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"He offered the Apple II to Atari... we said no. No thank you." (gamasutra.com)
269 points by doomlaser on Oct 8, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 55 comments

That's quite a story and I wasn't aware of it. I'm quite surprised by the following passage:

"Jobs never did a lick of engineering in his life. He had me snowed," Alcorn later recalled. "It took years before I figured out that he was getting Woz to 'come in the back door' and do all the work while he got the credit."

Jobs convinced Wozniak to work on the game during his day job at Hewlett-Packard, when he was meant to be designing calculators. At night the two would collaborate on building it at Atari: Wozniak as engineer, Jobs as breadboarder and tester.

Allegedly, Jobs told Wozniak that he could have half of a $700 bounty if they were able to get the chip count under 50 (typical games of the day tended to require around 100 chips). After four sleepless days that gave both of them a case of mono (an artificial time limit, it turns out: Jobs had a plane to catch, Atari wasn't in that much of a rush), the brilliantly gifted Wozniak delivered a working board with just 46 chips.

Jobs made good on his promise and gave Wozniak his promised $350. What he didn't tell him -- and what Wozniak didn't find out until several years later -- was that Jobs also pocketed a bonus somewhere in the neighborhood of $5,000. Though it's often reported that this caused a rift in their friendship, Wozniak seems to have no hard feelings."

This doesn't diminish Steve Jobs for me (maybe it should, but he was what he was and it's ancient history anyway), but it definitely enhances Steve Wozniak's stature.

It should probably diminish Steve Jobs, but not in quite the obvious way.

Not: "SJ did that, and it was bad, so I think worse of him."

But: "SJ did that, which shows that he was unusually willing and able to take the credit and the benefits of someone else's work; so my estimate of the share of the credit and benefits he got later in his career should accordingly be reduced."

In the last 20 years or so Steve Jobs often deflected praise from himself to the teams who worked on products. I have never seen him take any personal credit for any product he has introduced or discussed and always uses terms like "we", e.g. "I'm really excited to show you what we made."

Without excusing his behaviour I'd like to remind people here that perhaps we have all acted selfishly or done things we are not proud of when we were younger (high school or college aged).

Did SJ actually bring people up on stage with him, and name them, and point out their roles? How generous was he in this respect?

Certainly. Quite often actually.

Especially during the last years it were, for example, often the leading engineers themselves who demoed their software.

In his public appearances I followed (all post-2000) I never ever had the feeling that he was taking undue credit, I never really had the feeling that he was taking credit at all. I can’t recall any instance where he presented something as his great idea, it was always “we”, never “I”. He didn’t always specifically thank everyone who worked on the products they presented but quite often. (You know, that whole routine where he asks all the people from Apple in the audience to stand up – didn’t always happen, but sometimes.)

I’m not sure whether it makes a lot of sense to judge the 2000s Jobs based on the 70s and 80s Jobs. Humans do a lot of dumb stuff in their lives. But humans also change.

I'd say this was fairly generous, and I've never heard of it repeated by any other technology company:


Even Jef Raskin's signature is in there, for crying out loud, and Jobs stole the Mac team from him.

But to your general point, have you ever seen a product intro where the entire team is brought up and named one by one? It seems like you're holding Jobs to an arbitrarily high standard.

But he went off the idea of crediting individuals at some point after the release of the Macintosh, at least in part for fairly understandable reasons. http://folklore.org/StoryView.py?project=Macintosh&story...

Thanks for answering.. I mainly bring it up because of this line: "Good artists copy great artists steal" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CW0DUg63lqU

Does the orchestra bow with the conductor?

SJ to me was a conductor, and an arranger and product visionary but a not a full bore composer, inventor or engineer on Mozart's level: more a Scott McNealy with design sense. I never met him, so I don't know how inspired he was in person.

The best way I can sum it up, is that Apple may have been evolutionary, but not revolutionary, even though for many people owning one of their products was a revolution. Did Apple invent or just popularize the GUI? Was SJ more a popularizer or more an inventor?

