Steve Jobs died last Wednesday, aged 56. Tributes are everywhere. He has been widely described, in the obituaries that have followed, as a visionary and a genius.
Jobs closed a commencement address at Stanford six years ago by quoting the final issue of the Whole Earth Catalog. “Stay hungry, stay foolish,” Jobs told the grads.
Sadly, it seems that he may have followed his own advice too well.
Sure, he founded Apple, made Pixar what it is, came out with the Macintosh (from the 1984 version through the iMac and the MacBook Air), iPod (all the way up to the Nano), iPhone, iPad, iTunes, etc. Amazing technology, all of it. Slate’s Farhad Manjoo calls Jobs ”the man who invented our world.”
But at what price?
He drove employees working on the original Mac to work long hours over long months until their families disintegrated under the strain. He remade Apple, after his 1997 return, by instituting what Salon called a “reign of terror”: constantly calling employees at all hours, even summarily firing some of them during brief encounters in company elevators. Fortune magazine called him “one of Silicon Valley’s leading egomaniacs.”
His firstborn child lived for two years on welfare, because he refused to acknowledge her. He also apparently refused to the end to meet with or even call his biological father, Abdulfattah “John” Jandali, who lived 250 miles away, even though Jandali publicly expressed a deep desire to have a relationship with his son.
I can’t see inside Jobs’s heart. I can’t even see very far inside my own. I don’t know why he denied his daughter, or snubbed his birth father. But I do know that money and things pale in comparison to people. Building a business empire? Changing the way the world does technology? Trifling in comparison to honoring a father, or raising a daughter.
Steven Paul Jobs, 1955-2011. He was a fool.
I hope that’s not true. I’m afraid it may be.
How about you? How would you like your epitaph to read, and why?