more richly experience why were we were alive,” he said of his generation, “not just make a better life, and so people went in search of things. The great thing that came from those that time was to realize that there was definitely more to life than the materialism of the late 50’s and early sixties. We were going in search of something deeper.”
He went to Reed, a well-regarded liberal arts school known as a hippie haven, but dropped out after a semester, choosing to audit courses informally. (Including a class on calligraphy that would come in very handy in later years.) Jobs also took LSD in those years, and would claim that those experiences affected his outlook permanently and positively. After leaving Oregon, he traveled to India. All of these experiences had an effect on the way he saw the world — and the way he would make products to change that world. …
Jobs was unique in understanding that personal computers could appeal to an audience far beyond geeks. “If you view computer designers as artists, they’re really into more of an art form that can be mass-produced, like records, or like prints, than they are into fine arts,” he told me in 1983. “They want something where they can express themselves to a large number of people through their medium, and their medium is technology and manufacturing.” Later he would refine this point of view by talking about Apple as a blend of engineering and liberal arts.
Why was Jobs so loved, and so mourned now?
It’s interesting. When you think about the Wall Street demonstrations, which are growing, they are largely protests against economic elitists—against the bankers and corporate executives who people feel have too much control over their lives. And yet the ultimate elitist died yesterday, and many of the same people love him. The reason is that they felt that his elitism was meant to make better products for them; that his perfectionism, his high standards, were not to make money—though he did and he charged higher prices than his competitors—but to help them. And so though he was an elitist and a corporate giant, he stayed cool. People treat his death like the President had died.
In twenty years—in a hundred—will Jobs be remembered? And for what?
I believe he will be remembered. If you think about smart phones, he created that market; if you think about the tablet, if you think about animated movies, if you think about music, he transformed those industries. Music companies wanted to sell people an entire CD. He found another model that worked, and also brought prices down. And this is part of the digital revolution that he helped lead. When history looks back at the digital revolution, he was the foremost herald, and will be remembered as such.
What single products will he most be remembered for? The iPhone? “Toy Story”?
The personal computer and the mouse. But I think in a way that all of his products fit under a single rubric. With most products you spend a day figuring out how to read the manual and use the product. With Apple products you didn’t get a manual. If you hand a nine-year-old an iPad, in ten minutes he knows how to use it. In which guise was Jobs most important: as an inventor, as a businessman, or as a cultural figure? These are not useful categories. What he was was a bridge—between businessmen and technology, between designers and technology, between animators and engineers and the public. Here’s an example. When I was writing my book on Google, I would sit in at meetings there and understand half the words—they might as well have been speaking Swahili to me. Jobs never spoke that way. You understood him. Engineers are brilliant—they have all sorts of ideas. But without someone like Jobs to translate their work, they could never cross that divide.
What about Jobs as a political figure?
One of the things that drives the public mad is the sense that politicians are programmed—that they look to polls to tell them what to believe, what to say. One of the reasons Chris Christie seemed to be popular for a moment was that he seemed “genuine.” Well, that’s what Steve Jobs was. He never did any market research—he said people can’t know whether they’ll like an iPhone or an iPad until we’ve actually produced one. I have to go with my gut, and I believe these are products people will love. And they did. He was a liberal Democrat, but he was basically not engaged in politics. He clearly had some relationship with Obama. He gave him, as Obama acknowledged yesterday, an iPad before the general public. One of the things Obama said in his remarks was that we learned about the death of Steve Jobs on one of his devices. He loved Al Gore; Al Gore was a member of his board, and had some geek in him, and they could relate. But I think in general he probably disdained politicians. And he disdained them because they were usually so unlike him. …
What would it mean for a young person to take Steve Jobs as a role model—for better or for worse?
You know, one of the things that’s interesting about Jobs is that in many ways he was not a nice man. And yet he was a brilliant man. He was not particularly kind to people. Ultimately, we won’t remember the personal cruelty; we’ll remember the great products. Ideally what you want to have is a greater balance between being nice and being effective than he achieved. But one of the questions is whether he could have achieved what he achieved if he were nice.
Steve Jobs has continuously blurred the lines between work and life, just the same way he’s blurred the line between art and engineering. Jobs has paved a powerful path of innovation, excellence, passion, and prosperity and has modeled a way of leadership that’s all his own. Here are some of the key lessons we learn from his journey:
- Beginners don’t have baggage. The lightness of a beginner frees up creativity. Steve says, “I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.”
- Be bold. Life’s brief, then you’re gone. Steve says, “Life is brief, and then you die, you know?”
- Be what’s next. Don’t chase after what you missed. Instead, figure out what the next big thing. Steve says, “If I were running Apple, I would milk the Macintosh for all it’s worth — and get busy on the next great thing. The PC wars are over. Done. Microsoft won a long time ago.”
- Design by committee doesn’t work. You can’t arbitrate your way into a great design. Take it from Jobs, “It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”
- Design is more than veneer. Design is a multi-layered thing. It’s a lot more than just veneer. Steve says, “In most people’s vocabularies, design means veneer. It’s interior decorating. It’s the fabric of the curtains of the sofa. But to me, nothing could be further from the meaning of design. Design is the fundamental soul of a human-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers of the product or service.”
- Don’t live someone else’s life. Live YOUR life. Steve says, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.
- Drive to do great things. It’s your ambition, passion, and drive that will take you places you never dreamed possible. Don’t worry about impressing others. Impress yourself.
- Excellence is a way of life. Steve finds the art in life and the beauty in engineering. He sets a higher bar. Steve says, “Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.” Jobs also says, “We don’t get a chance to do that many things, and every one should be really excellent. Because this is our life.”
- Get out of the way for the moving force. The ones doing the work are the moving force. Steve says, “The people who are doing the work are the moving force behind the Macintosh. My job is to create a space for them, to clear out the rest of the organization and keep it at bay.”