This is McNealy's take on Apple and SJ:

"Apple is beyond proprietary, and the consumer has no idea that they are checking into the roach motel. Jobs has been brilliant, and he also understands the power of the secret better than anyone I have every seen." (3/10)


-- the conductor bows to audience with orchestra, and applauds orchestra as well.

The conductor is invariably expected to invite the orchestra to stand and take a bow after taking his own, if I recall correctly.

Additionally, the conductor frequently asks individual members of the orchestra to stand -- section leaders, anyone who had a solo, etc. -- or asks sections to stand together if they had a particularly prominent role.

Right, because no one's character ever evolves after the age of 20.

Almost every time I read a story about the two Steves, it feels like their relationship was unbalanced. Woz always comes out as the brilliant engineer who gets played by management to lay golden eggs for nearly free.

I haven't read iWoz, and I doubt Woz himself feels this way about it, but these stories just have a way of coming across that way.

I think that's part of Woz's mystique. He's the brilliant hacker who just likes solving problems. It fits in with the story that Woz originally offered the Apple 1 to Hewlett Packard as he thought they should have first crack at it.... that's just who he is.

I think he's just fine being seen that way:)

AFAIK, Woz had to offer the Apple 1 to HP first because of contractual obligations...

Woz is worth $100 million, as far as I know all due to his role in Apple, despite not having done any work for the company in about 25 years. I'd say that's pretty far from "nearly free". He may well have gotten shafted a few times, but the end result seems to have come out well.

After reading iWoz, I both felt sorry and impressed by Woz at the same time. He's got a very interesting outlook on life.

I expect that, monetarily, things worked out just fine for him.

It makes me think less of him, the guy screwed his best friend. In the same way there's a story about Gates refusing to pay the secretaries overtime when Microsoft was getting started.[1] Somehow that bothers me more than all the anti-trust stuff later. (Possibly due to similar personal experience.)

[1] http://books.google.com/books?id=XdYOGBhp0SAC&lpg=PA163&...

>It makes me think less of him, the guy screwed his best friend.

None of these people are saints. At the time Jobs was essentially a kid. If you dig deep on any person you will find things that will disappoint you. We are human and destined to be flawed. One, or even a few moments, do not sum up a man's life. You must take it in its entirety. Even then, you have to also understand that every decision or path we take will define us, one way or the other.

Ask yourself, is there an Apple without Jobs or Woz? If no, then they were mutually beneficial to each other. In the end both Woz and Jobs have come out with a more significant life than if they had never met.

Nobody has to be a saint, but there is something very uncomfortable about putting one over on a friend like that.

There are lots of stories about Woz and Jobs that make me uncomfortable. But that's not surprising: They were big fans of practical jokes, and I was never much of a fan myself.

Woz seems to be able to think of this story in the spirit of a practical joke.

It is, as you put it, uncomfortable. This goes to other things that Jobs has done as well in his youth. If I was to put the magnifying lens under your life, or anyone else's, I can assure you I would find things you don't want to be seen. No one is perfect. The best we can do is make the world a better place than it was before. I believe that both Jobs and Woz did that.

If you don't like what he has done then be a better person. Learn from his mistakes, as well as the triumphs, and pay it forward. Jobs is a hero to many but he is not worthy of worship.

You really need to read iWoz, his biography. It's got a heap of similarly great stories and is told in Woz' characteristic humble way

Woz seemed to take it really well. He said that he didn’t care about the money and would have done it for free. Steve was nice to him and Woz was having fun. Some might say that Steve took advantage of Woz (and that's probably true) but all in all they got along.

Every one who's ever treated me (or others I've been around) this way has failed miserably, mostly due to this type of character flaw.

What this says to me is that Steve grew out of this just in time and with a little luck and a lot of self improvement, became better. Good on him.

"but it definitely enhances Steve Wozniak's stature."

Because he worked on a side project during working hours at HP?

This is far from an ethical high point for Jobs, but Woz, too, does not come over as a saint.

And the firing squad for jaywalkers!

Seriously though, this is something probably the majority of HNers do. Those in the minority probably used to, but got burned when the higher ups found out and either fired them or appropriated the tech.

