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You are not Steve Jobs (medium.com)
616 points by OafTobark on Apr 19, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 298 comments

Quote: "Even Steve Jobs wasn't Steve Jobs initially. He only outed himself as a giant jerk after he had a company that could afford to have a huge turnover, and he had a pile of minions that hero-worshiped him no matter what he did."

This isn't true. I knew Steve when he and Steve Wozniak were starting Apple, in the late 1970s, and he (Jobs) was always intolerable -- it wasn't something that came out after he acquired power. I couldn't stand working with him, so, even though people at Apple asked me to stay, I wouldn't. (I eventually worked with Apple on various software projects, but not at Apple.)

Steve Jobs had the worst interpersonal dynamics of anyone I have ever met. All that proves is that being perpetually rude and having terrible people skills isn't a deal-breaker in corporate America.

I'm not questioning your judgement of Steve's personality. But it surprises me that person like Steve can be so successful. Moreover, how did he recruit and manage so many world class developers and designers? Not once. But thrice - Apple, NeXT and Pixar. What made Steve so successful when everyone who has worked with him thinks he was a jerk!

I read his stories at - http://folklore.org/ And he looks inspirational as well as jerk. But most of these stories are around creation of Mac. By that time, Apple was quite successful. I'm genuinely curios about how did he manage to recruit first 10 employees if he had terrible inter-personal skills.

I can't speak to the recruiting of staff in the early days of Apple or NeXT, but many of the "world class" people at Pixar got involved before Jobs purchased the company.

See: http://www.amazon.com/Pixar-Touch-Vintage-David-Price/dp/030...

But he had the sense to bankroll and not meddle. He had the courage to let Lassiter, Catmull and Co. to run things their way, which has produced some of the finest story telling and animation of the last 100 years. Did he assemble the team? No. Did he help them achieve greatness? I think Pixars portfolio speaks for itself...

So even when he doesn't do anything he still gets credit for the end result?

He gets and is due some credit. To insinuate that Jobs had nothing to do with Pixar's success is wide of the mark.

If what Jobs achieved is so easy, go and do it...

Not sure where I said what he achieved was easy, but feel free to keep putting words in my mouth.

Your comment was insinuating that the success of Pixar's portfolio was somehow a testament to Jobs. Would it really have been any different had they gotten funding from a completely different source? You even said he didn't "meddle", so other than a financial investment, any credit awarded him for the quality of their work should be minimal.

There are plenty of things he can and should get credit for -- we don't need to retroactively add more.

Get over yourself. Your glib dismissal (incorrectly) assumes that Jobs' contribution was merely financial and therefore completely without merit. My comment was that his bankrolling of Pixar, as well as the foresight not to meddle where he wasn't needed, helped them achieve great things, for which he deserves some credit. He also handled the business end - negotiations with Disney etc - that gave Pixar the audience. Since Lassiter has pretty much said that without Jobs the would be we're they are today says it all. Too many are far too quick to dismiss what he man achieved in a relatively short time.

> But most of these stories are around creation of Mac. By that time, Apple was quite successful.

No, not true. Remember that, at the time of the Mac's introduction, the chapter just ending included the sad stories of the Apple /// -- a terrible design and very bad decision on Jobs' part -- and the failed design of the Lisa computer, an obvious Mac predecessor that just didn't work out and another bad Jobs decision. This means the Mac introduction would likely make or break Apple.

The Mac introduction was the turning point for Apple. Had it failed, Apple might also have failed.

> What made Steve so successful when everyone who has worked with him thinks he was a jerk!

That's easy to answer -- chance. What are the chances that someone with terrible interpersonal skills will happen to be colocated with a time and place of technological inevitability? Let's say that chance is p (p = probability). Not an easy number to compute but very small.

Now how many opportunities (n) exist for such a juxtaposition? That runs into the tens of thousands to the millions, depending on which criteria we accept and how much time we allow.

Let's say for the sake of argument that the probability p (for a perfectly unsuitable person to be at the right place at the right time) is equal to 10^-6 and the number of opportunities n is equal to 10^6. On that basis, the chance (c) for exactly one such occurrence is (using the binomial theorem):

c = nCk p^k (1-p)^(n-k) = nCk (10^-6)^k (1-10^6)^(n-k) = 0.3678

( nCk = n! / k!(n-k)! )

The probability for one or more successes in that same scenario:

c = sum(nCk p^k (1-p)^(n-k),k,1,oo) = 0.63212

Not at all unlikely. People who describe Jobs as a twisted but essential genius, and assert that it's the only possible explanation, don't understand probability.

People who believe in proving 'technical inevitability' via probability don't understand shipping a product, from conception, to funding, development, and marketing.

People with genuine vision inspire others to lift their work above mediocrity; to look beyond themselves at a broader vision of the world.

If all it took to ship great products was consensus decision making by smart, highly technical people, then we'd have had be year of Linux on the desktop by now.

> People who believe in proving 'technical inevitability' via probability don't understand shipping a product, from conception, to funding, development, and marketing.

Let me turn that argument around. Every example of a company, employees, management and corporate style, and other similar issues, are subject to probability analysis, and probability explains and/or influences more issues than most people realize.

Interpersonal skills are not a one-dimensional quantity. You and the OP are saying Steve Jobs was terrible at making people happy. That's different from making people do what he wanted, an area in which he was far from terribly unskilled.

Yes, true. The same could be said about a certain notorious German. :)

Have a good enough idea and a vision of how you can accomplish it, and you can find those 10 people regardless of how mean you are.

After you succeed, you'll have thousands of people chomping at the bit to be associated with you, even if you're an asshole. Success makes everything okay, just like failure makes nothing okay.

> Have a good enough idea and a vision of how you can accomplish it, and you can find those 10 people regardless of how mean you are.

Steve Jobs didn't have the ideas. The ideas came from others -- Xerox PARC, Steve Wozniak, Jef Raskin, others, and to a lesser extent, me. But he did know how to sell other people's ideas and get people passionate about them. Promotion was his talent. He was the Willy Loman of the late 20th century.

> I'm not questioning your judgement of Steve's personality. But it surprises me that person like Steve can be so successful. Moreover, how did he recruit and manage so many world class developers and designers?

Because he attracted insecure people who would work their asses of on his ideas? That's my theory.

Reading about Steve Jobs, one can find he exhibited psychopath traits, and it's known this kind of personality fascinates some people, who are then willing to follow almost blindly, even if they are shouted to or treated badly (in fact, this reinforces the bond).

Just look up how many famous psychopaths in jail receive letters from all around world of people who worship them, would marry them, etc.

FYI, the parent poster is Paul Lutus, author of the first word processor for the Apple II, and a lot of other ground-breaking programs.

Thanks! Now that the psychologists have succeeded in getting my Wikipedia page deleted (I'm a longstanding critic of the practice of psychology), people will be less likely to know that.

Apropos: http://arachnoid.com/building_science

I was surprised you didn't have one. You still have one in the German Wikipedia.

My understanding is that, over time, the absence of an English article results in the removal of the translated versions, for English-speaking article subjects anyway. True in this case for the French and Japanese versions of the article.

But the German article, which hasn't been removed, has significantly different content, so it will probably persist.

No, that is emphatically not the case. The Wikipedias for each language are completely separate, and maintained by different volunteer communities, sometimes with substantially different practices.

EDIT: I don't see any record that there was an article about you in the French or Japanese Wikipedias... what were the article titles?

> No, that is emphatically not the case.

I have no good evidence for it, I just heard it said. I shouldn't have repeated it without finding out.

> EDIT: I don't see any record that there was an article about you in the French or Japanese Wikipedias... what were the article titles?

Had they existed, they would be titled with my name -- and they don't exist. The Japanese CareWare article mentions me, in text that is a near-match of the English version.

There's another reason I shouldn't be saying these things, apart from the fact that I didn't bother to verify them first. There are psychologists in Japan also, and they might adopt the same strategy as the English psychologists. :)

What I learned by criticizing psychology is that its followers react in much the same way as religious true believers -- sanctimonious and very emotional.

As to the reaction to your criticism this might help:

I had to go and read /building_science before I knew what you meant. It was a nice surprise to find that you are very passionate about the differences in scientific rigour that everyone in science knows about. It was a nice surprise because you present yourself in a similar way to scientology nutjobs and other anti-science activists.

To be more effective sound less like them (yeah, yeah, it's not "fair". so what, this is about pragmatism) and drop the hard line between "not scientific" and "scientific". You aren't afraid of explaining complex concepts obviously so explain that there is not a hard line and that this is a spectrum with multiple factors and the relative importance of those factors.

I'm often frustrated at folks who take the wrong lesson from Steve Jobs.

As this piece describes, they look at the dude and take away that they should be jerks because that's how things get done. And that's a terrible lesson.

In my read, as a guy who's been following Apple since he was a kid, there's one principal lesson for leaders and entrepreneurs:

If you care about making exactly what you want, make sure you're the boss.

That's it. You can define the agenda, you can get the right people, you can motivate them according to your style. You get to win all the design arguments. You get to slip the deadlines for quality.

You can definitely be a jerk in that context, but you don't have to.

FWIW, it's an inevitable occurrence of cargo cult management, a sort of post-hoc reasoning, and it's not just young CEOs of tiny startups that are prone to it (but immaturity and inexperience do seem to be correlated with this particular brand of Jobs-envy).

I would argue that there are plenty of better, and less publicised, examples of people who are passionate about their work than Steve Jobs.

Steve Jobs is such a striking example because he was highly unusual in the business world, and especially in the tech business, and because he succeeded on such a massive scale. He was basically an artist. I don't mean that as a fawning compliment; I mean that as a description of his personality: for better and for worse. He was driven by a relentless aesthetic vision, he worked himself up into near-manic episodes, he was emotionally labile, and he was perfectionistic.

These are qualities you usually find in the arts. I've worked with and around writers and directors for most of my career, and I've seen "Steve Jobs" in a lot of the more successful ones. Consider the example of Stanley Kubrick, or, more recently, David O. Russell. Now, go watch the infamous David O. Russell temper tantrum video on YouTube. You could just about substitute Steve Jobs for David in that video and believe it.

I don't agree with the idea of the "mad artist," an elite diamond-in-the-rough character who cloisters himself away on manic episodes of hyper-creativity, becomes an alcoholic, and emerges with a genius piece of Art.

Art is a slog. Artists are the ones with enough endurance to churn out shit day after day, refining the best of what they produce. The best artists are social, because that's where the most ideas flow freely.

Most artists I know (writers, musicians, graphic artists) are like this. Perpetuating the myth of the great lone genius is elitist, which is a discriminatory and dangerous ideology.

I didn't say that all artists, or even necessarily "the best" artists, fit a certain personality stereotype. Rather, I'm suggesting that the Steve Jobs personality paradigm is more commonly found among artists, and within the fields of the arts, than it is in business.

"The best artists are social, because that's where the most ideas flow freely."

Strongly disagree with this statement. History abounds with brilliant artists who were socially well adjusted and socially oriented. But it provides just as many examples, if not more, of artists who were introverted to the point of isolation, or who lived tempestuous social lives, or who wrestled with crippling mental illness (there is a shockingly highly incidence of bipolar disorder among history's great novelists, in particular).

