Steve Jobs was much more than being the founder of Apple and a first-rate innovator. He was an enigma in the truest sense, and over time, many myths have developed around him. We here flout a few of these mistaken beliefs about Jobs.
Ask anyone about Steve Jobs, and (s)he will be able to tell you that he was the ‘magician’ who co-founded Apple Inc. Those who take more of an interest in tech topics would rattle off details about Jobs’ ouster from and return to Apple, the NeXT company he founded, and maybe even a list of the major products the man launched. There, however, still remains an air of mystery and misconceptions about one of the finest entrepreneurs of the contemporary era. Over here, we will be highlighting the truth behind some popular Steve Jobs-related myths:
- GUI was a creation of Jobs – It was not. The credit for bringing the concept of Graphical User Interface (GUI) to the market goes to Xerox (1975). The company incorporated all the GUI elements (pointers, icons, etc.) in a device known as the ‘mouse’. Jobs tried to work with GUI during Apple’s much-hyped Lisa project in the early ‘80s, but soon found himself shifted to another, smaller (Mac) department.
- Steve Jobs is the founder of Pixar Animation Studios – Pixar was established way back in 1975, and Jobs came onboard as an investor almost eleven years later. By the time he stepped in as the head of the company, it had already tied up with Disney – and ‘Toy Story’ had been released. However, Steve Jobs was the person who made Pixar a public company, lending it the much sought-after financial stability.
- Steve Jobs did not have a license plate on his car – According to several bloggers, the great man used to have barcodes instead, on his vehicle. The myth was, Jobs never wanted to get into any sort of traffic problems – and hence came up with this out-of-the-box solution to keep the police at bay. Now, no one knows Jobs’ car plate number – but it’s highly unlikely that California Police would have allowed him to drive around without a number plate. Even geniuses have to abide by laws!
- If it hadn’t been for Jobs’ iPhone, there would have been no apps – The Apple iPhone deserves all the accolades for popularizing the concept of mobile application development, and making apps an integral part of smartphones. However, well before Steve Jobs launched the iPhone, there had been devices like TreoSmartphone (Palm), which came with multiple third-party apps. Many don’t realize this – but even Snake (popularized so much on early Nokia handsets) was also an app.
- The Xerox PARC concept was ‘lifted’ by Jobs – It’s true that Jobs made the mouse a vital component of the Macintosh in 1984 – but that was well after the tool had been released in the market by Xerox. Technically, it is not possible to steal any concept that has already been released to the public. Jobs first came to know about Xerox PARC in 1979 – but considerable modifications had to be made in it, to make it compatible with the Mac.
- Steve Jobs was all about innovation – While there’s no room for doubting Jobs’ flair to innovate, not everything he churned out at Apple were absolute originals. According to Jonathan Schwartz, an ex-head of Sun Microsystems, Steve Jobs was not at all in favor of open-source systems. For the Mac OS X (arguably, Jobs’ most famous creation), he liberally borrowed from the NeXTStep operating system, created by himself at NeXT. WebKit, a HTML tool derived from Konqueror, serves as the underlying base for the Safari browser. Even the Apple iPod does not have unique font-rendering – since FreeType is an open-source resource. Steve Jobs was among the best innovators of all time, but he was smart enough to take ‘inspirations’ from other sources too!
- The annual salary of Steve Jobs was $1 – On paper, this was true. However, with a $1 peanut compensation package, one cannot get into Forbes’ list of top-140 richest people in the world, something Jobs did in 2010. Apple, like several other companies, follows the practice of offering ownership stocks and performance-based prizes – instead of the regular salary-and-perks system. For instance, Jobs received a private jet, worth $88 million, as a gift from his company in 2000, simply because he had managed to surpass the projected computer-sales figures. There are many well-known iPhone app development companies around the world which presently follow this practice as well.
- Elegant computer typefaces would have remained unknown if hadn’t been for Jobs – Steve Jobs attended calligraphy classes at the Reed University – and what he learnt inspired him to create brilliant, imaginative typefaces for Mac systems. However, with Microsoft and IBM always being fierce rivals of Apple, there was every chance that they could have discovered typefaces earlier. It’s another thing that they did not – and Jobs used this lucky break to give smug speeches about being the ‘inventor’ of typography.
- The iPhone was a brilliant device to start off with – Any experienced software analyst or mobile app developer would tell you that this was far from being the case. When the first-gen iPhone was released in 2007, it was little more than a voice-enabled iPod Touch. Jobs had released it as a concept device, and he duly built on it over time. However, thinking that Apple phones were always as chic as the iPhone 5 would be a folly!
- Steve Jobs hated Japan – Steve Jobs allegedly ran into some troubles with the Kyoto airport authorities, while returning from a well-spent holiday in Japan. The officials are said to have prohibited Jobs from boarding his private jet, with souvenirs bought from the country. The truth, as learnt from John Paczkowski, indicates nothing of the sort. Jobs himself had said that his Japan-trip was lovely, and he definitely looked forward to visit the country again. Whether he did so is not known though.
- Jobs died in 2008 – Steve Jobs breathed his last in October 2011 – three full years after the news of his death had whipped up a storm in the media. It’s surprising that a news source as well-respected as Bloomberg would make the mistake of reporting that Jobs had succumbed to pancreatic cancer, before confirming all the details. A large number of corporate personnel received the report, everyone was enraged when the truth (that Jobs was alive and well!) came out – and a couple of Bloomberg editors had to issue a public apology.
- Steve Jobs was a brilliant product designer – He was more of an examiner than a designer himself. In fact, he once had to face a lawsuit issued by Creative, for using patented designs on the sly, for the Apple iPod. In general too, the design plans for most of the major products of Apple were chalked up by Jonathan Ive and his team. Jobs took a look at them, and either expressed his approval or ordered the designs to be redone.
- Steve Jobs was a big bully at work – There is a fine line between acknowledging that Jobs was a stickler for perfection, and simply referring to him as a bully. There had been plenty of situations when he had reached out and congratulated/rewarded his best-performing employees. However, there was a brash and irreverent side to Jobs too. If someone won his praise one day, that did not mean (s)he would remain his favorite forever after. Jobs demanded perfection from all his executives at Apple, and did not simply bully colleagues at random.
- The power to innovate led Jobs to the top – As Steve Jobs himself admitted, innovation was not the most important thing he concentrated upon. Instead, he focused on having the courage to kill off products and processes that seemed non-viable to him. When he was at the helm of Apple in the mid-80s, the company was struggling – and Jobs had to be more aggressive than his more conservative competitors. He was a master of innovation, but he made it a point to say ‘no’ to all useless things first.
- Steve Jobs introduced tablets – Again, he made tablet computers popular – but cannot be credited with the original concept. Almost a decade before the launch of the Apple iPad, the Tablet PC had been released by Microsoft (which, admittedly, was a big flop). The first idea about tablets can be traced back to Alan Kay, who came up with the kid-friendly Dynabook in 1968. Unfortunately, Dynabook was never properly launched in the market.
Jobs has been photographed in t-shirts, suits and even tuxedos in public – effectively quashing the myth that he always put on the ‘black turtleneck and jeans’ combination. Gary Kildall was the man who ‘invented’ personal computers – yet another feat that Steve Jobs is often given credit for. The more well-known a person becomes, more myths start to do the rounds about him/her – and Jobs is an ideal case in point!
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