There are so many words one could use to describe Steve Jobs—‘visionary,’ ‘innovative,’ ‘genius,’ ‘billionaire’ and ‘Apple co-founder’ are a few that come to most people’s minds. ‘Zen Buddhist,’ ‘college dropout’ and ‘absent father’ would also be accurate descriptions of Steve Jobs. But, unless you are an avid fan of Jobs or have read his biography, you likely wouldn’t have known about some of the latter facts.
There’s so much more to the man behind Apple than meets the eye. His life and story are far from conventional—and some instances are downright surprising. But that is in large part what makes him such an inspiration to so many people. He went against the grain, beating the odds again and again. There’s no denying that Steve Jobs changed the world for the better, with his many inventions (and you won’t believe the number of things he patented). Although he passed away in 2011, his legacy lives on. You’re probably reading this on an iPhone, iPad or MacBook right now.
So, let’s dive a little deeper into the icon that is Steve Jobs. Here are 15 things you probably didn’t know about the Apple co-founder and former CEO of Pixar.
15. His father is Syrian
Most people, by simply looking at Steve Jobs, would not guess that he is half Syrian. But, it’s true. Steve Jobs’ biological father is Abdulfattah “John” Jandali, a Syrian-born Muslim. Jandali’s father was a self-made millionaire who didn’t go to college. Hey, that sounds familiar! Clearly, entrepreneurship runs in this family. Jobs’ father holds a PhD in political science. While he was studying at the University of Wisconsin, he met Joanne Schieble, a Catholic woman of Swiss and German descent. The two began a relationship, which Joanne’s parents did not approve of (mainly because of their difference in religious beliefs). When she became pregnant at the age of 23, Joanne decided it was best to put the baby up for adoption. The baby was then adopted by Paul and Clara Jobs, who named the newborn Steve.
It wasn’t until 2005 that Jandali found out he is Steve’s biological father. But, he avoided contacting his son, out of fear that Steve would think he was after the Apple fortune. Jandali is currently the Vice Chairman of Boomtown Casino and Hotel in Reno, Nevada. Unfortunately, Steve never met his biological father—at least, knowingly. Steve thinks he did encounter his father once at a restaurant (without knowing who he was).
14. His biological sister is a successful author
Just before Joanne gave birth to Steve, Abdulfattah left her. A few months after the adoption, however, he returned and they got married. The two ended up having a daughter, Mona. But, the couple split and Joanne eventually remarried. Mona—much like her brother—went on to become successful. However, her success came as a novelist. She even wrote a novel called The Lost Father, based on her real search for her father, Abdulfattah. It is reported that the father and daughter currently have a strained relationship.
Although Steve never met his biological father, he did meet his biological mother and sister. He met Mona when he was 27 years old and was apparently struck by the similarity of both their physical and mental traits. They maintained a relationship and Jobs revealed, “We’re family. She’s one of my best friends in the world. I call her and talk to her every couple of days.”
13. He was offered a summer job with HP at age 12
What did you do when you were 12? Most likely, you watched cartoons, played tag with your friends and read a few books here and there. That’s what the average 12-year-old does. Steve Jobs was not an average 12-year-old, though. Instead of doing what everyone else his age was doing, he was building a frequency counter. But, he ran into a problem: he didn’t have the parts. So, what did he do? Naturally, he called up the then-CEO of HP, Bill Hewlett, to ask him for extra parts. After speaking for 20 minutes, Hewlett offered Steve a summer job at HP—an offer he accepted. Steve later said in an interview, “Most people don’t get those experiences because they never ask.”
12. He practiced Zen Buddhism
In 1976, at the age of 19, Steve Jobs went on a spiritual trip to India. He embraced the culture, even going so far as to walk around barefoot. But, the trip did not go as planned, with Steve falling ill and his friend’s traveler’s checks being stolen. The trip still had a big impact on Jobs, though. It made him question the illusions he held and it helped him to realize that Thomas Edison did a lot more to improve the world than Karl Marx and Neem Baba (the guru he was seeking) combined. When he returned home, Steve continued practicing meditation. It seemed like a good time, too, as Zen Buddhism was beginning to flourish in San Francisco, where he resided. Steve later met Kobun Otogawa, a Zen priest, with whom he would go on meditation retreats. His spirituality definitely made its way into his professional career, as the influence of Zen Buddhism can be seen in Apple’s clean, simplistic designs.