I don't think one can make a categorical declarative about the personality types of "most artists," or "the best artists." There is too much variance within the set, and there are too many variables to consider. And "best" is a subjective minefield in its own right.

Most writers I know are unsociable alcoholics, much like the stereotype.

Well, ok. I suppose anecdotal samples are not the best evidence for either side. I'd like to imagine that most artists are relatively well-adjusted.

Anyway, that's the kind of world I'd like to live in. Everyone can (and should) be an artist to some degree. While I do agree with the fairly obvious point that some people are more talented than others, I reject the idea that there are "genius artists", spikes of talent on an otherwise smooth talent-graph.

>>>I'd like to imagine that most artists are relatively well-adjusted.

Keep imagining. But great ones aren't. Go read:

Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament by Kay Redfield Jamison http://www.amazon.com/Touched-With-Fire-ebook/dp/B001D1YCM2

The Outsider by Colin Wilson http://www.amazon.com/The-Outsider-Colin-Wilson/dp/087477206...

The Price of Greatness: Resolving the Creativity and Madness Controversy by Arnold M. Ludwig http://www.amazon.com/The-Price-Greatness-Creativity-Controv...

EDIT to add: Why Jobs stood out is because the closest equivalent to what he was is a film director. But business is not set up to hand out accolades like Hollywood does. So instead of everyone learning who did what in Apple -- as with film we find out about sound editors, foley artists, etc, etc. -- we just get the face of Jobs.

Most evidence suggests the contrary.

What do you mean? How do you measure "passion"? Since you provide no examples I'll counter that you are wrong, and leave it at that.

Agreed. I can count multiple people I've worked with who decide that to be a leader/genius/visionary, you first must be a jerk, and that will lead to respect.

If you really are a genius, you're a huge pain to work with, but at least you're worth something.

If you're not, you just look like an ass.

Pretty much every SV god has a reputation for being incredible jerks: Jobs, Gates, Zuckerberg, Musk, Ellison

So, maybe the rule isn't if you're a jerk you're a genius, but instead, if you're a genius, be a jerk. You just probably aren't a genius.

I wonder if it's the amount of ineptitude or not being on the same page that they may experience on a daily basis - even if it's 1 of 100s of people they interact with? I can see that being very trying when you literally have hundreads of things you need to make sure get done daily.

You could add Torvalds to that list.

And Jeff Bezos :)

Thank you for perfectly summarizing the structure of the Steve Jobs situation.

Its a testament to his legacy that these "You are/not like/dislike Steve Jobs" articles keep popping up. Jobs is what you call an EXTREME OUTLIER. People like him come around once every 30 or 40 years. You don't compare outliers to the mean, because they skew everything.

Nothing anyone ever writes about what to do or what not to do like Steve Jobs is relevant, because he was so far off from any of the data points we have or probably ever will have to matter. You get people like this in history; ones that seemingly do so much wrong yet change the entire world. I don't know if we'll ever have a concrete explanation for it, but for some reason the bad things ARE part of the reason for their success.

Another more common example of this is Jim Morrison (or any really good drug addict musician). Do you have to be a drug addict to be a musician? Of course not. And I seriously doubt they're gonna start dropping acid at Juilliard. But somehow there's a few of them that make it work, and I would argue that if Jim Morrison wasn't a drug addict he wouldn't have been as successful as he was.

If Jobs wasn't such an asshole, he wouldn't be Steve Jobs. There's some mix assholishness and genius (that he got absolutely perfect) that creates a legendary figure.

Agree. Pursuing your Morrison analogy: so many artistic and literary figures are similarly hard to characterize. Polarizing their colleagues and fans, causing denunciations, feuds, embarrassment. Difficult to compare to anyone (i.e., outliers, as you say). Think of someone like Norman Mailer, or Gore Vidal. These people are not role models!

They don't have to be that way, but it's a lot more likely.

After they are gone, asking "were they a good person" is usually not the right question (unless you were close to them).

If you know them mainly through their work, the right question is, "do you value their work?" Here's the relevant quote from Auden:

  Time that with this strange excuse
  Pardoned Kipling and his views,
  And will pardon Paul Claudel,
  Pardons him for writing well.

Since when does taking drugs and going to heaps of parties, writing classic songs, performing in a band, learning and playing instruments, reading and studying literature, singing, having lots of sex, writing poetry, recording albums, and inspiring millions make someone a "bad person".

Just in case anyone is unclear, the answer to the question "was Jim Morrison a good person" is YES.

Your affection for the man, the legend, has nothing to do with the fact that the iCloud project launch went wrong, or that he was simply an asshole.

The bureaucratic blockages, and the failure of communication along the chain of command, was ultimately the responsibility of this legendary, line-cutting CEO, who you prop up as a God.

In the end, you have no idea whether Jobs could have been even more successful had he not been an asshole.

And please don't draw parallels with Jim Morrison, who died at 27 not 56. Morrison had an alcohol problem more than drugs. That you argue the drugs led to, or were the reason for his success is preposterous.

Steve Jobs' "mix of asshole and genius he got absolutely perfect" you say? Well, I'm glad you've found your idol, but the person who actually worked with him, and saw his methods first hand, doesn't see things through the same rose-colored glasses.

This reads like sour grapes.

If it really was Steve Jobs's "fault that the MobileMe launch went so poorly" because of "the system that he created," and her team was really as "completely kick-ass" as she says it was, then why has Apple had so much success with so many projects run exactly the same way?

The problem with MobileMe was the engineering management, not the system.

If anything this shows how vulnerable the Apple "system" is to the quality of the people they hire, and why they spend so much effort trying to hire and hold on to A-grade people. That just doesn't jive with the tired lore of Jobs being an asshole all the time. They wouldn't be able to hold on to folks like they have.

I'm not so sure. Apple hires the best and their evaluations of new candidates are rigorous, so I doubt they have idiots running things. We all know there's a lot of the worlds best talent at Apple. But they struggle a lot with the web services they've tried to create. Mobile me, iCloud, game centre, ping, Maps; these have all fallen short of Apples promises. It's a repeating pattern that to me indicates a culture issue inside Apple.

If it was a culture issue it would extend to the successful product teams as well. Those failures point to the people in charge of those groups, not the Apple culture.

Unless by Apple culture we mean giving people lots of responsibility and autonomy.. then, yes. But that's also the key to their successes.

Is it possible that a culture which is effective at producing "good" outcomes in one domain is ineffective at producing "good" outcomes in another? Should managers use the same techniques to manage steelworkers as they do software engineers?

Edit: steel works -> steelworkers

That's a good question, but in this case they're both software engineer domains. Apple does run some pretty successful online services, like the iTunes and app stores. If your theory were true they wouldn't be able to do that. Clearly they do have more problems with services than software/hardware. But that could be a function of the people at the top, not the management process, which but most accounts is minimal.

I'd argue that there are a few aspects of providing products and services for the web that are unique and not relevant to offline software development.

For example, scalability. Most of Apple's problems in this domain have been associated with scaling. iTMS and the App Store both scaled very well over time, but you have to consider the size of their audiences at launch. iTMS launched to a relatively small market of Mac and iPod users. The App Store launched to a relatively small market of iPhone users. Now that both the OS X and iOS user bases are significantly larger, Apple has struggled immensely to launch web services.

When developing for the web, your job is not done until you've released your product into the wild and figured out where the bottlenecks and weak points are with a massive user base. Apple's culture of secrecy doesn't facilitate this part of the process. Until that changes, they will be taking a huge gamble every time the release a new web service or improve an existing one. And, as with iClouds Core Data woes, developers who depend on these services are beginning to lose patience with Apple. This should be a major concern but it appears, from the outside looking in, that it isn't.

From what I know from a few engineers that were directly involved in the MobileMe launch, yes the failure was in the engineering management that did not want to listen to the engineers/project managers/qa folks, but instead wanted to please SJ by showing nice Ajax UI.

This is why the VP of MobileMe was let go soon after: he came from Microsoft/Starbucks, and did surround himself with various ex-microsoft folks.

If you know folks at Apple that were in that group at the time, you will find out that the failure did happen at the VP/Director level that didn't want to listen to the project managers / engineering leads / QA leads.

If the engineering management sucked, then that was also Steve's fault. You're not the iron fist of Apple and get all the credit without taking any of the blame.

Indeed, and that is why that management was replaced.

I didn't think I was going to like this from the opening paragraph but she quickly won me over. My take away is "You are not Steve Jobs. You are not a massive arsehole!" - pretty much in agreement with calinet6. However, actually it's a lot richer than that. I love this paragraph in particular:

"Now, regardless of whether no one in the inner sanctum of dudes-that-Steve-listened-to-at-the-time told him all the things we told our bosses, or who-up-the-chain-of-command was not brave enough to suggest we do something not-Apple-like — this was the system that Steve created. He made himself so fearful and terrible that an entire group of amazing, talented, hard working people, ended up getting screamed at wrongfully. It was his fault that the MobileMe launch went so poorly, not ours."

Even if that's not even remotely true (I wouldn't know), I find it a good lesson that a boss could be so terrifying that no-one wants to be honest with them and this flows down the hierarchy to the point of dysfunction. I've heard of it before, but I like the clarity of explanation this nth time around.

Agreed. And I think the article is less about "Steve Jobs" and more about the lessons to be learned from high-level project difficulties, and the people on the ground caught up in the line of fire when things don't go to plan. Or, when blame is unleashed unjustly from management, whose plan was flawed in the beginning, or whose chain of command failed to notice the red flags raised along the way.

The other article on her blog is also worth a look, and a good reminder about communication in the workplace. "How to handle conflict".... https://medium.com/career-pathing/a713b75ad9bd

Absolutely everything I have read about Steve Jobs paints him as a narcissistic asshole who is impossible to work with. How is it that he was so successful and how did apple become the behemoth it is today if the man at the wheel was so insufferable?

I want to believe that this has only been a recent development and that he used to be an easier person to deal with in apple's early days, because to be quite frank the only way I could see such an individual being so successful with the attitude he had was if he was just riding the coattails of other forces in the company.

Hopefully someone can enlighten me as to how this kind of person could lead a successful company when everyone fears him and doesn't question anything he says.

Ultimately, Steve Jobs had an insight into what computers could be, how technology could work, that was not only powerful but that Apple worked to execute throughout the entire stack of its product. From industrial design to operating system to software, his vision infused Apple's products in a way that very few other computer manufacturers have seen. Even now, as "well-designed products" are becoming a popular thing – due, in no small part, to Apple's influence – it is difficult to find products that are as thoroughly, nit-pickingly well-thought-out as Apple's stuff.

Back when nobody had much of a reason to believe in Steve Jobs and his vision, his tyrannical style was what got teams working outrageous hours, sacrificing personal lives, and shipping products that all sane people were convinced couldn't be done. So at a key moment in Apple's history, he provided a push that brought the company great success.

Very few people have that sort of all-pervasive vision; most of the people who think they do are deluding themselves. Most of the time you don't need an asshole on top driving things. Heck, it's possible that even Steve didn't have to be an asshole, that his dickish personality was just a shortcut he used to get things done conveniently.

Plenty of brilliant people have unpleasant or antisocial personalities. Sometimes it's because that's what it takes to make people who don't share your vision do what they're told. Sometimes it's because brilliant people are human too, and as flawed as any of us. Usually it's somewhere in between.