- If they fall in love with the company, everything else takes care of itself. The real secret to taking care of the company is hiring people that fall in love with the company. Steve says, “When I hire somebody really senior, competence is the ante. They have to be really smart. But the real issue for me is, are they going to fall in love with Apple? Because if they fall in love with Apple, everything else will take care of itself. They’ll want to do what’s best for Apple, not what’s best for them, what’s best for Steve, or anybody else.”
- It better be worth it. If you’re going to put your life force into it, then the journey has to be worth it. Steve says, “And we’ve all chosen to do this with our lives. So it better be damn good. It better be worth it.”
- It’s not the money. It’s the impact. Make people’s lives better. Leave the world a better place. Steve says, “I was worth over $1,000,000 when I was 23, and over $10,000,000 when I was 24, and over $100,000,000 when I was 25, and it wasn’t that important because I never did it for the money.” Jobs also says, “Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me … Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful… that’s what matters to me.”
- It’s the crazy ones who change the world. Think differently. Don’t be afraid to be different. It’s the crazy ones who change the world. The crazy ones change the world. The ones who think they are crazy enough to change the world, are the ones who do it. It’ not crazy, it’s genius.
- Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower. You don’t buy your way through innovation. Innovation is a by-product of leading great people. Steve says, “Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It’s not about money. It’s about the people you have, how you’re led, and how much you get it.”
- Make people great. It’s tough love. Steve says, “My job is to not be easy on people. My job is to make them better.”
- Perseverance pays off. Steve says, “I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.”
Put your heart and soul into it. Don’t just go through the motions. If it’s really worth doing, then it’s worth doing really well. Steve says, “I think the key thing is that we’re not all terrified at the same time. I mean, we do put our heart and soul into these things.”
Pick your priorities carefully. So no to the hundred other good ideas. Steve says, “People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully.”
Simplicity wins. It’s about power and simplicity. Steve says, ““We’ve gone through the operating system and looked at everything and asked how can we simplify this and make it more powerful at the same time.”
Talent is a huge multiplier. In the book, The Steve Jobs Way: iLeadership for a New Generation , Jay Elliot and William Simon write that Steve Jobs would say, “great engineers are a huge multiplier.” They also write that a lesson they learned from Steve is, “One of the greatest things about finding good people is that they become your best recruiters. They are the people most likely to know others who have the same values and sense of style that you and they themselves do.”
Take responsibility for the complete user experience. Don’t take a piecemeal approach to user experience. It’s not about a bunch of beautiful parts …it’s about the end-to-end experience. Steve says, “Our DNA is as a consumer company – for that individual customer who’s voting thumbs up or thumbs down. That’s who we think about. And we think that our job is to take responsibility for the complete user experience. And if it’s not up to par, it’s our fault, plain and simply.”
What you don’t do defines you as much as what you do. Steve says, “I’m as proud of what we don’t do as I am of what we do.” In the article, “Think Different”: The Ad Campaign that Restored Apple’s Reputation, Tom Hormby writes, “Amelio had reduced 350 projects to 50, and Jobs cut that number down to 10. He turned Apple’s convoluted (and often overlapping) product line into a simple product matrix.”
You have nothing to lose. Follow your heart. Avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. Steve says, “Almost everything–all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure–these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”
You just might be right, even if nobody listens to you. Just because nobody listens to you doesn’t mean you’re wrong. Steve says, “You know, I’ve got a plan that could rescue Apple. I can’t say any more than that it’s the perfect product and the perfect strategy for Apple. But nobody there will listen to me.”
Your brand is your most valuable asset. It’s what you stand for. It’s the attributes that people think of or feel when they think of you. It’s the perception and the aura. Steve says, “Our brand is the most – or at least one of the most – valuable things we have going for us now.”
The world is poorer for the lack of another twenty years of Steve Jobs’s brain, his energy, his judgment, his almost uncanny power to force reality to conform to his expectations rather than the other way around. Selfishly and callously we are angry, for what was taken from us, but that is part of grief too; part of knowing that you had something wonderful that you never properly appreciated until, suddenly, it was gone. …
It is perhaps not all that remarkable that America’s president delivered a statement on the passing of Steve Jobs, as the former CEO of the country’s (and the world’s) most valuable business. It is remarkable, however, to note that the emotional impact of Jobs’s death is the same for Barack Obama as it is for all of us. The two men shared eerily parallel origins; both children of foreign fathers and young American mothers, both raised outside their birth families (Obama by his grandparents, Jobs by his adoptive family), both somehow marked by heritage and circumstance to be destined for the history books and to do things that had never been done before. Now one of them is gone, but just as the world cannot be the same after the election of America’s first biracial president, the world cannot be the same as it was before Steve Jobs.
Namaste, Steve. We remember you with fondness and delight. We wish for your colleagues and for Tim Cook the wisdom and energy to lead Apple the way you would have continued to lead it for many years, if not for the harsh unfairness of cancer and the inevitable tick of life’s clock. And we hope and pray that your wife and children may find a tiny seed of solace in the knowledge that their beloved was our beloved too.
Here’s to the crazy ones.
The round pegs in the square holes.
The ones who see things differently.
They’re not fond of rules.
And they have no respect for the status quo.
You can praise them, disagree with them, quote them,
disbelieve them, glorify or vilify them.
About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them.
Because they change things.
They invent. They imagine. They heal.
They explore. They create. They inspire.
They push the human race forward.
Maybe they have to be crazy.
How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art?
Or sit in silence and hear a song that’s never been written?
Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels?
We make tools for these kinds of people.
While some see them as the crazy ones,
we see genius.
Because the people who are crazy enough to think
they can change the world, are the ones who do.