11. He denied paternity
We can admire Steve Jobs for many things, but we can’t ignore the fact that he denied paternity of his first child for years, although he knew he was the father. When Steve was 23, his first girlfriend, Chrisann Brennan (with whom he had an on-again/off-again relationship for several years) became pregnant while she and Jobs lived together. It was a complicated time, as Apple was just beginning. According to Chrisann, Steve began telling people that she slept around and that he was infertile, to paint the picture that he was not the father. Steve was present at the birth and even agreed on the name “Lisa.” He continued to publicly deny paternity, even after a DNA test revealed that he was the father! Seriously, we know he’s smart and great at convincing people of things, but this was one of Steve’s foolish moments. To make things even more dramatic, Steve named one of Apple’s desktop computers “Lisa,” but insisted that it was an acronym. The model was released in 1983 and Steve later admitted that he named it after his daughter. The good news is that he eventually did have a relationship with his daughter and paid for her to go to Harvard.
10. Why he was fired from Apple
You may know that in 1985 Steve Jobs was fired from Apple—the company he helped to create. How can that be? You may know that there was a disagreement between Steve and Apple’s then-CEO, John Sculley. But, you may not know what the details are. Well, Steve wanted to drop the price of the Macintosh and focus more of the advertising on it, instead of the Apple II. At the time, Mac sales were not doing well, but Sculley blamed it on the software, not the price. Apple’s Board of Directors sided with Sculley and Steve was let go from the company.
Steve later said in a speech that he had felt like a failure at the time and wanted to run away from everything. But, he didn’t. Instead, he pursued other things and came to the realization that this event needed to happen in his life.
9. He gave to charity quietly
Steve Jobs was often criticized for not giving to charity, especially when compared to Bill Gates (one of the most charitable people in the world). But, was he really as uncharitable as people made him out to be? When asked about his wealth and plans back in 1985, Steve said, “That’s a part of my life that I like to keep private. When I have some time, I’m going to start a public foundation. I do some things privately now.”
Besides the fact that Steve contributed incredible technological devices and machines to the world, he did make some noteworthy charitable contributions. For example, Steve announced Project RED back in 2006, in which proceeds from each Project RED product is donated to The Global Fund and used to help women and children affected by HIV/AIDS in Africa. After his passing, Jobs’ widow revealed that they don’t like attaching their names to things. Just one example of Steve’s quiet charity work is his donation of $50 million to hospitals in California.
8. He sued a 19-year-old for writing about Apple products
Steve was known for wanting full control of Apple’s image and what people said about the company. How extreme was he? Well, apparently so extreme that he sued a teenager who wrote a blog about Apple products. Some would argue that Apple was justified in suing 19-year-old Nicholas Ciarelli, a student who created the website, Think Secret. He posted information online, which he obtained from an unknown inside source, about Apple’s unreleased products. Of course, Steve Jobs—a lover of secrecy—was not happy about this. In the end, Think Secret was shut down.
7. He has over 300 patents to his name
How many things did Steve Jobs invent? We all know he invented the iPhone, iPad and MacBook, but there are way more patents associated with his name. In fact, there are over 300! He appears as the lead inventor for over 30 products. Steve wasn’t just the inventor of desktop computers, iPods, laptops, keyboards and mice, he also invented packaging, power adapters, display devices and even the glass staircase inside of some Apple retail stores. That’s pretty impressive, isn’t it? Clearly, he had many brilliant ideas, an eye for detail and a knack for design.
6. He lied to his friend and business partner, Steve Wozniak
The other Steve who founded Apple—Steve Wozniak—doesn’t get as much credit as he deserves. Steve Wozniak single-handedly developed the first computer that launched Apple. But, even before Apple began, Jobs and Wozniak were doing business together. Atari had offered money to Jobs to design a chipset for the game, Breakout. Jobs then gave the work to Wozniak, promising him he would split the payment 50-50. Unfortunately for Wozniak, Jobs didn’t keep his promise. He lied to Wozniak, saying that Atari paid him $1500, when they really paid him $5000. So, Wozniak ended up with $750, while Jobs took over $4000. Wozniak later admitted he cried when he found out (10 years later) that Jobs lied and says he would have given Jobs the money, had he expressed his need for it.