> How is it that he was so successful and how did Apple become the behemoth it is today if the man at the wheel was so insufferable?

Strangely, it was partially because he was so insufferable that Apple became as successful as it is today. Steve Jobs was notorious for being in-your-face brutal about the quality of work being done simply not being good enough. Crying, screaming, throwing tantrums - all these histrionics went hand-in-hand with that.

What's interesting about this is that Steve had two things that most people lack: (1) vision in spades. And more importantly, very good vision. (2) an ability to push people beyond their limits by berating them, but then having really amazing work come out of that process.

Steve Jobs was awe-inspiring because he could dress people down and grill them on details that most other people either didn't notice or would gloss over. If you read many of the books about Steve Jobs, there's a common refrain said by many of those who worked under him.

"I'd never work for him again, but he pushed me to do things I never knew I was capable of."

[EDIT: forgot to add] The reason Steve was able to get away with all this negative behavior is that it produced amazing results. But for most people, being so belligerent and nasty without having an amazing vision to back it up will not get you very far. And, for the most part, such people are completely egomaniacal. (Steve was too, he just happened to be right a lot).

There's a third factor - Steve was very good at active listening. He oozed it in interviews.

I saw it big time when Walt Mossberg made some comment about "Oh, we can't say that". Steve latched onto him like a pitbull - "Why not?". Walt said "Well, people get annoyed. They write ... letters".

You could just see Steve's thinking - "I don't understand what he's saying, or why he's saying it. Figure out why."

You can also see it, indirectly, if you watch him when he was talking tech. He's well known to not be a great techie, but he knew quite a bit. Maybe he was just well briefed, but I think it was because he knew to ask questions to the guys who were briefing him.

That's not Steve "not understanding", it's Steve saying "I know your reason doesn't matter".

"The market pulls the product out of the startup." -- Marc Andreesen [1]

Steve Jobs was remarkably good at finding new markets. And once you've found one, you can screw up a lot and still succeed. Because at the end of the day, people want to work on a successful product, and they'll put up with a lot of shit to do so.

Steve Jobs probably would've been even more successful had he not been so abrasive; who knows, maybe he wouldn't have gotten thrown out of Apple the first time and we would've gotten the iPhone 15 years earlier rather than the Newton. But he got the thing that matters most right, and then pretty much everything else fell into place despite his flaws.

[1] http://caps.fool.com/Blogs/the-pmarca-guide-to-startups/4104...

Honestly, I don't think he could have been more successful no matter what he did. Apple's comeback is easily the most dramatic in the history of business.

True, but he's also responsible for Pixar and NeXT. NeXT had many of the ideas of the current Mac a decade earlier, but failed to take off. Whether that's because the market wasn't ready yet or because Steve failed to manage the company can't really be answered.

(Also: "most dramatic in the history of business"? IBM was about 3 months away from bankruptcy when Lou Gerstner took over - it's not a household name now because their comeback involved pivoting to big-business services, but they're solidly profitable. Intuit nearly died and all the employees went several months without salary in its early days, and now they basically own the accounting-software market.)

I wouldn't give him THAT much credit for Pixar. He had really very little to do with the product at that company. It was a smart investment.

Jobs' first ouster is often credited as the reason for his vision and success when he got back. Believe it or not he was a much worse CEO the first time around

I recently saw the Woz speak at the University of Arkansas. He spent probably 30 minutes total (not all in one breath, but spread out) ripping on Steve Jobs. He really didn't say anything that was unarguably good about him.

>How is it that he was so successful and how did apple become the behemoth it is today if the man at the wheel was so insufferable?

Unlike the other commenters, I don't think the answer is vision, tho it certainly plays a part.

The reason people kept working with him is because when he wanted to he could be devastatingly charming. He was one of those people that can make you feel like what you have to say is the most important thing in the world. He was so good they coined a whole piece of slang just to describe him: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reality_distortion_field

How is it that he was so successful and how did apple become the behemoth it is today if the man at the wheel was so insufferable?

Think about it like this - how many assholes are there running companies? If you assume there are hundreds or thousands, then eventually at least a few of them are going to be wildly successful.

I think this deserves more upvote.

The fact Steve Jobs was so successful does not prove being asshole causes success, it only proves being asshole doesn't prevent you from success. Whether it contributed positively or negatively is to be contested.

I've worked for an insufferable narcissistic asshole who was impossible to work with, and we built an incredible company.

The guy at the top doesn't really DO anything. If the idea is good, and the coders/architects etc are good, a company can be built regardless of how insane the top is.

From what I've seen, he seemed to have a knack to attract top talent and push them to their limit.

He was able to charm those people he needed and knew just how to push their buttons so they'd deliver better work.

Contrary to what people thinks, assholes are not assholes 100% of the time; those people get their way by knowing when to be nice and charming. This is not antonymic with being an narcissistic asshole.

I'm fairly sure a lot of his collaborators had a honeymoon period with him, before he revealed himself to be the management equivalent of the abusive husband.

It's so obvious I'm not sure how so many people on this thread, OP included, don't understand it: people who are very demanding, expect excellence and nothing else, do not settle for great or even good, do not compromise, etc, etc, are perceived by outsiders and some insiders as "jerks", "assholes" and "hard to work with". But they make amazing achievements.

You can read about some Steve Jobs anecdotes during the original Macintosh era at folklore.org


It seems less like coattails when you consider Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, Jack Welch, John Rockefeller, etc. In fact, anecdotally it seems being a "narcissistic asshole" is an asset rather than a hindrance.

Perhaps because the things he said were right, and he wasn't afraid to say them.

Other than that, I don't think being an asshole is a good strategy in general.

In OP's anecdote he wasn't right

Antisocial people (no guilt, low fear, manipulative) tend to be successful at managing because of ability to make decisions fast.

Research hasn't born that out: Stanford researchers found that guilt correlates highly with leadership ability:


Note the difference between guilt and shame. Shame correlates negatively with leadership ability since it makes people shrink from challenges and disconnect from people. This may be why we get many high-functioning sociopaths in position of leadership: sociopaths are the only people who do not feel shame at all.

That non-scientific summary article is incredibly vague, but it appears to be saying that "problem solvers" are more leaderly than "problem fleers", based on the given definitions. "Guilt" and "shame" are the labels they tacked on without justification

Steve Jobs was not a "hacker". [‡] He knew almost nothing about computer languages, computer architecture, and according to Neil Young, he listened to vinyl records at home [1] — which shows that he was ignorant of how audio quality works (see [2]). Steve did not contribute any original ideas or any important technological innovations. He claimed during his Stanford commencement speech that if Macintosh had not included eye pleasing typography, then computers would never have had typographically pleasing typefaces (because "Microsoft just copied Apple); this is ludicrous. In fact, Apple's software patents for digital typography added unnecessary difficulties. [3] Many people are unhappy about Apple culture of paranoia, litigation, and features that restrict user's freedoms that Steve created.

Steve is known for having a great sense of design, but it seems that he only had taste in choosing among the good designs of others. Just look at the yacht he designed without Jonathan Ive's collaboration. [4]

Many of you may say that I'm missing the point; that his ability to convince others of what was important and his "vision" is what made him great. My contention is that he appropriated other people's original ideas, and other people implemented his modifications. I'll admit that directing such efforts is not an easy thing to do, and most breakthroughs are improvements upon others' ideas. But it is very rare for the original creators to be alive and ignored while the modifier is celebrated with maudlin elegies.

EDIT: The media's treatment of his death, President Obama's statement that he was a great "inventor", etc. was not his fault. But I think that when the deaths of people like Dennis Ritchie and John McCarthy in the same month as Steve are ignored, then the world is suffering from a serious case of myopia. Ignoring Dennis and John while celebrating Steve is like fawning over the interior decorator with praise about the warmth of a house while ignoring the carpenter and contractor.

Perhaps I should add that I am being critical of Steve because of an abundance of articles that did not focus on what he actually contributed, or criticized only his behavior towards others. Steve did seem to be able to hire, attract, or motivate as many talented engineers as he did drive away. This is a very hard thing for a CEO to do, and he deserves a large amount of credit for doing this. The talent that he helped attract and the products they create are responsible for Apple's stock price rise and continued profitability since his death.

[‡] http://www.dourish.com/goodies/jargon.html (see definition of "hacker")

[1] http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2012/02/01/146206585/ste...

[2] http://people.xiph.org/~xiphmont/demo/neil-young.html

[3] http://www.freetype.org/patents.html

[4] http://www.cnn.com/2012/12/21/tech/innovation/steve-jobs-yac...

Hacker (n) "An enthusiastic and skillful computer programmer or user."

Ok, computer user then.

Steve Jobs built Apple 1.0 that popularized desktop computing & publishing.

Then on the side he bought a failing business, and turned it into the company that's become the future of entertainment with Pixar.

In between he founded NeXt where he demonstrated his understanding that integrated hardware design and supply-chain-management was going to be essential to the next generation of computing, and hired amazing people to help him realize this vision when back at Apple.

With these experiences upon his return to Apple, he bet on mobile and consumer products and turned a failing computer hardware maker into the world's most valuable company - out pacing even EXXON that's entire business is pumping liquid gold out of the ground.

He authored or co-authored 323 patents at Apple alone.

So I strongly disagree that he was not an "inventor", a "hacker", or undeserving of the media's attention and analysis.

(1) http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2011/08/24/technology/ste...

The patents that have his name on them are design patents, not software or hardware patents. If he does have his name on a software or hardware patent, it is for legal purposes only.

I'm using the Jargon file's definition of hacker [1], which is :

"HACKER [originally, someone who makes furniture with an axe] n. 1. A person who enjoys learning the details of programming systems and how to stretch their capabilities, as opposed to most users who prefer to learn only the minimum necessary. 2. One who programs enthusiastically, or who enjoys programming rather than just theorizing about programming. 3. A person capable of appreciating hack value (q.v.). 4. A person who is good at programming quickly. Not everything a hacker produces is a hack. 5. An expert at a particular program, or one who frequently does work using it or on it; example: "A SAIL hacker". (Definitions 1 to 5 are correlated, and people who fit them congregate.) 6. A malicious or inquisitive meddler who tries to discover information by poking around. Hence "password hacker", "network hacker".

[1] http://www.dourish.com/goodies/jargon.html

That definition of "hacker" is so flawed and half-hearted I can't help but wonder why you defend it so passionately. Does programming really define someone's life and meaning so much that it requires listing the same area of interest five times? I'm a coder and I find that definition pathetically short sighted. Ironically even despite that definition, Jobs still qualifies for 3-4 of the definitions you name. No one appreciated technical talent better than Jobs (see, e.g. Woz)

I could keep going, but your points seem entirely designed to throw rehashed cliches about Apple that feed some cliched narrative. Your argument about patent assignment is so oddly narrow I'm just curious why you'd drag it out absent a general dislike of patents here on HN. But other then that IP quirk, I'm quite familiar with folks who believe it's fashionable to hate on Apple/Jobs. For these types, unfortunately many of them short sighted programmers, Apple can do no good, and everything Steve did was based on stealing other's ideas — evidence be damned.