This poem formed the basis for Apple’s successful “Think Different” campaign. Upon release, the “Think Different” Campaign proved to be an enormous success for Apple and TBWA\Chiat\Day. Critically acclaimed, the spot would garner numerous awards and accolades, including the 1998 Emmy Award for Best Commercial and the 2000 Grand Effie Award for most effective campaign in America. In many ways, the new ad campaign would mark the beginning of Apple’s re-emergence as technical giant. In the years leading up to the ad, Apple had seen many of even its most staunch supporters switch over to other competitors in the market offering more sophisticated and better equipped processors. Even worse, the company had lost hundreds of millions of dollars due to the failure of Apple Newton, a billion-dollar project that proved to be critically, and commercially, unsuccessful. Appealing to the “counter-culture” image Apple had gained in its earlier years, the “Think Different” campaign, along with the return of Steve Jobs, put a bright spotlight on the company and consequently on many of the new products that were being announced, chief among them the immensely successful iMac personal computer and later the Mac OS X operating system.
QUOTES BY STEVE JOBS
You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.
I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.
I think we’re having fun. I think our customers really like our products. And we’re always trying to do better.
I want to put a ding in the universe.
Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.
Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith.
Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations.
To turn really interesting ideas and fledgling technologies into a company that can continue to innovate for years, it requires a lot of disciplines.
Unfortunately, people are not rebelling against Microsoft. They don’t know any better.
Bill Gates would be a broader guy if he had dropped acid once or gone off to an ashram when he was younger.
The only problem with Microsoft is they just have no taste. They have absolutely no taste. And I don’t mean that in a small way, I mean that in a big way, in the sense that they don’t think of original ideas, and they don’t bring much culture into their products.”
My job is not to be easy on people. My jobs is to take these great people we have and to push them and make them even better.
We made the buttons on the screen look so good you’ll want to lick them.
Why join the navy if you can be a pirate?”
So when a good idea comes, you know, part of my job is to move it around, just see what different people think, get people talking about it, argue with people about it, get ideas moving among that group of 100 people, get different people together to explore different aspects of it quietly, and, you know – just explore things.
We don’t get a chance to do that many things, and every one should be really excellent. Because this is our life. Life is brief, and then you die, you know? And we’ve all chosen to do this with our lives. So it better be damn good. It better be worth it.
I’m as proud of what we don’t do as I am of what we do.”
It comes from saying no to 1,000 things to make sure we don’t get on the wrong track or try to do too much.
It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.
I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.
It’s rare that you see an artist in his 30s or 40s able to really contribute something amazing.
I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I’ve ever gotten to a college graduation. …
I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out?
It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: “We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?” They said: “Of course.” My biological mother later found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would someday go to college.
And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents’ savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn’t see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn’t interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.
It wasn’t all romantic. I didn’t have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends’ rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example:
Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn’t have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating. …
No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.
Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.
When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960’s, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.
Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.
I actually think there’s actually very little distinction between an artist and a scientist or engineer of the highest caliber. I’ve never had a distinction in my mind between those two types of people. They’ve just been to me people who pursue different paths but basically kind of headed to the same goal which is to express something of what they perceive to be the truth around them so that others can benefit by it.
I think the artistry is in having an insight into what one sees around them. Generally putting things together in a way no one else has before and finding a way to express that to other people who don’t have that insight so they can get some of the advantage of that insight that makes them feel a certain way or allows them to do a certain thing. I think that a lot of the folks on the Macintosh team were capable of doing that and did exactly that. If you study these people a little bit more what you’ll find is that in this particular time, in the 70’s and the 80’s the best people in computers would have normally been poets and writers and musicians. Almost all of them were musicians. Alot of them were poets on the side. They went into computers because it was so compelling. It was fresh and new. It was a new medium of expression for their creative talents. The feelings and the passion that people put into it were completely indistinguishable from a poet or a painter. Many of the people were introspective, inward people who expressed how they felt about other people or the rest of humanity in general into their work, work that other people would use. People put a lot of love into these products, and a lot of expression of their appreciation came to these things. It’s hard to explain. …
A lot of people come to me and say “I want to be an entrepreneur”. And I go “Oh that’s great, what’s your idea?”. And they say “I don’t have one yet”. And I say “I think you should go get a job as a busboy or something until you find something you’re really passionate about because it’s a lot of work”. I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance. It is so hard. You put so much of your life into this thing. There are such rough moments in time that I think most people give up. I don’t blame them. Its really tough and it consumes your life. If you’ve got a family and you’re in the early days of a company, I can’t imagine how one could do it. I’m sure its been done but its rough. Its pretty much an eighteen hour day job, seven days a week for awhile. Unless you have a lot of passion about this, you’re not going to survive. You’re going to give it up. So you’ve got to have an idea, or a problem or a wrong that you want to right that you’re passionate about otherwise you’re not going to have the perseverance to stick it through. I think that’s half the battle right there.
When people look back on this in a hundred years, they’re going to see this as a remarkable time in history. And especially this area believe it or not. When you think of the innovation that’s come out of this area, Silicon Valley and the whole San Francisco Berkeley Bay area, you’ve got the invention of the integrated circuit, the invention of the microprocessor, the invention of semi-conductor memory, the invention of the modern hard disk drive, the invention of the modern floppy disk drive, the invention of the personal computer, invention of genetic engineering, the invention of object oriented technology, the invention of graphical user interfaces at PARC, followed by Apple, the invention of networking. All that happened in this bay area. Its incredible.
