Think Different: Steve Jobs’ Early Years

I don’t usually write off topic. However, Steve Jobs’ had the ability to mix the harder sciences and engineering with the softer sciences of art, literature, sociology in an effective and profitable manner. Thanks to Jobs most techies now care about user experience, and digital innovation is bursting out of  Silicon Valley and spilling out all over internet and the rest of the world. So, I wrote a quick bio of his early years and how he thought different(ly). Actually this was originally written for someone else who changed their minds, but I liked it enough to post it here.

He was considered a legend in his own time. But even before 1976, when he and Steve Wozniak started Apple in Steve’s garage, Steve Jobs thought a little differently than everyone else.

He was given up for adoption by his Syrian father and Caucasian American mother. His adoptive mother, Clara Jobs, was born in the US to Armenian parents, and his adoptive father, Paul Jobs, was Caucasian American. Neither of them had a college education, and Job’s birthmother forced Paul and Clara to promise that her baby would attend university. While Steve attended Reed College very briefly before dropping out, his passion is what drove him to succeed.

Paul was a high school drop-out with tattoos who travelled the American Midwest looking for work during the Great Depression. Paul was abused as a child, and he was very aggressive as a result. Paul was a repo-man who loved rebuilding cars, and that love for mechanics fuelled the love of technology in him and his adopted son.

Initially, Steve was a loner who played pranks on his teachers and others. He felt bored at school because he learned to read as a toddler while the rest of the class had to catch up with him. By fourth grade, one teacher was so frustrated that she bribed Steve with money to do his bookwork. Steve took the bribery in good form and progressed so much that the school wanted to advance him two years.

Steve was anxious to leave that school because he was bullied, and when the Jobs family bought their own home in the Cupertino School District, Steve got his wish. The new school was no less welcoming, but Steve was able to make friends with Bill Fernandez who introduced him to Steve Wozniak, who was five years older.

At the age of 13, Steve wanted some electronics parts for a school project. So, he phoned up Bill Hewlett of Hewlett-Packard. Hewlett was impressed by the young man, and he offered him a summer job screwing in computer parts. Steve loved the work. However, when he took an electronics course at Homestead High School—a school that has contributed significantly to Silicon Valley’s growth—Steve lost interest in his class largely over a personal clash with the teacher.

So, Steve operated outside of two primary groups, arts and engineering. He was too artsy for the tech nerds, and he was too techy for the art crowd. In 1970, Steve smoked marijuana for the first time. He also started listening to music and reading classic literature more than anything engineering. His best friends at the time were his artistic girlfriend and Wozniak who would soon build the Apple I computer single-handedly.

It was the amalgamation of these two primary interests coupled with hard lessons learned from Paul Jobs, most notably an affinity for being a loner toughened against social ostracizing.

He was more interested in pursuing his own vision. He started the Think Different campaign to focus on his childhood heroes. Steve always thought a little differently to everyone else around him, and that is why Apple has dominated technology, design, and culture.

Was he a futurist? No, I don’t think so, but he was an entrepreneur in the truest and best senses of the word.

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