Never mind that Jobs is the quintessential malicious and inquisitive meddler, the one who helped grow a film company, a music company that single-handedly changed the industry, and one of the top computer firms that introduced the Apple II, the Macintosh, the iPod, iPhone and iPad, the latter four two while battling cancer. Now you can argue what it takes to do that, but only one thing really matters: building passionate "A-Player" teams dedicated and willing to pour their best work into building great products. You admit this and then negate it's importance, when it's actually all that matters.

Jobs built these kinds of teams over and over again, and he was very good at doing that. Part of that was his often abrasive attitude. He didn't tolerate lots of things, no less faux "hackers" who would dominate the discussion about what it means to be hack while completely missing the forest for the programming trees.

Nor did he tolerate constant optimists, who believing in "playing, and build great things together with all of the talented people who are working so hard on your behalf." Sorry, but that's a load of bullshit, and I'd buy it from someone who worked on one of the rare misses from Apple in the mid-2000s, MobileMe. I'm sympathetic to the author, she seems to be talented (nice SproutCore shirt) and means well. But there's no arguing that even after an initial gestation period that MobileMe wasn't a steaming pile of shit. You can debate all you want about web technologies and who's fault it was at the beginning, but the idea of cloud services isn't some breathtaking impossible task and as an end-user it was bad. Equally talented folks down the road in Mountain View were doing it and after a certain point you should feel bad if you're working on a consistently shitty product.

> "Never mind that Jobs is the quintessential malicious and inquisitive meddler,"

So, the bad definition of "hacker"?

The given definition of hacker is correct.

On the other hand, making funiture using an axe seems to be an useful skill. By the definition, we could reasonably post content about that skill on this site.

Actually there are dozens of software and hardware patents with Job's name on them.

I am not sure the value of patent counting. It is pretty easy to get your name on a patent as the CEO.

I wouldn't disagree that Jobs was good at his job, nor that he provided value to society overall, but I would say it is really difficult to tell the technical skills of a leader (since they don't get much opportunity to show them off).

Making desktop computers mainstream destroyed hacker culture, and made this industry full of incompetent fools that work for big businesses and only care about making money.

I either do not like Steve Jobs, or I feel sorry for him. One of those two.

I do not like to speak ill of the dead, but I also do not like to sugar-coat things.

Steve Jobs was mentally ill. A lot of people don't like to say that, but that is what he was. I cannot diagnose his exact condition, but he shared many traits of the common sociopath -- all except that he was never very charming, generally speaking. [0] Steve clawed his way to the top, and turned himself into a god, when all of his talents were really nothing more than hiring the right people (Steve would have been an absolute nobody if he had never met Wozniak (or a man of similar talent) to flush out his ideas) -- in fact he probably would have turned out to be a homeless person (if you had met him at Atari, you would have thought so). Steve was a bag of ideas -- ideas that were not original but, to his blessing, very consistent. And as most of us agree, ideas are only worth the quality of their execution. A lot of people look up to Steve for this reason - he was a non-engineer who came to rule the tech world. If he could do it, so could they.

I have no real agenda against Jobs, and I would definitely say that his life was filled with interesting accomplishments (even if the only accomplishment was only swindling the world to pay 2x as much for his products). But this is one man I would never place on a pedestal, because he is not a model human being.

The only heros I have know humility. Steve Jobs, even in the face of death, never learned that.

[0] http://www.mcafee.cc/Bin/sb.html

Steve Wozniak about Steve Jobs:

> Jobs was a good husband and father and a great businessman who had an eye for details. He said Jobs was a good marketer and understood the benefits of technology.

> When it came to Apple's products, "while everyone else was fumbling around trying to find the formula, he had the better instincts," he said.

> According to Wozniak, Jobs told him around the time he left Apple in 1985 that he had a feeling he would die before the age of 40. Because of that, "a lot of his life was focused on trying to get things done quickly," Wozniak said.

> "I think what made Apple products special was very much one person, but he left a legacy," he said. Because of this, Wozniak hopes the company can continue to be successful despite Jobs' death.

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/06/steve-wozniak-steve...

While you're right that Steve Jobs would have gone nowhere without Steve Wozniak, the reverse is likely also true. Steve Wozniak had a big doubt on working on the Apple start-up; the security HP offered him was very tempting. I don't think the world would have known about Steve Wozniak if Steve Jobs didn't convince him to leave HP for the Apple start-up.

I agree Steve Jobs might have been a sociopath, but then again, aren't many higher-up people in other businesses either? I think what mattered for Apple is that Steve Jobs cared about products most of all - sociopaths at many other companies only seem to care about how much money they make.

Woz clearly has a different definition of being a good father to me; I think spending years in court to deny responsibility for your child pretty much disqualifies one for that particular praise.

Steve Jobs said that he regretted his behavior during that time. He also later gave her daughter and her mother enough money to live on and became closer to her daughter.

Good points - I'd have to say I agree with you.

I think that says more about Steve Wozniak than Steve Jobs. From what I've read about him he's an amazing person that is easy going and very forgiving. I think while his greatness may have been less visible he would have been great regardless of which path he took.

>>> Steve clawed his way to the top, and turned himself into a god, when all of his talents were really nothing more than hiring the right people (Steve would have been an absolute nobody if he had never met Wozniak (or a man of similar talent) to flush out his ideas) -- in fact he probably would have turned out to be a homeless person

You can say the same of almost everyone that is successful in the world. Also, Steve didn't turn himself into god, people did. Ambition and determination play a huge role in successful people's lives (depending on your definition of success), but LUCK is always a huge factor.

For example...

0.) Lincoln wouldn't have become President if he had given up after a few election losses, and we could make an argument that slavery in America would have taken much longer to abolish or not at all without his leadership. Perhaps Lincoln was mentally ill to run so many times instead of gracefully accepting his loss.

1.) Elon Musk would never have cofounded SpaceX & Tesla would not be possible without him betting his financial future on the company. But you could make a similar statement that Elon wouldn't be who he is today, if he hadn't left Sooth Africa, if he hadn't stumbled upon SV, etc.

2.) JayZ would never have become what he is today, if he had gotten busted or shot in his younger years when he was dealing drugs.

3.) Nelson Mandel wouldn't be who he is today if he had given up on his ideals and dreams of the future while serving for 27 years in prison.

4.) Justin Bieber wouldn't be the most popular musician alive today if he(his mom) hadn't uploaded a video on youtube that resulted in his being recruited by some music manager and promoted just as social media and sharing where becoming the part of everyday life. He'd just be another guy that saw singing as a hobby or gained only regional fan following if he pursued his passion.

TL:DR -> Almost everyone you know, respect, admire or don't would have been an "absolute nobody" if it weren't for certain circumstances favorable/unfavorable in their lives.

On a more generic level, you could say if a person's biological mother hadn't consummated a relationship/fling/marriage with that person's biological father, that person and everything s/he has accomplished wouldn't exist.

Yep - if not x, than not y applies to every aspect of the universe. :) But what I am trying to drive home is that (IMHO) there is a huge disconnect between Job's actual talents, and the amount of respect he is given. Wozniak too would have likely been a nobody, sometimes it takes that pairing of people to produce enough drive to create a product (I know because I have experienced it first hand -- I used to work with what you might call a psychological clone of Steve Jobs, but he got me to work at a rate I never have before - only he was never abusive).

Anyway, all of what you say is basically true. :) But I feel like Jobs has stolen most of the respect from all the people who work so hard under him that really have made Apple what it is. I guess I kind of have the engineer's mind set, for better or worse - I admire people who can create things with their own two hands (or at least the people who get their hands dirty), and I don't particularly care for those who can't -- I can't really say that without sounding like an elitist prick, but maybe that is what I am. :)

So essentially, you're trying to say you're better than Steve Jobs because you can program?

For the record, I do not consider myself to be better than anyone - Steve was at least successful. My history is paved with failures.

Who is "JayZ" ? Somebody important, I assume?

This reminds me of the joke "How do you know if someone doesn't own a television."

(Searching JayZ on google yields About 123,000,000 results.)

I don't know the joke, could you explain? Googling it didn't give me any hints (the top result is an article at The Onion "Area Man Constantly Mentioning He Doesn't Own A Television")

The joke is:

- How do you know if someone doesn't own a television? They tell you.

The Onion article is just an elaborate version of the joke.

The joke here is people making a big deal about not knowing who Jay-Z is, to the extent they post comments about how they don't know it - rather than just google his name if they were curious. Which indicate that the do know who he is, but want to make a show of being the kind of guy who don't know who someone Jay-Z is.

There's a related joke: How do you know if someone thinks they might suffer from Aspeger's Syndrome?

If the question had been "Who is Justin Bieber?", I would have been a very happy man.

I honestly can't tell which is more tolerable. I might be a cynic, but they both sound like shit.

Dubmood OTOH, is excellent.

You're not a cynic. You're just a typical rube with unforgivably bad taste in eurotrash music.

We don't resort to ad hominems here. It would appear you're a fan of either Biebs or Jay-Z but not Dubmood and, as per the misclassification wrt genre, have been misinformed about said artists.

me too.. i have never heard this name before. Then I googled. Here it is : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jay-Z. He is a rapper.

Just to clarify why sgpl cited him: he is one of the (if not the absolute) most successful rappers of all time. Definitely top of his field. And married to Beyoncé (who is no slouch herself). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beyoncé_Knowles (just in case)

You have no agenda against him but you call him mentally ill based of what stories that you read on the internet did you know him personally? Go on a road trip with him? Bump into him a the coffee shop? To say someone is mentally ill and doesn't have humility based of of internet articles is pretty classless. To your first question.. I either do not like Steve Jobs, or I feel sorry for him.... I think its pretty obvious which category your in

To say that somebody is mentally ill is not an insult. Anyone can be mentally ill, just as anyone can catch the common cold. I do not know to what extent Jobs had control over his behavior, which is why I do not know to what extent I dislike him or feel sorry for him. However, between the experiences that everyone had with him, his book, and other sources, I think I can pretty safely say that to many people, he was not a very nice person.

I think there a huge difference between a common cold and a mental illness the effects on your life and the stigma that we as as society give it is impactful enough.I have a family member who is battling dementia its not something to be tallied about to describe "not very nice people" He was mean to someone people so what, If I where to interview everyone you've come across in your life ex coworkers, friends, girl or boyfriends there would be some people who said you where mean and a jerk too . 5 sides to almost every story

It's called jealousy. People love to cut others down without having invented anything on their own.

I read Steve Job's biography and a book about sociopaths and SJ was definitely not a sociopath, he was a narcissist.

Don't worry, the one who posted that Steve was a sociopath is apparently a 'hacker' which gives them qualifications in diagnosing mental illnesses based on 2nd and 3rd hand conjuncture without having met the 'patient.'

You seem to have taken this awfully personally. Is there a reason?

I don't think he was a sociopath, only that he shared many symptoms. Namely seeming lack of empathy, narcissism, apparent lack of guilt (he almost never apologized, if what people say is true), etc. Like I said I don't know his exact condition.

You don't listen to vinyl for the "audio quality" in the sense of getting the most precise reproduction of a recording. You listen to it because of the color that the playback process adds to the music. There is something charming about the occasional click or pop, not to mention that a lot of older music transferred to CD wasn't necessarily transferred well. And music targeting vinyl to begin with is usually mastered differently.