You have to go back a little history. I mean this is where the beatnik happened in San Francisco. Its a pretty interesting thing. This is where the hippy movement happened. This is the only place in America where Rock ‘n Roll really happened. Right? Most of the bands in this country, Bob Dylan in the 60’s, I mean they all came out of here. I think of Joan Baez to Jefferson Airplane to the Grateful Dead. Everything came out of here, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, everybody. Why is that? You’ve also had Stanford and Berkeley, two awesome universities drawing smart people from all over the world and depositing them in this clean, sunny, nice place where there’s a whole bunch of other smart people and pretty good food. And at times a lot of drugs and all of that. So they stayed. There’s a lot of human capital pouring in. Really smart people. People seem pretty bright here relative to the rest of the country. People seem pretty open-minded here relative to the rest of the country. I think its just a very unique place and its got a track record to prove it and that tends to attract more people. I give a lot of credit to the universities, probably the most credit of anything to Stanford and Berkeley, UC California.
WHAT PEOPLE SAID ABOUT STEVE JOBS
Apple has lost a visionary and creative genius, and the world has lost an amazing human being. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to know and work with Steve have lost a dear friend and an inspiring mentor. Steve leaves behind a company that only he could have built, and his spirit will forever be the foundation of Apple. – Apple website
The company issued release stated simply “Steve’s brilliance, passion and energy were the source of countless innovations that enrich and improve all of our lives. The world is immeasurably better because of Steve. His greatest love was for his wife, Laurene, and his family. Our hearts go out to them and to all who were touched by his extraordinary gifts. – Apple Statement.
Steve was among the greatest of American innovators – brave enough to think differently, bold enough to believe he could change the world, and talented enough to do it. By building one of the planet’s most successful companies from his garage, he exemplified the spirit of American ingenuity. By making computers personal and putting the internet in our pockets, he made the information revolution not only accessible, but intuitive and fun. And by turning his talents to storytelling, he has brought joy to millions of children and grownups alike. Steve was fond of saying that he lived every day like it was his last. Because he did, he transformed our lives, redefined entire industries, and achieved one of the rarest feats in human history: he changed the way each of us sees the world. – President Barack Obama
I’m truly saddened to learn of Steve Jobs’ death. Melinda and I extend our sincere condolences to his family and friends, and to everyone Steve has touched through his work. Steve and I first met nearly 30 years ago, and have been colleagues, competitors and friends over the course of more than half our lives. The world rarely sees someone who has had the profound impact Steve has had, the effects of which will be felt for many generations to come. For those of us lucky enough to get to work with him, it’s been an insanely great honor. I will miss Steve immensely. – Bill Gates
Steve, thank you for being a mentor and a friend. Thanks for showing that what you build can change the world. I will miss you. – Mark Zuckerberg
Steve Jobs was the greatest inventor since Thomas Edison. He put the world at our fingertips. – Steven Speilberg
The family of Apple Inc. co-founder and Chairman Steve Jobs issued the following statement Wednesday in response to his death. Jobs is survived by his wife, Laurene Powell, whom he married in 1991, and their three children. He also leaves behind a daughter, Lisa Brennan-Jobs, from a previous relationship.
“Steve died peacefully today surrounded by his family. In his public life, Steve was known as a visionary; in his private life, he cherished his family. We are thankful to the many people who have shared their wishes and prayers during the last year of Steve’s illness; a website will be provided for those who wish to offer tributes and memories. We are grateful for the support and kindness of those who share our feelings for Steve. We know many of you will mourn with us, and we ask that you respect our privacy during our time of grief.”
Steve Jobs has never been shy about his use of psychedelics, famously calling his LSD experience “one of the two or three most important things I have done in my life.” So, toward the end of his life, LSD inventor Albert Hofmann decided to write to the iPhone creator to see if he’d be interested in putting some money where the tip of his tongue had been.
Hofmann penned a never-before-disclosed letter in 2007 to Jobs at the behest of his friend Rick Doblin, who runs an organization dedicated to studying the medical and psychiatric benefits of psychedelic drugs. Hofmann, a Swiss chemist, died in April 2008 at the age of 102.
Written just after his 101st birthday, the letter’s penmanship is impressive for a man of his years. I showed it to my grandmother, Ruth Grim, who was 8 years Hofmann’s junior and did amateur handwriting analysis as long as Hofmann had been tripping. Without knowing who he was, she said in an e-mail that “something happened early in his life that made him twisted about things. Maybe he felt threatened. Also–creative with his hands, hard on himself, thinks a lot, stubborn, careful with the way he expresses himself, not influenced by other’s thinking.”
Doblin says Hofmann often said he had a happy childhood and wouldn’t characterize him as twisted. Hofmann, for his own part, often referred to LSD as his own “problem child” and in his letter he asks Jobs to “help in the transformation of my problem child into a wonderchild.” He specifically asks Jobs to fund research being proposed by Swiss psychiatrist Peter Gasser and directs Jobs to Doblin’s Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies. Doblin and Hofmann were close; Doblin gave the doctor his first tab of ecstasy in the ’80s when it was still legal, he says, and Hofmann loved it, saying that finally he’d found a drug he could enjoy with his wife, no fan of LSD.
Doblin provided a copy of the letter to me; Hofmann’s son, Andreas Hofmann, executor of his father’s estate, authorized its publication. The letter led to a roughly 30-minute conversation between Doblin and Jobs, says Doblin, but no contribution to the cause. “He was still thinking, ‘Let’s put it in the water supply and turn everybody on,'” recalls a disappointed Doblin, who says he still hasn’t given up hope that Jobs will come around and contribute.
That Jobs used LSD and values the contribution it made to his thinking is far from unusual in the world of computer technology. Psychedelic drugs have influenced some of America’s foremost computer scientists. The history of this connection is well documented in a number of books, the best probably being What the Dormouse Said: How the 60s Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer, by New York Times technology reporter John Markoff.
Psychedelic drugs, Markoff argues, pushed the computer and Internet revolutions forward by showing folks that reality can be profoundly altered through unconventional, highly intuitive thinking. Douglas Engelbart is one example of a psychonaut who did just that: he helped invent the mouse. Apple’s Jobs has said that Microsoft’s Bill Gates, would “be a broader guy if he had dropped acid once.” In a 1994 interview with Playboy, however, Gates coyly didn’t deny having dosed as a young man.