You need to educate yourself about the HP Way before saying something like that.

Hewlett and Packard explicitly wanted their company to serve as a springboard for local talent.

The story about Breakout says so much more about Woz than about Jobs. It's a dark human desire to ponder people's vices, but without excusing Jobs one bit, I prefer to ignore Jobs outright and delight in Woz's existence. While I'm getting maudlin, I want to thank Paul Graham for bringing Woz to the first Startup School. It was an honor to see him and to hear him speak.

Back to Breakout. Satisfaction will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no satisfaction.

I don't think its dark. I think its something people should think about more often and understand better.

Perhaps the things people are often celebrated for are actually chance outcomes of generally negative behaviors.

To know whether that is the case requires people to be more critical of people's positive aspects and spend more time thinking about their negative aspects.

I'm not convinced. Jobs was incredible despite his flaws, not because of them. There are plenty of asshole liars that go nowhere, but Jobs' passion and vision was so strong people are willing to look past it

I still think you make an interesting point, and I find it compelling to look at idols when they were young and nobody cared.

Bringing such idols back to earth can help one realize that we are all in fact human, and as such all have tremendous challenges, flaws, and potential

Can't pay for food or rent with satisfaction.

That statement is true, but not enlightening. Perhaps you could clarify; Are you suggesting that one cannot be happy without food and rent being paid? Are you suggesting that Maslow’s "Hierarchy of Needs" holds and one cannot be concerned with Self-Actualization if Shelter is uncertain? Or something else?

I get the feeling you are assuming something that seems obvious to you but may be worthy of further discussion.

A good friend nailed issues via the following points :

- if it's a symbiotic herding then nobody cares

- people smarter than [ insert cunning entrepreneur / biz expert ] may be smart enough to realize that they don't really need to be in a greater position of power, or have more money than you

- offer superb scientists / engineers a position that is at the optimal trade-off between work satisfaction and compensation.. they'll take it

- they are smart enough not to take on the responsibility of directly negotiating with VCs / investors

Here are some really interesting points from Mr.Ive

" Ive said in a 2006 speech that his goal is not self-expression. It’s to make something that looks like it wasn’t really designed at all -- because it’s inevitable.That’s been the case since his college days, according to Clive Grinyer, who went to school with him. Grinyer recalled visiting Ive’s apartment, and being shocked to see hundreds of foam models of a single product. Each one was good enough to have been the final product "

" The British native is known to travel to Asia for weeks, studying intricacies of metal-bending equipment, according to former Apple designer Thomas Meyerhoffer. The result is that Apple’s products have unique shapes, textures and thinness. The solid feel of products such as the iPhone is due in part to Ive’s insistence on minuscule tolerances -- the tiny gaps around each part and screw in a product. "

" Ive lacks operations, marketing and sales skills, something he doesn’t regret, according to his 2006 speech. "

" Victories from your ability to sell are very short- lived," Ive said in the speech. " Victories from things you’ve really worked hard at can have a lasting impact. "

source: http://www.boston.com/business/technology/articles/2011/10/0...

I think Steve and his colleagues were acutely aware their own strengths and weaknesses. Here's an interesting video :


Great video in fact. But here's the thing, what if you have the energy and passion to persevere - it’s just part of who you are - but nothing happens. I’m sure there have been many great people out there who were “insane” as Jobs put it, but just didn’t find that idea that maded it happen.

I know you make your own luck and all that, but there has to be an element of “right-time-right-place” to all this, a chance event that changes the person’s status.

Jobs could have been just another “brilliant but wierd tech guy” who maybe tried a few things. But he wasn’t, and something else took him to the big league. Citing products is one thing, but to my mind it’s not enough. Combine it with personality, tenacity? Is that all it takes?

I’m still not convinced.