You can record the playback of a vinyl record and transfer it to a digital record without losing any information. The clicks and pops were consciously removed from some vinyl records when they were remastered. If you wanted to, you could transfer your own vinyl records to a digital format. I'm not sure what you mean by the "color" of recording, because color can refer to either noise color or tone color. You might be thinking of effects that a valve amplifier adds to the sound being played through it (distortions, not clicks and pops). In this case, you can get the same effects by using an file that has been transferred to a digital format from vinyl.

Sitting down and listening to a vinyl is not 100% about audio quality. The aesthetics and interactions with the mechanical systems can be satisfying.

The best example I can give would be like the difference between watching a basketball game live vs with an hour delay. You technically are watching the same thing, but they have a very different feel. The physicality of the vinyl is what gives it the variation from playback to playback which is somewhat akin to listening to it 'live'.

I can go out right now and buy a mazda miata. Its an amazing little car fun to drive handles well, all around its fantastic.

But give the ability I'd go back and get an old Porsche 356 Speedster.

The Miata is superior technically in every way. But I just love the old Porsche for its history, aesthetics and legacy, and thats the car I'd always prefer.

I don't think any of this is any sort of reflection on what kind of "hacker" I am.


You could do a remaster from a vinyl, but it would only happen in cases when the original master tapes were lost.

Yes, you could record a vinyl losslessly and it would sound indistinguishable from the vinyl. But why bother, when you already own loads of vinyl and are familiar with that format? Plus some people enjoy the 'ritual' of vinyl, the sense of ownership not offered by digital music, and the way that medium places focus on records as self-contained works, rather than as a collection of songs from which people 'pick-and-mix'.

Don't get me wrong, I love all digital music has to offer, but I'm just saying there are still plenty of reasons to listen to vinyl too.

> Yes, you could record a vinyl losslessly and it would sound indistinguishable from the vinyl. But why bother, when you already own loads of vinyl and are familiar with that format?

I own nearly a thousand vinyl records, and I recorded them digitally and play them through my Audiotron (crackle and all). I bother because playing vinyl records is a bother. They need to be cleaned regularly, dinking around with the records is more work than just pushing a button. Some of them are warped and to get them to play ya gotta put slight pressure on the needle.

I did try various software to remove clicks, but it made the recordings sound muffled.

But I do like the smell of the turntable & records. It's analogous to the pleasing smell of an old paperback novel. Can't have everything.

You lose the mechanical interaction which has random aspects. It's never quite the same way twice. Digital is the opposite.

You could go out of your way to try to simulate all the mechanical interactions, but why? What is so important about faking something?

While there are audiophiles who listen to vinyl because there is in fact perceptable change in quality compared to mp3, most people listen to vinyl because the enjoy it, just like some people enjoy real books over kindle.

> You can record the playback of a vinyl record and transfer it to a digital record without losing any information.

No. Sampling truly analog data always involves approximating.

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sampling_%28signal_processing%2...

Notice how they use the term "theoretical ideal sampler".

No. This is wrong. First, sampling need not imply quantization[1]. Second, the signal to noise ratio of the continuous signal source is important. With sufficiently many bits and sufficiently many samples, you can exactly reproduce any band-limited continuous signal above the noise floor[2]. Those last four words are important. Analog data never comes without noise, and a "sufficient number of bits" is nowhere near as high as you think (particularly with noise-shaping techniques like dithering).

Now, it is the case, as user rayiner mentioned, that there can be advantages to using more than the required number of bits and samples (though not quite for the reasons he mentioned). For starters, you do need an anti-aliasing filter between the signal source and your ADC. Increasing the sample rate reduces the complexity of the AA filter, and digital-domain math can make up for it (and increase the effective number of bits, to boot!). But when you go to reproduce the signal, there's no good reason to use more samples and bits than necessary. That was the whole point of the "Niel Young paper" that has been linked to so many times.

Vinyl does not come close to the limits of consumer-grade recording devices (except maaaaaybe in certain bands, but that can be dealt with by using noise-shaping techniques). Does that make those who like the sound of vinyl bad people? No. Just like those who enjoy sitting in front of a wood fireplace are not bad people. Gas fireplaces have a lot of advantages, but some people like the crackling of the wood and the smell it produces.

[1] Tektronix made a very nice set of (entirely analog) sampling oscilloscopes in the 1960's which used sampling techniques to measure high frequency signals (on the order of 1GHz when contemporary continuous-signal CROs could barely reach 100MHz). These oscilloscopes displayed discrete-time, continuous-amplitude signals, and deliberately excluded the anti-aliasing filter I mentioned above (though it wasn't true heterodyning as most RF people would think of it, because samples were taken based a delay from a trigger recognizer, and thus not necessarily equally spaced in time).

[2] Signals below the noise floor are outside the scope of this discussion and usually require some form of synchronous detection (like a lock-in amplifier) or frequency-spreading / -despreading (like GPS).

The level of 'approximation' involved here would be like making a square that was .0001% too long on one side. You wouldn't be able to tell at all.

The page you listed also says: "There has been an industry trend towards sampling rates well beyond the basic requirements; 96 kHz and even 192 kHz are available.[1] This is in contrast with laboratory experiments, which have failed to show that ultrasonic frequencies are audible to human observers"

The criticisms of these sorts of things are often as unscientific as the original claims. E.g. the fact that humans can't hear 96 KHz doesn't mean that sampling at that rate doesn't make it e.g. easier to design the roll-off filter in the DAC. It doesn't mean it doesn't make it easier to do transformations on the audio like simulated surround. There are a lot of steps between the digital signal on a CD and your ears, and just because your ears can't hear 20 KHz doesn't mean it doesn't make the intermediate steps easier to build.

Another analogy: Mechanical watches. There are no good reasons to own them besides just liking them.

>and according to Neil Young, he listened to vinyl records at home [1] — which shows that he was ignorant of how audio quality works (see [2]).

This is total and utter BS. I know how audio quality works. I've got a CS degree, have take information theory and DSP classes, have even written audio plugin code (VST/AU), and have worked with DAWs and samplers for nearly two decades.

Still, I like vinyl better.

What you said has nothing at all to do with "audio quality" and how it works. It only has to do with audio _fidelity_, at best. Quality and fidelity is not the same thing. And fidelity and human preference towards a sound source is not the same thing either. For example, people prefer (and enjoy more) colored sound over more neutral reproduction all the time.

Not to mention vinyl is also about the cultural experience (connection with the cottage era of the music industry, large cover art, etc), the tactile feel, and even the patina and fragility of the medium (which can even include the crackle). Consumption of art, any art, is not at all about perfect reproduction.

>But I think that when the deaths of people like Dennis Ritchie and John McCarthy in the same month as Steve are ignored, then the world is suffering from a serious case of myopia

Steve Job's work was important to the economy and the consumers at large in a manifest way (ie. building the company with the largest quarterly earnings of all time, for one).

Ritchie's work, no so much and in a much more roundabout way. And McCarthy's work was even more marginal. Those two are important for computer science, and the programming industry, but not for the economy, market, culture etc at large.

>Many of you may say that I'm missing the point; that his ability to convince others of what was important and his "vision" is what made him great. My contention is that he appropriated other people's original ideas, and other people implemented his modifications.

That's the very role of a good CEO.

You probably mistook him to be something like Tesla?

Ritchie's work not so much? Are you joking?!

No. One directly started a company (well, two and a half), and as a CEO and general supervisor, several of the best selling US exports (and huge domestic market hits).

The other worked within the confines of a established company and co-developed C and Unix. Both had other developers already working on them. Arguably both could be created even without him, by Ken Thompson and Brian Kernighan et co. And the more widely used versions of both were released by other companies later, not AT&T (the UNIX vendors of the 80's, the C compiler companies, and later GCC and Linux).

He was a great of computer science and our Unix culture in general -- just not the kind of figure that grasps the public attention, turns over whole sections of the economy, and dines with Presidents.

Whether someone starts a new company to do their work or works within an existing one is completely irrelevant to the significance of their work. You're focusing on the companies rather than the people, which makes no sense considering that we're comparing the relative economic significance of the people, not their companies.

Apple's entire product line is built on top of Ritchie's work. That's an unusually obvious example of standing on the shoulders of giants, and Ritchie and Thompson are the giants. Jobs just brought their work (and the work of others) to market successfully.

You're absolutely right that Ritchie's not the kind of figure that grasps the public attention, but he and Thompson did turn over whole sections of the economy. They just did it by proxy. The people doing the actual work are the ones with economic significance, not the proxy that happens to sell a lot of copies of it.

>Whether someone starts a new company to do their work or works within an existing one is completely irrelevant to the significance of their work.

It very much is for the perception of their contribution though. One was a leader himself, the other was part of an established team (which could presumably do the same work without him).

>Apple's entire product line is built on top of Ritchie's work.

No, it merely uses C and Unix as very basic components at the very base of it all, a C and Unix that are many times removed from the origins at that PDP-11, and have had the contributions of thousands upon thousands of people (including tons of hard work from hundreds of Apple's own engineers).

And even C/UNIX weren't created by Richie himself alone. There's BK, Ken Thompson et al too. So, sure we can celebrate Richie as the co-creator of C and Unix but not of something as indirect and removed such as "Apple's product line".

Else, we might as well say "IBM's entire product line is built on top of the discovery of electricity". Which while true, it doesn't mean we celebrate Maxwell and Tesla for IBM's work. We don't even celebrate Turing and Von Neuman for IBM's stuff. We celebrate the company's engineers.

>You're absolutely right that Ritchie's not the kind of figure that grasps the public attention, but he and Thompson did turn over whole sections of the economy. They just did it by proxy. The people doing the actual work are the ones with economic significance, not the proxy that happens to sell a lot of copies of it..

I'm not so sure. There are people who have discovered great things that went nowhere without some proxy. I think this is the naive programming concept that "marketing doesn't matter, it's just BS". Then you go code the finest program, and nobody buys/uses it.

> Else, we might as well say "IBM's entire product line is built on top of the discovery of electricity". Which while true, it doesn't mean we celebrate Maxwell and Tesla for IBM's work.

Yes we do. We celebrate Maxwell and Tesla, along with all of the other great scientists back through history, because without them and their discoveries the things we create today wouldn't be possible. That's the entire meaning of Newton's phrase about standing on the shoulders of giants. We may not mention every link in the chain every time we talk about any given product, but it is implicit that the chain is there. Every new scientist adds on to what we already have, and if their contribution is significant enough, the next generation of scientists will learn their name along with the ones we learned.

Ritchie built C. He built on Thompson's work with B, but the C programming language is Ritchie's creation. He was also not “part of an established team” when building Unix. He and Thompson built and led the team after leaving Multics. Considering that he wrote the language they built the system in and was also one of the two leaders of the team, your presumption that the same work could have been done without him is a bold one.

Steve Jobs sold some products for a while, and he did a really good job of it. He had a significant economic impact, but it was a temporary one. Future generations are not going to build on top of his work, because he didn't create or discover anything to build on top of. He was a businessman, and history will remember (or forget) him as such.

Valuing great work and discovery is not a “naive programming concept”, it's an inheritance from the scientific community. We honor those who have gone before who make it possible for us to do what we do. Without Dennis Ritchie, my working life and the things that I create would be very, very different. Without Steve Jobs, they'd probably be the exact same.