Thinking differently–or learning to Think Different, as a Jobs slogan has it–is a hallmark of the acid experience. “When I’m on LSD and hearing something that’s pure rhythm, it takes me to another world and into anther brain state where I’ve stopped thinking and started knowing,” Kevin Herbert told Wired magazine at a symposium commemorating Hofmann’s one hundredth birthday. Herbert, an early employee of Cisco Systems who successfully banned drug testing of technologists at the company, reportedly “solved his toughest technical problems while tripping to drum solos by the Grateful Dead.”
“It must be changing something about the internal communication in my brain,” said Herbert. “Whatever my inner process is that lets me solve problems, it works differently, or maybe different parts of my brain are used.”
Burning Man, founded in 1986 by San Francisco techies, has always been an attempt to make a large number of people use different parts of their brains toward some nonspecific but ostensibly enlightening and communally beneficial end. The event was quickly moved to the desert of Nevada as it became too big for the city. Today, it’s more likely to be attended by a software engineer than a dropped-out hippie. Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the founders of Google, are longtime Burners, and the influence of San Francisco and Seattle tech culture is everywhere in the camps and exhibits built for the eight-day festival. Its Web site suggests, in fluent acidese, that “[t]rying to explain what Burning Man is to someone who has never been to the event is a bit like trying to explain what a particular color looks like to someone who is blind.”
At the 2007 event, I set up my tent at Camp Shift–as in “Shift your consciousness”–next to four RVs rented by Alexander and Ann Shulgin and their septu- and octagenarian friends from northern California. The honored elders, the spiritual mothers and fathers of Burning Man, they spent the nights sitting on plastic chairs and giggling until sunrise. Near us, a guy I knew from the Eastern Shore–an elected county official, actually–had set up a nine-and-half-hole miniature golf course. Why nine and a half? “Because it’s Burning Man,” he explained. Our camp featured lectures on psychedelics and a “ride” called “Dance, Dance, Immolation.” Players would don a flame-retardant suit and try to dance to the flashing lights. Make a mistake, and you would be engulfed in flames. The first entry on the FAQ sign read, “Is this safe? A: Probably not.”
John Gilmore was the fifth employee at Sun Microsystems and registered the domain name Toad.com in 1987. A Burner and well-known psychonaut, he’s certainly one of the mind-blown rich. Today a civil-liberties activist, he’s perhaps best known for Gilmore’s Law, his observation that “[t]he Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.” He told me that most of his colleagues in the sixties and seventies used psychedelic drugs. “What psychedelics taught me is that life is not rational. IBM was a very rational company,” he said, explaining why the corporate behemoth was overtaken by upstarts such as Apple. Mark Pesce, the coinventor of virtual reality’s coding language, VRML, and a dedicated Burner, agreed that there’s some relationship between chemical mind expansion and advances in computer technology: “To a man and a woman, the people behind [virtual reality] were acidheads,” he said. …
And perhaps in other scientific areas, too. According to Gilmore, the maverick surfer/chemist Kary Mullis, a well-known LSD enthusiast, told him that acid helped him develop the polymerase chain reaction, a crucial breakthrough for biochemistry. The advance won him the Nobel Prize in 1993. And according to reporter Alun Reese, Francis Crick, who discovered DNA along with James Watson, told friends that he first saw the double-helix structure while tripping on LSD.
It’s no secret that Crick took acid; he also publicly advocated the legalization of marijuana. Reese, who reported the story for a British wire service after Crick’s death, said that when he spoke with Crick about what he’d heard from the scientist’s friends, he “listened with rapt, amused attention” and “gave no intimation of surprise. When I had finished, he said, ‘Print a word of it and I’ll sue.'”
Dear Mr. Steve Jobs,
Hello from Albert Hofmann. I understand from media accounts that you feel LSD helped you creatively in your development of Apple computers and your personal spiritual quest. I’m interested in learning more about how LSD was useful to you.
I’m writing now, shortly after my 101st birthday, to request that you support Swiss psychiatrist Dr. Peter Gasser’s proposed study of LSD-assisted psychotherapy in subjects with anxiety associated with life-threatening illness. This will become the first LSD-assisted psychotherapy study in over 35 years.
I hope you will help in the transformation of my problem child into a wonder child.
Forget antiwar protests, Woodstock, even long hair. The real legacy of the sixties generation is the computer revolution
Newcomers to the Internet are often startled to discover themselves not so much in some soulless colony of technocrats as in a kind of cultural Brigadoon – a flowering remnant of the ’60s, when hippie communalism and libertarian politics formed the roots of the modern cyberrevolution. At the time, it all seemed dangerously anarchic (and still does to many), but the counterculture’s scorn for centralized authority provided the philosophical foundations of not only the leaderless Internet but also the entire personal-computer revolution.
We – the generation of the ’60s – were inspired by the “bards and hot-gospellers of technology,” as business historian Peter Drucker described media maven Marshall McLuhan and technophile Buckminster Fuller. And we bought enthusiastically into the exotic technologies of the day, such as Fuller’s geodesic domes and psychoactive drugs like LSD. We learned from them, but ultimately they turned out to be blind alleys. Most of our generation scorned computers as the embodiment of centralized control. But a tiny contingent – later called “hackers” – embraced computers and set about transforming them into tools of liberation. That turned out to be the true royal road to the future.
“Ask not what your country can do for you. Do it yourself,” we said, happily perverting J.F.K.’s Inaugural exhortation. Our ethic of self-reliance came partly from science fiction. We all read Robert Heinlein’s epic Stranger in a Strange Land as well as his libertarian screed-novel, The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress. Hippies and nerds alike reveled in Heinlein’s contempt for centralized authority. To this day, computer scientists and technicians are almost universally science-fiction fans. And ever since the 1950s, for reasons that are unclear to me, science fiction has been almost universally libertarian in outlook.