Sure, think you're on the dot. Here are other plausible ways of looking at it:



I'm sure Steve would appreciate people citing Christian theology on a page about him, seeing how he was a Buddhist

I'm sure Steve would appreciate the parent link painting him as a liar and manipulator. ergo, observe the word "plausible" and humbly suggest that you missed the point. Mr.Jobs had strong Christian colleagues / friends and so am fairly certain a deep theological idea wouldn't be beyond the scope of appreciation.

I "humbly" agree with the point that Jobs was apple to appreciate deep philosophical ideas; unfortunately, prevenient grace is not one of them

Not trying to make any value judgements on Christianity in general, but prevenient grace is an Augustian idea, and as such is one of the more repressive ideas of Christian theology

It directly contradicts Buddhist teachings of Karma

If memory serves correct, he advised* us not to follow dogma.. so paying my respect to Steve as you suggested and avoiding a dogmatic discussion. Here's a track from another remarkable thinker:

" Is it possible to communicate not by "making known" but by "making understood how little we know"? If we can recognize that we know so little, a method for finding out little we know will become clear as well. As the Greek philosopher Socrates remarked, " The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing ". There are infinite number of methods to attain knowledge; finding the right method is up to the individual ". This single idea throws conventional communications methods into reverse. I call this method "exformation", as a counterpart to "information" ( pg. 376 , http://www.amazon.com/Designing-Design-Kenya-Hara/dp/3037781... )

* - not to follow dogma, if you think clearly, is a faulty recursive function

Regarding the money that Jobs seemed to withhold from Woz, I believe I've heard Woz say either in his book or interviews something to the affect that Jobs turned him into a millionaire so what does he have to complain about.

What surprises me most about this article is just how dirty and weird Jobs comes off in his late teens. I look forward to reading his biography when available.

It is in a sense true. I believe to this day Woz is essentially an honorary Apple employee, and is paid a salary though he does no work for them.

After hearing Woz speak and reading his book I think for him it's all about the challenge, solving the puzzle. The guy is simply not motivated by money, it's ideas that drive him. He is quite simply a pure hacker and that's why I so admire him.

I think from the outside looking in, it's very hard to really profile the relationship that the two Steves had, but that relationship was necessary. I would dare to say that at first, Jobs needed Woz more than Woz needed Jobs, but VERY quickly that reversed. Woz is a brilliant engineer, but Jobs was just something else entirely. Without Woz, Jobs probably would have never become who he was, but Jobs really made Apple what it is today. For proof of this just look at the last 12 years, Jobs came back and turned the company into the juggernaut it is today, not Wozniak.

I love my hero more.

Long live Woz.

He also offered to sell Apple to Commodore, in the fall of 1976. $100,000 for the Apple II and the two founders, plus $36,000 salaries for Steve and Woz.

Not that the deal had much of a hope in hell. Apparently Woz's father strongly opposed the deal because he felt his son should get more than 50%, and Commodore pulled out before the two founders ever had an agreement to sell.

Between Atari passing on this, and passing on bringing the Nintendo Entertainment System to the US (Nintendo approached them about bringing it to the US under the Atari name) this also says a lot about Atari.

This is great, I wondered how the Atari stint really fitted into the Jobs story. Sounds like a crazy kid who just stuck at his dream of making computers until it worked out.

"Apparently, he had hepatitis or something and had to get out of India before he died," Alcorn told historian Steven Kent. "I put him to work again. That's when the famous story about Breakout took place."

Hepatitis attacks the liver and was very likely the reason for his needing a liver transplant in 2009. It's also linked to increasing the risk of pancreatic cancer. I wonder if his spiritual trip to India was both a source of enlightenment AND eventual cause of death? =/

> Jobs [...] probably lied about having worked at Hewlett-Packard

This was the truth, wasn't it? Or at least, if it is a lie, it's one Jobs was repeating to the Cupertino City Council just this year http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gtuz5OmOh_M#t=2m00s . Maybe he exaggerated his work experience with HP...

Here is where Woz explains how Jobs got the job at Atari. Around minute 9:30 or so. The whole video is worth watching. Woz is a real gem, as always.


Not cool to praise Jobs one day and next day accuse him in every disaster humankind ever dealt with. The guy just died, lets leave him alone for some time.

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