At the time of his death, he had turned around a company that was about 90 days from death and turned it into one of biggest companies in the world, which made products used by hundreds of millions of people.

Now, I could go on debating what I thought he was but that would be pointless. Steve changed the world, with whatever combination of qualities and abilities that he had.

You know what doesn't accomplish anything? Debating on Hacker News if it's better to be like Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, Steve's design ability, which of the ideas from Apple were his, why he listened to music on vinyl, etc.

If you can't understand why Steve Jobs was a household name and Dennis Richie wasn't, well, sorry... I guess you don't understand life. There really isn't any use in whining about it though. In 200 years, most of us will probably be forgotten, including Steve.

I think one important reason for a debate like this is that the leaders we choose as role models defines the direction we move as a culture. It's a moral question we're debating (or that we should be debating) - is it better to emulate Steve's leadership, or someone else's?

Shrinking from normative discussions like this is essentially abandoning the idea that there is any moral dimension to technology, which is more dangerous than any side you can take in the debate.

There is a difference, of course, between meaningful discussion and fanboyism. But whether or not Steve is worthy of the praise he has is definitely worth discussing.

No, I think we should admire people's accomplishments and not necessary look for role models. We should encourage people to aspire to do great things like Bill Gates, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, Isaac Newton, John Harrison, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Harrison), etc. Endlessly debating what kind of a person they were doesn't accomplish anything.

At the end of today, ask yourself what you actually accomplished. Are you making forward progress on your goal or dream? You get about 30,000 days to accomplish it.

Role models exist for a reason, and that is that we can do our best to be like them. It's not like we're arbitrarily judging character just for the hell of it. I know that I would like a role model that could show how to be a good person and do well in life. The trouble is, exactly as it says in the article, people look up to Steve Jobs and act like dicks because he did the same as was successful. And that doesn't work. And those people will probably never see their dreams through because they have Mr. Jobs, or Thomas Edison, or whoever else as a role model. So it is very important.

How about simply try to find inspiration in different people for their talents and what they've done. Encouraging the idea of role models in the way that you describe "you should be just like him/her" is a little weak minded.

There are lots of not so famous people with great stories where I find inspiration. For example:



Steve Jobs was a product of Silicon Valley and he interned at HP at age 12, and then later he was later a worker bee at Atari: So your idea that he "knew almost nothing about computer languages and architecture" seems a bit misplaced. You wouldn't be building blue boxes and hanging out at homebrew meetings if you didn't know something about the field.

Also the "logic" that if you listen to vinyl records makes one ignorant about audio quality is silly. And honestly you can can like Steve Jobs and still appreciate someone like Dennis Ritchie.

True, but I think Steve was far more of a human psychology hacker than an inventive engineer. He got the internship at HP by calling the CEO and asking him for parts, and his crown technical achievement at Atari was getting Wozniak to design and build a game in 4 sleepless days and nights that he lied to him about to get the bulk of the payment from Atari: http://www.jamesaltucher.com/2011/02/10-unusual-things-i-did... He didn't even know what FLOPS were when trying to sell Macs to academic scientists. He may have had good taste but was no engineer or inventor by a long, long stretch.

That link by james altucher gives him too much credit. This paints a more accurate picture of what happened at Atari: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breakout_(video_game)

> But I think that when the deaths of people like Dennis Ritchie and John McCarthy in the same month as Steve are ignored

Steve Jobs was a media figure who was present up to the end of his life, whereas Dennie Ritchie has invented something extremely important decades ago and then kept a low profile. The respective amount of media coverage has nothing to do with who was objectively the more important human, only postings like yours claim to know the answer to this, and I think it's rather tasteless.

> but it seems that he only had taste in choosing among the good designs of others

This was undoubtedly his best strength. It's a heck of a strength to have as a CEO, though.

The last 35 years of technology history is unfathomable without Steve Jobs. Jobs was the one responsible for getting the most influential early personal computer to market with the Apple II, driving the creation of the first viable GUI computer with the Macintosh, ensuring that CGI animation became the de facto standard with Pixar, founding a company that produced the machine that the World Wide Web was invented on, being instrumental in the introduction of PostScript and desktop publishing, and on and on. He may not be the sole inventor of these things, but ask Steve Wozniak, Bill Atkinson, Ed Catmull, Tim Berners Lee, John Warnock, et al where they and their inventions would be without Steve Jobs.

The thing is, he didn't do all that. At least not by himself. A lot of talented people built every single one of those things, and without them, Steve Jobs wouldn't exist.

As stated before, gathering those talents and driving them to make these things does take a lot of effort and he did that very well.

Behind that guy in the cover of the magazines there are tons of people that actually made those amazing things. Many gave ideas that in the end made that product a whole.

And finally, without Steve Jobs, someone else could have taken the spot. Or not. The thing is, you can't know what would've happened without him. So don't say that as a fact, it's at best a supposition.

>without Steve Jobs, someone else could have taken the spot

You could easily say that about the "true" inventors.

The point is Steve Jobs _was_ heavily involved in all of these major breakthroughs, spanning decades, industries, and personnel. He is an incredibly important and influential figure in the history of technology. Not sure why people feel the need to downplay his role when the very people he is supposedly stealing the spotlight from will attest to his genius (with the exception of Jef Raskin of course, who was a bit of a Svengali himself).

I think the difference is that the technologies Steve was so instrumental in creating were already being developed without him. The GUI and personal computer were pretty much already there, he just got to it earliest. Without him these things would have been created in just about the same time span with little difference.

This is distinct from, say, Einstein's theory of relativity, which was a solution from a direction which no one was looking. Everything Steve helped create was already underway.

I don't think that a concept computer costing tens of thousands of dollars that didn't exist outside of PARC's labs with an interface that didn't include dragging as one of its metaphors is "almost" the Macintosh, nor do I see much evidence for a industry trend toward a GUI outside of Apple's efforts and Microsoft's primitive attempts at copying Apple.


The Mac was hardly the only game in town at the time. History does indeed belong to the winners.

Windows 1.0 came out in 1985, only one year after the Apple Macintosh. PARC invented the idea of the WIMP GUI, not Apple. I think it's a little silly to say that the idea would have died within PARC.

Th idea of WIMP really wasn't "invented" at PARC. That organisation gets way too much credit. They amalgamated several concepts that had been developed since the late 1940's. I'm not suggesting that PARC's work wasn't important, but to blithely dismiss Apple's contribution and suggest that it all started with PARC it ridiculous.

Go and learn about Vannevar Bush and Memex, Ivan Sutherland and Sketchpad, Doug Engelbart and his contributions like the the Mouse and his oN-Line System. The history of modern computing is simply not as black and white as you are trying to portray.

Finally, anyone that has used both Windows 1.0 (and 2.0 for that matter) will tell you just how awful it was, especially when compared to the Macintosh. Microsoft didn't come close to the ideas presented in the Mac until 1990 with Windows 3.0, and arguably it was the 3.1 release in 1992 that was useable.

Came out in 1985 after Microsoft had been developing Mac apps for two years, and was so awful as to barely warrant a footnote in computer history.

I wouldn't say smartphones were on the way to what iPhone was. In fact, if you re-watch the keynote where the iPhone is announced, the reaction from the audience is fairly muted, because people were clearly afraid that a phone with nothing but a touch screen for an interface was going to suck really badly.

You don't know that at all. There is no control to that experiment. What you have is an opinion.

Just like this statement that he was replying to: "The last 35 years of technology history is unfathomable without Steve Jobs."


>without Steve Jobs, someone else could have taken the spot

Sculley, Spindler and Amelio all did, and all of them failed to various degrees, which illustrates just how facile that comment is.

And none of them could really continue what Jobs had started. They didn't even have to innovate. And did Sculley come up with Newton? No, others inside Apple did. Yet he couldn't even sell that (and marketing was his thing!). It took the Palm Pilot to realize Apple's ambitions. Just as it took Steve Jobs to realize the ambitions of Xerox PARC.

Great point....simple too!

> he listened to vinyl records at home [1] — which shows that he was ignorant of how audio quality works

Lol, i've tried explaining this to soooo many people. (But to be fair, there are other reasons to listen to vinyl other than just 'quality'.)

Exactly, it seems presumptuous to assume Jobs thought vinyl was better quality.

Actually... ridiculously presumptuous.

...and of course regardless of relative quality, CD and other digital formats seems to have encouraged producers to move towards some really bad production habits. The end result might be that while the media can reproduce better sound quality, the quality of the sound on a CD might be worse.

Like, "I bought all these records in the 60s, why should I have to go out and buy them all again as CDs?"

A large percentage of the records made in the 50s and 60s are not available on CDs.

A large percentage of the records listened to on vinyl today are not from the 50s or 60s.

People listen to vinyl for its quality, not it's quantity on some technical metric.

> Just look at the yacht he designed without Jonathan Ive's collaboration.

Philippe Starck designed the yacht.

>>> he listened to vinyl records at home [1] — which shows that he was ignorant of how audio quality works

Obviously you are ignorant of the difference between an analog music and digital music, many people still prefer vacuum-tube amplifier than solid-states amplifier because of the music quality it produces.

People listened to Vinyls because of their distinct sound it makes, for people who are as old as Steve Jobs and Neil Young, the experience listening to Vinyls is nostalgic.

A preference for vinyl does not equate to ignorance of audio technology.

Your article [2] mentions mastering issues. In many cases, the master for the vinyl edition of an album differs significantly from that of the CD or digital release; for example, the vinyl edition may feature less compression, preserving dynamic range.


Upvoted for finally the only true explanation about why vinyls, despite being the inferior medium for audio signal storage, can still sound better than CD's or other digital sources.

Oh it's just so easy for people who have never carried the onus of a multi-billion-dollar company (or really a company of any size) on their shoulders, as someone like Steve Jobs does, to issue middlebrow comments like this one.

No organization/endeavor/enterprise rises to tremendous success without an extraordinary leader at its helm, yet many failures have had armies of smart engineers/builders/managers on their staff. There are underlying reasons for that but I'm of the opinion, of late, that absorbing them from a book or commentary is rather hard for most people - you need to actually experience/witness the right set of circumstances to really appreciate the true nature of what transpires behind success at the top tier.

Honestly, this description of Steve Jobs remined me of Machiavelli's The Prince. Because appearently he was feared, but not hated (within bounds).

He was not a hacker and that's precisely why he could lead the creation of great end-user products. He certainly did know a whole lot about programming : check his WWDC 97 address, in particular this sequence at 22' :


he knew that coding isn't measured by the number of lines you write, and that providing a good environment to developers is absolutely essential. I don't know too many managers or CEOs who really grasp that.

"My contention is that he appropriated other people's original ideas, and other people implemented his modifications."

So what? Ideas aren't very special in and of themselves. I have lots of ideas every day that end up having no impact on the world, because I don't do anything about them.

Also, I think you underestimate the importance of editing. There is a reason writers have editors, bands have producers, actors have directors, and so on.

I would argue Steve Jobs is a "hacker" more than most people here. He knew how to add circuits to modify games when he worked at Atari. Most people here can't do that, let alone design and ship a classic game like Breakout.


