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Steve Jobs Comes of Age

by Walter Vatter


THE GENIUS AND THE JERK

The Genius and the Jerk

To think of Steve Jobs the “Rock Star” as simply having a cranky or prickly temperament, leaves out too much. He was nasty to work alongside and a son of a bitch in a business setting. He cried, he screamed, he threw tantrums. For Jobs the smarty-pants, the rules that govern you and me and the mostly rational world around us didn’t necessarily apply. He personified self-entitlement. He cheated and lied in personal and business matters, and charity was not a quality he coveted. In the context of his acclaimed persona as the brainchild at the dawn of the era of the personal home computer, early on and without particular merit he operated under a halo of genius (think: deus ex machina), with few challenges from the competition. Jobs did not lead a long life. We will never know if he was a tortured soul. What we do know is that his hurtful persona was present from the start; it did not develop along the thorny road to recognition.

Perhaps no one in the history of American business since the glory days of Alexander Graham Bell and Henry Ford became more identified with a consumer product or service than did Steve Jobs and the personal computer. One can assume that only partnership constraints and a blinkered view of the immediate future kept Jobs from naming early Apple products after himself. His star power became catnip for a reporter’s notepad or lens.

Yet, unlike the British mathematician Alan Turing, for example, Jobs was not a learned theorist or sophisticated inventor in an expanding field. He did not discover, on his own, a unique means to market home computers to a world audience. It was his intellectual charisma, his drive for perfection from those who worked around him, his clear vision of technological devices, and his steadfast manner (a quality that ruthless businessmen generally develop in later years as power follows success) of ignoring his and others’ personal feelings in competitive situations that won for him an unchallenged reputation as a cultural icon.

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