As Steven Levy chronicled in his 1984 book, Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution, there were three generations of youthful computer programmers who deliberately led the rest of civilization away from centralized mainframe computers and their predominant sponsor, IBM. “The Hacker Ethic,” articulated by Levy, offered a distinctly countercultural set of tenets. Among them:
“Access to computers should be unlimited and total.”
“All information should be free.”
“Mistrust authority – promote decentralization.”
“You can create art and beauty on a computer.”
“Computers can change your life for the better.”
Nobody had written these down in manifestoes before; it was just the way hackers behaved and talked while shaping the leading edge of computer technology.
In the 1960s and early ’70s, the first generation of hackers emerged in university computer-science departments. They transformed mainframes into virtual personal computers, using a technique called time sharing that provided widespread access to computers. Then in the late ’70s, the second generation invented and manufactured the personal computer. These nonacademic hackers were hard-core counterculture types – like Steve Jobs, a Beatle-haired hippie who had dropped out of Reed College, and Steve Wozniak, a Hewlett-Packard engineer. Before their success with Apple, both Steves developed and sold “blue boxes,” outlaw devices for making free telephone calls. Their contemporary and early collaborator, Lee Felsenstein, who designed the first portable computer, known as the Osborne 1, was a New Left radical who wrote for the renowned underground paper the Berkeley Barb.
As they followed the mantra “Turn on, tune in and drop out,” college students of the ’60s also dropped academia’s traditional disdain for business. “Do your own thing” easily translated into “Start your own business.” Reviled by the broader social establishment, hippies found ready acceptance in the world of small business. They brought an honesty and a dedication to service that was attractive to vendors and customers alike. Success in business made them disinclined to “grow out of” their countercultural values, and it made a number of them wealthy and powerful at a young age. …
Of course, not everyone on the electronic frontier identifies with the countercultural roots of the ’60s. One would hardly call Nicholas Negroponte, the patrician head of M.I.T.’s Media Lab, or Microsoft magnate Bill Gates “hippies.” Yet creative forces continue to emanate from that period. Virtual reality – computerized sensory immersion – was named, largely inspired and partly equipped by Jaron Lanier, who grew up under a geodesic dome in New Mexico, once played clarinet in the New York City subway and still sports dreadlocks halfway down his back. The latest generation of supercomputers, utilizing massive parallel processing, was invented, developed and manufactured by Danny Hillis, a genial longhair who set out to build “a machine that could be proud of us.” Public-key encryption, which can ensure unbreakable privacy for anyone, is the brainchild of Whitfield Diffie, a lifelong peacenik and privacy advocate who declared in a recent interview, “I have always believed the thesis that one’s politics and the character of one’s intellectual work are inseparable.”
Our generation proved in cyberspace that where self-reliance leads, resilience follows, and where generosity leads, prosperity follows. If that dynamic continues, and everything so far suggests that it will, then the information age will bear the distinctive mark of the countercultural ’60s well into the new millennium.
While there have been several histories of the personal computer, well-known technology writer John Markoff has created the first ever to spotlight the unique political and cultural forces that gave rise to this revolutionary technology. Focusing on the period of 1962 through 1975 in the San Francisco Bay Area, where a heady mix of tech industries, radicalism, and readily available drugs flourished, What the Dormouse Said tells the story of the birth of the personal computer through the people, politics, and protest that defined its unique era.
Based on interviews with all the major surviving players, Markoff vividly captures the lives and times of those who laid the groundwork for the PC revolution, introducing the reader to such colorful characters as Fred Moore, a teenage antiwar protester who went on to ignite the computer industry, and Cap’n Crunch, who wrote the first word processing software for the IBM PC (EZ Writer) in prison, became a millionaire, and ended up homeless. Both immensely informative and entertaining, What the Dormouse Said promises to appeal to all readers of technology.
From Publishers Weekly
Since much of the research behind the development of the personal computer was conducted in 1960s California, it might seem obvious that the scientists were influenced by the cultural upheavals going on outside the lab. Very few people outside the computing scene, however, have connected the dots before Markoff’s lively account. He shows how almost every feature of today’s home computers, from the graphical interface to the mouse control, can be traced to two Stanford research facilities that were completely immersed in the counterculture. Crackling profiles of figures like Fred Moore (a pioneering pacifist and antiwar activist who tried to build political bridges through his work in digital connectivity) and Doug Engelbart (a research director who was driven by the drug-fueled vision that digital computers could augment human memory and performance) telescope the era and the ways its earnest idealism fueled a passion for a computing society. The combustive combination of radical politics and technological ambition is laid out so convincingly, in fact, that it’s mildly disappointing when, in the closing pages, Markoff attaches momentous significance to a confrontation between the freewheeling Californian computer culture and a young Bill Gates only to bring the story to an abrupt halt. Hopefully, he’s already started work on the sequel.
Thanks to the cunning of history and the wondrous strangeness of Northern California, the utopian counterculture, psychedelic drugs, military hardware and antimilitary software were tangled together inextricably in the prehistory of the personal computer. Full of interesting details about weird but not arbitrary connections, John Markoff’s book tells one of the oddest–because truest–of California tales and thereby helps illuminate the still unsettled legacy of the Sixties. –Todd Gitlin, author of Media Unlimited and The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage
“Wonderful . . . [It] makes a mind-blowing case that our current silicon marvels were inspired by the psychedelic-tinged, revolution-minded spirit of the sixties. It’s a total turn-on.”
—Steven Levy, author of Hackers –This text refers to the Paperback edition.