5. He gives credit to a calligraphy class for inspiring the Mac’s typography
Most of us are aware that Steve Jobs dropped out of college. He said in his 2005 Stanford commencement speech that he didn’t know what he wanted to do at the time and felt that he was wasting his parents’ money. Although he officially dropped out, he still attended lectures that interested him. One of those lectures was Robert Palladino’s calligraphy class, which Jobs later credited with helping him to develop the first computer with great typography. He says: “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 and artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture.” It’s this appreciation for aesthetics which ultimately set Apple apart in the tech world. It’s strange how it all worked out. Steve had no idea, at the time, how useful a calligraphy class could possibly be.
4. He got along with Bill Gates
Of course, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs had somewhat of a rivalry. After all, they were each the heads of two giant tech companies. But, the two didn’t hate each other. In fact, they could best be described as ‘frenemies.’ When Apple was in trouble, back in the ‘90s, it was Gates who invested $150 million into the company. They even appeared together in 2007, at the All Things Digital Conference. When asked about their relationship, Gates said that people come and go in the industry, but it’s nice that some people stick around. And Jobs said, “…there’s that one line in that one Beatles song … ‘You and I have memories longer than the road that stretches out ahead’ and I think that’s true here.”
After Jobs’ passing, Gates appeared teary-eyed in an interview, saying, “When he was sick I got to go down and spend time with him. We talked about what we’d learned, about families, everything.” Gates even revealed that he wrote Steve a letter as he was dying and Steve kept it by his bedside. The two clearly had a lot of respect for each other and their rivalry seems to have been exaggerated by the media.
3. He initially refused cancer treatments
In 2003, Steve Jobs was diagnosed with a rare form of pancreatic cancer. What’s amazing is that the cancer was spotted by chance, during a check for kidney stones. Steve was fortunate in the sense that he had a type of tumor which grew slowly and could have easily been cured with surgery. However, he rejected the idea of doing the surgery for nine months. Instead, he opted for alternative treatments, which reportedly included a special diet, acupuncture and spiritual consultations. The decision puzzled many people, including his family members. But, Jobs had a reason for doing what he did—he stated that he didn’t want his body to be violated in any way.
He later decided to go ahead with the surgery and it seemed successful. In the years following, Steve’s health was visibly declining. He underwent a liver transplant and it’s assumed that in early 2011, he had flown to Switzerland for cancer treatment. It was too late, though, and by August of that year, Steve passed away. Many people believe, with confidence, Steve Jobs would have survived much longer had he chosen to undergo the conventional treatments. Even his biographer said that Jobs spoke about regretting the decision to postpone the treatments the doctors initially suggested.
2. He acted as a mentor to Google’s founders, but felt betrayed by them
When it comes to phones these days, it’s all about Android versus iPhone. You’d think that Google and Apple have been bitter rivals since the very beginning, right? Well, in 2011, technology reporter, Steven Levy, released a book called In The Plex: How Google Thinks, Works and Shapes Our Lives. The book revealed that Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page actually wanted Jobs to be Google’s CEO, but he declined. That’s when he decided to be their mentor, though. When Google revealed the Android operating system, Steve felt betrayed. He said, “We did not enter the search business. They entered the phone business…Make no mistake; Google wants to kill the iPhone. We won’t let them.” Jobs was reportedly furious at meetings with Google executives, believing that Google was simply copying Apple’s success. He even threatened to sue if they copied specific iPhone features, such as multi-touch.
1. He initially opposed apps
One of the main things Apple fans love about the company’s products is the apps. Whatever you want to do on your phone, there’s likely an app for it. So, imagine the iPhone without apps…weird, right? It may come as a surprise, then, that Steve Jobs initially opposed the idea of having third-party apps on the iPhone. A member of Apple’s board of directors had to call him about six times to try to convince him to even consider the idea. He was against it because he “felt his team did not have the bandwidth to figure out all the complexities involved in policing third-party app developers.” Thankfully, he eventually agreed to it. What would we have done without Angry Birds and Instagram on our phones? It’s just unfathomable.
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