He neither designed nor shipped 'Breakout'. He got Wozniak to design it and conned him out of the bulk of the payment. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5579311

It's a relative term, diluted by the fact the lived many decades. I would say he was more of a hacker in his earlier days, and less of a hacker in the later days.

Yes, you're totally missing the point, but you said it yourself:

"it seems that he only had taste in choosing among the good designs of others"

That's all it was--a matter of taste, and his was the very, very best. He had an order of magnitude capability in expressing his taste into product visions that he forced into the world, sure on the backs of others, but nonetheless.

Steve Jobs was not a perfect man, but this criticism is just asinine. No great leader implements all ideas of their own. Ideas are one small factor in achievement. As you should know from hanging out on hacker news, execution with brilliance and competence matters far more than the non-existent notion of "original idea."

Right, because Apple would have been one of the most significant technology companies in the world under the apt leadership of Gil Amelio.

Secondly, the house metaphor about ignoring the carpenter and contractor is silly. Comparing Jobs to an interior designer is complete ignorance -- Jobs didn't "decorate" technology -- he saw what technology could potentially accomplish and pushed his teams to execute that vision. He wasn't arranging digital throw pillows -- he was reinventing how people interact and use their "houses."

That contractor and carpenter build what the designer/architect create. Contractors and carpenters, while certainly skilled tradesmen, are merely inputs to a system. Inputs are generally interchangeable. There are very, very few contruction projects that require one specific carpenter's skills. I can find thousands of carpenters (and hackers) who can built competently. But it's rare that you find a hacker (or anyone) that has the vision, and executive ability to create something like Apple, Google or Microsoft, just as a carpenter might be able to build a Frank Lloyd Wright home from a blueprint, most carpenters wouldn't be able to concieve of that final product, having never seen it before. Who can name the carpenter of a Frank Lloyd Wright home? Who cares? The person living in the house certainly doesn't care about the individual inputs -- they care about the finished product. The ability to take disparate inputs and create something magical, amazing, useful and functional.

Dennis Ritchie, while certainly the father or pretty much most of what we do on computers, doesn't matter to the general public. People love to also suggest that Elon Musk of Tesla as a visionary as well, but without Michael Faraday, electric motor technology might not have developed as it has.

Genius always stands on the shoulders of greatness, but let's also remember that simply inventing some technology or another doesn't make one a "genius" or even a groundbreaking figure -- it's the application of that technology into a form that benefits society. Theories of flight don't matter a bit until someone like the Wright Brothers actually build the damned thing.

The C Language or electric motors didn't matter one bit to the world (aside from academics) until some follow-on "genius" actually does something with it.

Steve Jobs, while maybe not a hacker under the definition used amongst a select group of disgruntled HN-snobs, did something bigger than simply "hacking" -- he turned a group of inputs (highly talented to be sure) into products and companies that changed the world.

> Ignoring Dennis and John while celebrating Steve is like fawning over the interior decorator with praise about the warmth of a house while ignoring the carpenter and contractor.

Which is exactly what people do!

Who cares! There are many skills that go into creating something. There is no reason to edify hacking over other skills and abilities.

>>> Steve Jobs was not a "hacker".

History was clear, Apple had delivered so many great products when Steve was their CEO, period. Even if Steve was not a hacker.

Do you mean if a person is not a hacker, he has not the right or he could not deliver great products or is not fitted to produce any products at all?

>>> He knew almost nothing about computer languages, computer architecture,


I tend to see him as a great product manager.

The audio piece is quite interesting, thanks for linking it.

So he wasn't a hacker, or a designer, he was something bigger - an ideas man.

Also, why was it necessary to troll vinyl lovers aswell as Jobsians?

The world would be dull and boring without legendary figures like Steve Jobs.

Summary: He created a status symbol using other people's ideas.

Jobs is a marketing genius though.

Warning signs of a dangerous cult:

* The group displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader and (whether he is alive or dead) regards his belief system, ideology, and practices as the Truth, as law. ‪ The leadership dictates, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel. ‪ The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s) and members. ‪ Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group and group-related activities. ‪ The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict with the wider society. ‪* The leader is not accountable to any authorities. ‪ The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify whatever means it deems necessary. This may result in members' participating in behaviors or activities they would have considered reprehensible or unethical before joining the group. ‪ Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished. ‪ The leadership induces feelings of shame and/or guilt in order to influence and/or control members. Often, this is done through peer pressure and subtle forms of persuasion. ‪ Subservience to the leader or group requires members to cut ties with family and friends, and radically alter the personal goals and activities they had before joining the group. ‪ The group is preoccupied with making money. ‪ The most loyal members (the "true believers") feel there can be no life outside the context of the group. They believe there is no other way to be, and often fear reprisals to themselves or others if they leave (or even consider leaving) the group.

Jobs was a cult leader, a pathological narcissist who would do anything to shape the world in his image. By some billion-to-one fluke, Jobs was right about nearly everything. His impeccable taste was the driving force of an entire industry for several decades. You can't emulate an outlier like that, any more than eating chicken nuggets will turn you into Usain Bolt.

this sounds exactly like my country's one and the only one political party - the always great, always glorious, always right CCP.

As a general rule, if you're a CEO and you find yourself assembling a group of people who don't directly report to you, so you can tell/yell them how they failed you... stop yourself.

The people who failed your are (a) your direct reports and (b) you yourself. Figure out how the correct information didn't get to you, or how you ignored it, and fix that problem.

There's zero chance a roomful of individual contributors all got it wrong at the same time -- the only way they all got it wrong was that they lacked the proper leadership.

I worked at Apple as a contractor after Steve's return. He was in front of me at the salad bar one day - he didn't cut, was just there ahead of me. I noticed he piled a huge amount of shredded carrots in his plate... anyhow.

Steve was wearing his usual black turtle neck and blue jeans. He was kind of leaning forward and I noticed that I could see his underwear since he wasn't wearing a belt. I seriously pondered, "I REALLY SHOULD GIVE JOBS A WEDGIE". Sure, he'd be pissed. Sure, my contract would be cut short. But I would be THE guy who gave Steve Jobs a wedgie. I chickened out and didn't do squat. Missed my chance for greatness.

Lol...be funny if he had STEVE written on his underwear

I believe he was successful in spite of his negative qualities, not because of them. What I mean by this is that we shouldn't worship his negative traits and spin them somehow to be positive qualities in a leader, such as some people have done. He was very much a human being. A highly-intelligent man and visionary in the right place at the right time, surrounded by the right people, making a lot of good, and a few poor, choices. Don't try to reverse-engineer his success so as to duplicate it.

Thank you for writing this. Substitute Steve Jobs -> Tony Fadell and Apple -> Nest Labs and you've got almost the experience I had.

We have to stop enabling these sociopaths and vote with our feet (immediately) when this stuff happens.

Agreed, Sociopaths might have extreme qualities which might enable extreme outcomes, but that doesn't mean we need to enable them. It is overwhelmingly unhealthy and negative for anyone connected to them. Been there.

Interesting. I interviewed at Nest and was on the way to getting an offer, but in the end ended up doing something completely different. Do you have any writings about Fadell?

Maybe the title should be "You don't want to be Steve Jobs" instead of "You are not Steve Jobs".

Most of this article, except the cafeteria anecdote, isn't about Jobs, or about megalomaniac CEO's in general.

It's about utter failure of middle management, and how they can totally fuck both sides of the company.

The lesson here is not "don't be an asshole" (although you shouldn't), it's "don't hire ass-kissing assholes".

Disagree. If you kick middle managers in the stomach every time they tell you something you don't want to hear, they stop being honest with you.

In which case they should get fired. That's totally unacceptable behavior. If middle management is more concerned about saving face than delivering honest reports, it's their problem.

Lets not forget that it's hard to imagine Steve being successful if he hadn't paired with the equally extraordinary Woz. Yes, Jobs got along just fine without Woz, but only after the Apple ][ gave him enough runway to continue pushing his vision. Jobs was special, but he still made errors that would've tanked lesser companies.

It should also be noted that Jobs should be given credit for dragging a reluctant Woz into the spotlight..their estrangement is to me one of the most bizarre and saddest mysteries about Apple.

I think pointing out problems directly and efficiently will eventually make someone a total asshole, and that's what I think Steve Jobs really did. However, some people(especially those blink-eyed Steve Jobs enthusiastics) just mistook the whole point. They thought it's being a total asshole making him efficient and successful, and by being a total asshole will eventually lead to him/her being an awesome leader of big cooperation. These people really have to learn some principles of logic before they start to learn anything from Steve Jobs. Pardon my poor English.

I don't get the point. I am not Steve Jobs. Steve Jobs was.

I am me.

Also, all the criticism in this thread that he wasn't a great engineer and Dennis Ritchie and John McCarthy should have been given more coverage in the press the month he died is naive to say the least. They were both older. He still had much to do and was the boss of the world's biggest corporation. A bunch of Hackers on Hacker News won't reckon much on Steve Job's contribution to their field, but then he never was a hacker! He was a visionary who appreciated minimalistic design even if this meant that Apple products did fewer things. He made tech popular for the general consumer by simplifying it to just the essentials and burying all of the complexities.

Hackers like to have every choice to exploit. That is why they like PCs and increasingly the Linux OSes. Everyone else that actually wants to get on an accomplish some creative work just ponies up the money for an Apple and what extra they pay out on hardware they tend to save on software - MS Office > iWork.

Choosing which minimal set features to include in a product is harder than just lumping everything in, but the interface is far less cluttered and intrusive with less stuff to learn and therefore easier to use - which may not matter to Hackers like you, but is undoubtedly a factor in Apple's continued success.

The cafeteria anecdote is interesting because I've been in line in a cafeteria with a billionaire (former) CEO - Phil Knight. Very personable (he certainly didn't cut in line) and he seemed comfortable in his Nikes and jeans.

Knight built his empire quite differently than Jobs. While it's not great being a developer at Nike, the company's atmosphere is somewhat laid back. Things still get done and they make a lot of money doing it.

I have been many times in the Apple cafeteria back when Steve was there, and I never saw him cutting lines as described. I am not saying that it did not happen, but I will not make it a statement that he was always like that neither

I never saw him cut in line, either; he was always in a hurry, and could be short, but I didn't see him pull rank, ever. He did almost run me over once.

> I worked on the MobileMe team

Oh crap, she's already biased. That product was a shit-show from the get-go. It doesn't matter how devoted the employees were, the reliability and apparent technical excellence of the product was lacking and that speaks to "poor programmers". You can be the most devoted employee around, but if you simply can't do your job well, that's nobody's fault. iCloud, by comparison, works pretty great.

A lot of people want to be like Steve jobs, but have neither the balls to commit the way he did, nor the requisite skills to evaluate like he did. So as has been mentioned elsewhere, there's just a bunch of mediocre assholes out there who would be mediocre ass holes wether or not Jobs had ever existed, only he did, and that validates their shitty behaviour in their own inflated heads.

There are equal amounts of "Steve was awesome" and "Steve was an ass" stories. Conclusion? He was a human being, just like the rest of us.

I don't know about you but that seems to be an over-simplification. You can find some pretty strong trends from these stories and, while I'm not quick to derive value judgment, Steve did exhibit a distinct personality. It's not an accident that stories like this are, in some sense, predictable.

Any information you consume about a human being is going to be an over-simplification. What's really important is making sure that you're staying critical of the sources of this information.