John Markoff is a senior writer for The New York Times who has coauthored Cyberpunk: Outlaws and Hackers on the Computer Frontier and the bestselling Takedown: The Pursuit and Capture of Kevin Mitnick, America’s Most Wanted Computer Outlaw.
What the Dormouse Said (the title is taken from the lyrics of the Jefferson Airplane song “White Rabbit”) tells the story of the important period when the personal computer and the Internet as we know them came into being. He also describes how a new culture of drugs, sex and rock and roll was created at the same time as the computers, sometimes in the same rooms, by some of the same people. Some readers may be shocked by the degree to which the design of modern computing was a central component of the 1960s counterculture in Northern California.
This is news that might interest young engineering students, for reasons much more important than titillation. The computer and the Internet are cultural as well as technical artifacts, and they are still changing. We can now see for the first time the relation between the aspirations of young idealistic designers and the actual experiences of people using these tools on a massive scale in a world newly rich with information. The story thus far is more inspirational than not, but it is filled with drama and lingering uncertainties.
Markoff’s book covers the years 1960 to 1975 and the area south of San Francisco around Stanford University that would later come to be known as Silicon Valley. I arrived in Palo Alto in 1980, after the period described in the book, but got to know most of the people Markoff depicts. I can report that if anything, he underplays the degree to which they behaved in ways that would today be considered outrageous and radical, and what I saw was said to have been mild compared with what had come before.
The book captures what can only be called the funkiness of the time and place. I well remember the boomerang-shaped Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, hidden in the hills, at once a futuristic science-fiction vision and a dangerous, dilapidated mess that would be considered unfit for human use in the current climate of liability litigation. Masses of wires blossomed out of the rear ends of hot, giant early computers, looking rather like the hair on the heads of the engineers building them. The ragged, broken walls and ceilings were softened by the hippie décor and the fragrance of marijuana and candles, which created a warm ambience. And yes, there were drugs and naked people in the rooms where some of the code that now drives your e-mail around the globe was first set down. The people who conceived of critical aspects of modern computing moved in the same social circles as the musicians who became the Grateful Dead and the people who invented drug “tripping” and New Age spirituality.
Markoff tells the deliciously scandalous true history of computing in the ’60s and also considers how that legacy matters. His principal focus is on one of the enduring ideological conflicts that first appeared then: the struggle between open and proprietary software. He presents a marvelous chronicle of the first open-source project, which was also the first video game: “Spacewar.” He also describes some of the early attempts to supplant the open-community method with a proprietary regime, particularly those of a kid named Bill Gates. …
The book also captures an important early conflict between two cultures of computing that seemed compatible on the surface but actually had opposing aims. On the one side was the human-centered design work of Engelbart, based initially at the Stanford Research Institute, and on the other was artificial intelligence culture, centered on the Stanford AI lab. Engelbart once told me a story that illustrates the conflict succinctly. He met Marvin Minsky—one of the founders of the field of AI—and Minsky told him how the AI lab would create intelligent machines. Engelbart replied, “You’re going to do all that for the machines? What are you going to do for the people?” This conflict between machine- and human-centered design continues to this day.
There’s a tendency to think of hippies and peaceniks as Luddites, not as the source of the central ideas of modern computing.
On Route 128, where I grew up, the dominant myth is that the computer and the Internet developed out of research funded by the military and the government, motivated by the goals of miniaturization for rocketry, nuclear and space weapons, and satellite surveillance. For the last 20 years, I’ve lived on the fringe of Silicon Valley. Here, there’s a different creation myth of personal computers and the Internet that idolizes the heroes of entrepreneurial capitalism.
“Both stories are true, but they are both incomplete,” says longtime New York Times Silicon valley correspondent John Markoff at the start of his new work of historical correction, What the Dormouse Said: How the 60’s Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry. As Markoff tells it, many of the people working in both academic and corporate computing labs from the 1950’s through the 1970’s were doing so specifically to avoid the draft.
Many of those pioneering researchers were actively exploring the enhancement of human intelligence both through computing and through mind-altering drugs, spiritual inquiry, sexual experimentation, and other aspects of the political and social counterculture.
Many of the most critical contributions to what would eventually become the personal computer industry were made by people motivated not by money, but by a vision of the potential for computers to serve people as tools for networking, community building, and peacemaking.
Myths matter. Are computer networks top-down tools of centralized government and corporate power, or participatory tools for grassroots empowerment, information democracy, and independent citizen journalism? Markoff admits to having accepted the standard myths. But once he started hearing anecdotes that made him aware of the gaps in his view of high-tech history, he set out to tell the world the missing parts of the story. …
Bringing together the mantra of the Whole Earth Catalog, “Access to Tools,” with the emerging vision of accessible, affordable, interactive computers, Fred Moore and Free Speech Movement veteran Lee Felsenstein organized the Homebrew Computer Club as an anarchistic expression of the “Rainbow Family” value they placed on networking and sharing in the service of social change.
The rest, as they say, is history. Dozens of pioneering personal computer companies, including Apple Computer, would grow out of the small Homebrew community. Lee Felsenstein himself would found Osborne Computer and make the first portable computers. …
John Markoff clearly wasn’t part of the movement he describes, and as an outsider he focuses on some people and events that his circle of informants told him about, while missing others. For example, he almost totally overlooks the MIT techno-Deadhead community of leftist hackers. But his book is a valuable attempt to capture a forgotten piece of movement history, and in many ways a movement victory: today a blogger with $10 a month to spend on Web hosting can reach as many people, all over the world, as the largest alternative magazine of the 1960’s.
