Steve Jobs was the natural-born son of John Jandali and Joanne Schieble. Jandali was a teaching assistant from Syria and Joanne was a Catholic girl from Wisconsin whose parents disapproved of her relationship with a Muslim. Unable to wed, they gave their baby up for adoption and baby Steve was adopted by Paul and Clara Jobs of San Francisco, California. Paul Jobs was an engine technician turned car mechanic, and he introduced Steve to the world of engineering and design, instilling in him many of the principles of good design that are so characteristic of Apple products.
Still, Jobs struggled at times with the circumstances surrounding his birth, and he expressed mixed emotions about both sets of his parents. “Abandoned. Chosen. Special. Those concepts became part of who Jobs was and how he regarded himself.”
The Jobs family soon moved south of San Francisco to Palo Alto, right as the Silicon Valley technology boom was getting under way. There, Steve went to school where he was often bored and bemused by authority. He frequently found himself in trouble for pulling pranks but his parents never punished him for his shenanigans and they challenged his school to keep him engaged. According to Steve, the only time that Paul Jobs ever got mad was later in high school, when he discovered that Steve was experimenting with marijuana and LSD. It was in high school that Steve began realizing that while he had a head for electronics and technical design, he also possessed a keen aesthetic sense and a deep appreciation for music and art.
Chapter 2: Odd Couple: The Two Steves
Steve Wozniak preceded Jobs at Homestead High School by five years, and was a talented and accomplished computer technician by the time he met Jobs in the garage of a mutual friend. There, they began their storied friendship based on their mutual love of computers, pranks and Bob Dylan bootlegs.
Their first project together involved building a device called a blue box that allowed users to make long-distance phone calls for free. Wozniak supplied the design and Jobs turned the innovation into a business, taking $40 worth of parts and selling the blue boxes for $150. They sold almost a hundred blue boxes, but stopped selling them when one would-be customer robbed them of a blue box at gunpoint. “It was probably a bad idea selling them, but it gave us a taste of what we could do with my engineering skills and his vision,” recalled Wozniak.
Chapter 3: The Dropout
Jobs’ quirky personality really began developing towards the end of high school, when he experimented with everything from LSD to strange diets. He also began dating Chrisann Brennan, with whom he would later have a daughter. She later said of Jobs, “He was an enlightened being who was cruel.”
After high school, Jobs chose to attend Reed College, a small liberal arts school in Portland, Oregon. Reed was a small school, with half as many students as Jobs’ high school. Once he arrived, Jobs realized that despite Reed’s hippie reputation, college came with some annoying requirements, such as class attendance.
At Reed, Jobs became close to Robert Friedland, who was either a guru or a con artist depending on who you asked. Jobs adopted many of Friedland’s charismatic personality quirks, but later dismissed Friedland as a gold digger. Jobs officially dropped out of Reed after a year, but was allowed to remain and audit classes as he wished.
Chapter 4: Atari and India: Zen and the Art of Game Design
Jobs left Reed after a year and a half of auditing classes and came home to Silicon Valley. He walked into Atari’s main office wearing sandals and refused to leave until he had a job. Nolan Bushnell, Atari’s charismatic founder, took a liking to Jobs’ special brand of enthusiasm and hired him for $5 an hour. By this time, Jobs had adopted an all-fruit diet which he mistakenly believed eliminated body odor, and he rarely showered more than...