I also think that you're missing the broader implication of your parent post: Steve didn't wake up every morning with the intent of embodying some kind of persona -- he just was. Sure, he may have done well to have some training by an HR expert on how to communicate more effectively, but he was just managing a company the way that 1) he knew how and 2) in a way that brought Apple success.

What I admire about Steve's Apple is that it was able to maintain a very clear vision and point of view despite growing exponentially. Look at huge corporations like IBM, HP, Microsoft, etc. What are there goals? Go to IBM's website and try to piece together a vision out of 80000 disparate research projects. HP makes...computers? printers? calculators? fax machines? cameras? Microsoft is a maker of operating systems, but are infamous for their spaghetti-style auxiliary product lines (throw it on the wall and see what sticks). These are three well-respected companies, and I don't know what the hell any of the 3 are about. Apple, by contrast? They're about delivering sleek computing products that are accessible and easy to use. Ask anyone on the street what Apple's mission is and they'd be able to give you some variation on good-looking products that are easy to use.

Well to be fair, the "Steve was awesome" stories usually contain some form of the "Steve was an ass" caveat.

Exactly right. The best thing we can do is learn what made him great and what made him not great.

I really treasure the man because he had a lot of both. Just more to learn from.

He was an awesome ass.

As a counterpoint to the "you must be an asshole to be a successful leader" line of thinking, I put forward Eric Schmidt, Larry Page, Sergey, et al. I don't think one can say they haven't helmed a successful company and commanded respect, but they are also not infamous for throwing angry tantrums and yelling at people.

Larry's practically so soft spoken you can't hear him sometimes. :)

People should try to compare what Bill Gates achieved, and what Steve Jobs achieved. Bill gates is not microsoft itself, but steve jobs was apple itself.

Jobs's success was thanks to Bill Gates's success. You don't snap and make iphones without all the experience brought by what microsoft pushed on computer manufacturers.

Not to mention OSX grew thanks to unix too. objc is still a massive pain in the ass for many developers, who just want to use C/C++ and forget about objc stuff NOBODY USE. How come a device which sold so much, wants developers to use stuff that begins with NS prefixes ? When does ideology got into technology ? Nextstep is the only piece of sh*t jobs seems to have created, and that's how he wanted to shove his dick onto nerds.

Jobs was a salesman figure. You now discover that's what our pre ww2 consumer world likes to buy. Salesmen who looks like the guy who either buy it or make it. Nothing new here. Stock don't reflect value of something that is aimed at research and looking for programming talents. People who can apply their skills onto a market in need to evolve. Please tell me how many traders actually know what is the industrial difference between all those techs which depends on the stock they buy.

Learning both programming and electronics is not for everyone. Even today, there are very few former mechanics who can know how to trade automotive stocks, but the economy don't care about them.

You can be good at selling differently-sized cars to be more competitive, but in IT, the possibilities are so far from exploited into the right direction, it becomes quickly irrelevant to sell cars with the same underlying technologies.

But all of this is nerd rant. Good luck telling western consumers all of that. At least in Asia, people are able to understand technology and that might be why android has so much success. Over there they make the different between hype and charlatans.

The following has nothing against or for Steve ( which every comment seems to be focus on ), but a matter of opinion on the problem.

So she has a problem with THE highest chain of Command cutting her across the queue for lunch?

May be i am the only one who dont see a problem with that. ( If everyone higher up then you would cut queues then i would have a fxxking problem. )

Engineering Project Manager - I am not very good at those inflated Titles. ( So what's higher up? Senior VPs? ) But that title suggested to me she is responsible, whether or not some Jerks up there gave Steve a suck up or not. MobileMe was a disaster. To me it was even worst then the Map problems Apple have had.

As an Engineering Project Manager, By letting it out, knowingly this is Apple, which holds an even higher standard then other company. Did she have a go at Steve or higher up about the launch? Because if not, then she didn't burn the bridge, someone burnt it for her already.

For a company to be successful it needs vision and discipline.

This is usually done by having a visionary at the head, and a nasty enforcer just under him. This is how it works at Facebook for example (Zuck + Sheryl Sandberg). Marissa Mayer used to do the same thing at Google (for a long time, her main responsibility was saying no to people who wanted to add links to Google's home page... which is probably harder than it sounds).

What's remarkable about Jobs is that he was both. He was the visionary and the enforcer. There are not many people like that.

And of course, enforcers alone can't do shit. When Jobs was removed from Apple, the company almost went bankrupt. When enforcers become CEO all they do is upset people without actually improving the prospects of the company (see how every single recent news that comes out of Yahoo is some incomprehensible blunder).

Steve Jobs was a leader above all else. He brought amazing changes to the world of technology in the only way that he knew. You can speak negatively because he was extremely abrasive, rude, and disrespectful to some of the smartest people of the last few centuries, but you can't deny that he was effective at what he did. His job, or his passion, was to deliver chasm-crossing products, not to get people to like him.

Perhaps acting like Mr. Jobs is not the most effective strategy in your company, but if you figure out which strategy is effective, and then pursue that strategy as passionately and consistently as Mr. Jobs did, then I do not know how you could fail.

I thought this was going to be about people who took the Steve Jobs route of design: "I know better than you, you'll use my design and like it, or go to hell."

People see Jobs' success in design and think they too can be successful by being merciless dictators of their design vision. Unfortunately 99% of people don't have Jobs' talent and they end up messing up their projects. (Gnome 3 and Unity, I'm looking at you, though this terrible phenomenon isn't isolated to those projects.)

37 Signals is also guilty of spreading that mindset, perhaps more so because they aggressively blog and write about it all the time and because they are (or at least were) startup darlings.

I've been in this situation before. The my way or the highway attitude is a bad mindset to have when managing engineers. Skilled engineers are free thinkers and will push back on bad design. If someone says they can write something better than your spagetti code you shouldn't yell at them or make them feel inferior. You should allow them to build a system that will be clean and maintainable for the sake of all engineers that have to work on the codebase. Good leaders should know humility and when to admit they are wrong.

That's a huge mistake.It means your not a natural and talented CEO or whatever job you aspire to get.A true leader will set a certain path not because he saw it at someone else but because he feels it's the right way.And most importantly what he feels is usually right.That instinct that very few people have, something that cannot be learned.

And you know what?I strongly believe that if Steve Jobs would've tried to become a technical guy he would've ruined his talent.Maybe some will not understand what I am saying but I believe it is true.

Though Steve may have done many things wrong,stolen designs, mistreated staff, but how many people know about this? What matters is the result you produce, not behind the curtain mess. Of course, Steve built Apple 1 without a support team, so obviously he deserves to be called a hacker. But the biggest inspiration that one can derive from him is his determination to not stop even when removed from his own company. Not everyone can go and build another successful company after being removed from one. The road was tough and you can't expect a fair play all the time and get success at the same time.

imo, the sentiment of this article is better articulated in discussion of his biography. Not sure why its presented as an edgy opinion. ie, http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2011/11/be-a-jer...

"(Jobs) was not the world's greatest manager," Walter Isaacson said in a recent interview with 60 Minutes. "In fact, he could have been one of the world's worst managers."

"Being an asshole was part of the Steve package, but it wasn't essential to his success."


Cutting line to get food when you are the CEO and have a lot of stuff to get done is not too bad. Impolite, but not too bad. Think about all the perks that CEOs have.

Good managements have weak links. You can either gather the courage to get your message to people who have the strength to listen to you and act on it, or you can keep cursing your boss and stick to you job.

If the author would have gathered the courage to get her message (discretely) to a higher-up, she would have been not been remembering that mess-up. She might have either prevented it, or been fired.

That's BS. Have an assistant go get your food. You know, as one of the perks that you have as a CEO.

I appreciate your comment.

From Isaacson's excellent biography of Jobs, the one thing I gathered is that he had taste (turtlenecks and baggy jeans notwithstanding... ok, haven't seen the yacht either). He bullied a whole company into satisfying his exquisite taste, and the results are still outstanding. I'll take them even at a small price premium.

That does not justify any boss being a jerk, but if you have the taste and the power to bully a lot of people to satisfy that taste, you'll likely produce something tasty.

Many, if not most of Apple's innovations are not Steve's ideas, but from someone working under him. He seems to have learned the wrong lesson.

From the outside, the MobileMe fiasco looks like a standard failed software project, where nobody steps up to say the truth and management doesn't understand/care what's going on. How a huge group inside Apple got to that point is anybody's guess (and would probably make for a great lesson in project management).

I'm a little bit confused that this article has gotten so much attention.

So he was a jerk because he cut in line at the sushi bar? Okay. Maybe you had to be there, but is it hard to imagine that he might not have had time to wait in line?

It does sound unfortunate that he shamed everybody for the iCloud launch, but I'm already inclined to believe that this account was exaggerated if the sushi bar story is any indication.

tl;dr: "And that's a damn good thing."

Can we stop with the tl;dr's?

Heaven forbid we explain things succinctly. Might as well just not put titles on things either, amiright?

A bit extreme. No doubt he had many warts, but few would disagree that his net contribution to society was enormously positive.

A great many people seem to think we'd have been better off without Steve actually. They will tell you Steve/Apple set back the free software movement, and brought dictatorship to the world of software, when the web used to rule with anarchic democracy. They would tell you he sells closed devices that neuter people's creativity, and that the devices are hard to hack or dispose of.

I think he was a brilliant artist who made technology less imposing.

I think a great many other people--mainstream customers who don't read websites like Hacker News--would argue that they don't care about the free software movement or hacking devices. They think people using the term "dictatorship" in reference to computer software are extremists. They just want Shit That Works.

I guess I'm one of the few. While he headed a company that spearheaded internal innovation, it also stifled external innovation. He was also a jerk, as well documented.

He made money by selling things. Good for him, but that doesn't make him a Saint.

I definitely don't agree with this. Jobs' contribution to a whole lot of wallets, most of them already fat, was extremely positive. His role in many contributions to the advancement of technology was also significant.

"Society" is something he did not contribute much at all to. Workers' rights, work environments, corporate culture, none of these things benefited from Jobs at all; his contributions to them were largely negative.

How much of it was Steve Jobs, and how much of it was Apple's company. Surely he had a huge influence on the company, but there were a lot of people who did.

This puts a really interesting spin on the MobileMe story.

I wonder what would have happened if they had yelled back at Steve while he was dressing them down.

I also wonder who turned down their request for a more incremental launch. I'm not enough of an Apple-watcher to know what the org chart looked like, but could it have been Scott Forstall?

No it was not Scott... Scott was too busy with iPhone launch. The VP in charge was John Martin former Microsoft and Starbucks... he came at .Mac with a bunch of ex-Microsoft and try to run the place most likely like Microsfot, but even worst only trying to show nice UX/UI without caring about performance.

Project Managers/Engineers/QA leads did their job and reported to their upper management (Director and then VP John Martin) but they instead decided to silence everyone and kick a bunch of engineers out of the group.

Looks like many people are learning from the wrong side of coin (that was Steve Jobs). I am a big fan and have seen almost all his keynotes and read 2 of his biographies and I fully acknowledge that he was a terrible guy sometimes.

If you have to learn, learn from awesome things that he did in his lifetime, not being an d*ck!

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