As all major movements and innovations seem to come out of periods of cultural upheaval so true is it of the computer revolution that brought about the information age. Here we see that Steve Wozniak’s Apple one was just an immediate cause the soon to come home computing explosion. It wasn’t until brew-club mate Steve Jobs saw that the market was ripe to start selling computers that the market took off. But underlying this well known story of garage-built computing is a much deeper and much more interesting story of how the field of computer science developed in sequence with the intellectual community and how it wasn’t until these fields clashed (or symbiotically nurtured) with 1960’s psychedelic counterculture as only California could have produced it that the computer science really took off. “What the Dormouse Said” explores how the computer industry needed freedom from the heavy top down institutions of the East Coast and found it in Silicon Valley. …
As always is the case it was midlevel people that truly brought about the computer revolution. These people; the mid-level intelligent doers not the business leaders were able to thrive technically in the environment of the 1960’s that questioned everything. This questioning allowed the cutting edge technology industry to break apart from stifling corporate mentalities of the current tech businesses and even universities that were still under the yoke of 19th century corporate mentality to a great extent. It was Stanford University that offered a strange mix of willingness to fund computer research and yet was a hot bead of counterculture. As a university that had a small amount of prestige yet by no means an overwhelmingly stifling atmosphere it was a breeding ground for new ideas. This naturally turned out to be a nurturing atmosphere for technical innovation.
John Markoff, explores this time of innovation that resulted in the fledgling PC industry. The book is less than a narrative and more of a mix of events accounts of people within the industry and researched texts. It is a very fast and interesting read. The connection of drugs and the enhancment consciousness and the idea that computers could augment the human intellect that Doug Englebart apparently had was visionary, though quite possibly accidental. The Drug culture of the 1960’s at least opened the door to the idea of a world connected by computers. Reading this book really makes one aware of how visionary and pioneering these young computer scientists really were. I have been a fan of Markoff and his articles for a long time and I see he really put a lot of effort into making this book lucid and vital. This history is very important to us now and it had me call into question weather WWII or the PC revolution was the most important event of the 20th century. The only problem is that the book seems somewhat disjointed and I had trouble following the book at times. Overall I think this book is fascinating and should be required reading for engineering students.
Like many other reviewers of John Markoff’s terrific “What the Dormouse Said,” I live in the area– neighborhood, really– that is Markoff’s subject; I’ve met a few of the characters he writes about; and I’ve read a lot of the literature on the history of Silicon Valley.
The claim that the counterculture laid the foundations for the personal computer is, as Markoff himself notes, not new: Stewart Brand and Theodore Roszak both made the argument, albeit in much shorter form, and among a certain generation of Silicon Valley players (anyone roughly the same age as Jerry Garcia), the claim is just obvious. Markoff takes this conventional wisdom and puts flesh and bones on it, and he does a great job explicating the work of Doug Engelbart and John McCarthy.
But what really strikes me about the book is the claim that, in the long run, the history of the Sixties was made in apparently-sleepy Palo Alto, not noisy Berkeley (an hour’s drive north). Berkeley got all the press, but in the long run, what was the importance of the student protests? What’s the legacy of People’s Park? It’s a ratty, undeveloped block, as the university refuses to sell and activists refuse to let the university build on it. Palo Alto, in contrast, gave us the Grateful Dead and the personal computer– the second of which unquestionably changed the world, and arguably reflected the best of the counterculture more than anything that happened in San Francisco or Berkeley.
For those who live in the area, the claim may seem both obvious and strange. The idea that the future is invented here is now commonplace; the notion that it’s an interesting place to live, on the other hand, is a harder sell. And certainly the cheap houses tucked away behind Stanford, or in some lesser-known neighborhoods in Palo Alto and Menlo Park, are gone gone gone. But even today, we can see traces of the world Markoff describes, and describes brilliantly.
Nearly every concept in the personal computer predates all of this, in a delightfully picaresque tale that starts in the late 1950s and weaves together computers, LSD, the Berkeley Free Speech Movement, the Vietnam War and dozens of characters.
John Markoff, veteran technology reporter for the New York Times, is the first to comprehensively tell this story in his new book What The Dormouse Said: How the 60s Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry. Markoff persistently investigates the roots of the PC its unsung pioneers, its user interface, and the culture of open-source software in the San Francisco drug and anti-war culture of the late 1950s and 1960s. Markoff has painstakingly researched the men (and a few women) who populated the cutting edge of the computer revolution in 1960s San Francisco, capturing an oral history of the PC never before recorded. …
In parallel to this central story are those of the Stanford AI Lab (SAIL), the Free University, the People’s Computer Company, and the Homebrew Computer Club, all located within a few files of the center of the San Francisco peninsula. SAIL, in its first incarnation under John McCarthy and Les Earnest, may have been the first place where computers (or the powerful access to a time-sharing server) really were “personal”, and was almost certainly the birthplace of the first true computer game, SpaceWar. It was the locus of naked hot-tub parties, a porn video, and not a little bit of LSD (taken both as serious experimentation and recreationally.) That culture fueled a cast of characters dodging the Vietnam war at Stanford and at the ARPA-funded Stanford Research Institute and creating a counter-culture. Virtually everyone linked to the genesis of the PC spent some time at SAIL.
“Dormouse” is peppered with odd juxtapositions and combinations of characters including Fred Moore, the anti-war activist and single father who knit the community together with a pile of special punch cards and a knitting needle and helped create the People’s Computer Company and the Homebrew Computer Club. Another, Steve Dompier, was widely accused — falsely, Markoff convincingly reports — of being the source for the infamous distribution of Gates’ early Altair BASIC. …
If the book has a problem, this is it. Markoff neither presents a first-person oral history nor is he able to tease a single central narrative thread out of this creative soup. He tells several interwoven stories, but there is so large a cast of characters that one must be a dedicated reader (or have a previous knowledge of some of the events described) to keep everything straight. Without a single narrative, the book returns several times to the start of a timeline, retracing it from another perspective, and after a while you feel the need for a map. …
For anyone who thinks they know anything, or wants to know anything, about the real roots of the PC revolution and the pioneers who never got famous, this book is required reading.