Walter Issacson's 60 Minute Highlights About Steve Jobs
Did you get a chance to watch biographer Walter Isaacson's interview on 60 Minutes yesterday...? If not (or so), below are some key highlights from the show put together by mashable...
Jobs invited Isaacson to write his biography seven years ago. Isaacson thought the request “presumptuous and premature, since Jobs was still a young man.” What Isaacson didn’t know at the time was that Jobs was about to undergo surgery for pancreatic cancer.
Isaacson describes Jobs as “petulant” and “brittle.” “He could be very, very mean to people at times. Whether it was to a waitress in a restaurant, or to a guy who had stayed up all night coding. … And you’d say, ‘Why did you do that? Why weren’t you nicer?’ And he’d say, ‘I really want to be with people who demand perfection. And this is who I am,” recalls Isaacson.
Isaacson attributes much of Jobs’s personality and drive to a few key moments in his childhood. Isaacson tells one anecdote involving the construction of a fence with his adoptive father Paul. “And [Paul] said, ‘You got to make the back of the fence that nobody will see just as good looking as the front of the fence. Even though nobody will see it, you will know, and that will show that you’re dedicated to making something perfect.’”
Jobs was also influenced by the Bay Area, and not just the Hewlett-Packard offices located nearby, but also its counter-culture spirit. “He was sort of a hippie-ish rebel kid, loved listening to Dylan music, dropped acid, but also he loved electronics,” Isaacson describes. He says that when Jobs worked at game-maker Atari they had to put him on the night shift because he walked around barefoot and never bathed, and so employees didn’t want to work with him.
Jobs took a seven-month leave from Atari to travel through India. His encounters there and with Zen Buddhism “really informed his design sense,” says Isaacson. “That notion that simplicity is the ultimate sophistication [came from that trip].”
When Jobs returned, he began making a primitive computer for hobbyists in the garage of his parents with Steve Wozniak, Apple’s other founder. They started with $1,300. By the time Jobs was 25 Apple was worth “maybe 50 million dollars,” Jobs said in a taped recording with Isaacson. “I knew I never had to worry about money again.”
Jobs also had a natural disregard for authority, and felt that normal rules didn’t apply to him, Isaacson explains. One manifestation of that principle was visible in a Mercedes sports coupe he owned, which he refused to put a license plate on.
Isaacson says Jobs’s house in Palo Alto is completely unremarkable. “[It's] a house on a normal street with a normal sidewalk. No big winding driveway. No big security fences,” Isaacson says. He recalls that Jobs said he “did not want to live that nutso lavish lifestyle that so many people do when they get rich.”
Jobs did meet his biological father, who once ran a restaurant in Silicon Valley. But Jobs never revealed to his father who he was. “I was in that restaurant once or twice and I remember meeting the owner who was from Syria,” Jobs said on tape. “And it was most certainly [my father]. And I shook his hand and he shook my hand. And that’s all.”
Jobs’s cancer was discovered accidentally while he was being checked for kidney stones in 2004. A cat scan revealed a malignant tumor in his pancreas. Jobs delayed the operation for its removal for nine months while he tried a number of natural remedies first. By the time it was operated on, the cancer had spread to tissues around the pancreas. Isaacson says he believes Jobs regretted the delay.
Through 2008, Jobs continued to receive secret cancer treatment even though he was telling everyone he had been cured. The cancer had spread to his liver by this time.
In the last two-and-a-half years of his life, Jobs no longer wanted to go out or travel, but wanted to focus on the products he was building at Apple: namely, the iPhone and iPad. “I think he would’ve loved to have conquered television [as well],” says Isaacson. “He would love to make an easy-to-use television set. … But he started focusing on his family again as well. And it was a painful brutal struggle. And he would talk, often to me about the pain.”
Jobs occasionally brought up the subject of death in their last meetings. “I saw my life as an arc and that it would end and compared to that nothing mattered,” Jobs said in a taped interview. “You’re born alone, you’re going to die alone. And does anything else really matter? I mean what is it exactly is it that you have to lose Steve? You know? There’s nothing.”
Jobs also said he began believing in the existence of God “a bit more.” “Maybe it’s ’cause I want to believe in an afterlife. That when you die, it doesn’t just all disappear. The wisdom you’ve accumulated. Somehow it lives on,” Jobs said on tape. He paused before he continued, “Yeah, but sometimes I think it’s just like an on-off switch. Click and you’re gone. And that’s why I don’t like putting on-off switches on Apple devices.”