Silicon Insider: Taking Jobs to Task

As for my connections to Apple…well, that's a complicated story. Steve Jobs was a neighbor of mine, and I was probably the first daily reporter to cover the beginnings of Apple Computer. For a while, I was even inside the company, helping write the infamous 1984 Annual Report for the truly bizarre duo of Steve Jobs and John Sculley. I watched Woz, Jobs and Fernandez buy parts for Apple I, attended the Wescon computer show where Apple first introduced the Apple II, was at the Mac introduction (covering it for the Economist) and was sitting on the floor with the huge crowd in San Francisco when Jobs returned to Apple and purged Gil Amelio. I have many friends who work at Apple (I ate lunch in the cafeteria a few weeks ago) and am a great admirer of its products. I am also pleased that the company has been amply rewarded over the last few years for having brought excitement back to high tech.

But what connects me most to this story is that a few years ago I also wrote a book about Apple Computer; a very big book -- 700 pages -- that told the story of Woz and Jobs and the company they built. That book ended roughly where "iCon" apparently begins.

I spent two miserable years writing that book. I say "miserable" because day after day, month after month, I had to relive all of the cruelties, lies and double-dealings in the career of Steve Jobs. I was unflinching, too, quoting one observer as calling Jobs a "borderline sociopath." But the most common term for Jobs, in perpetual use from his days on a Mountain View schoolyard to today in the boardroom of Apple Computer, was a common seven letter obscenity. It has been used by employees, customers, competitors -- even by Jobs about himself (as he told me one night over dinner years ago).

Writing that book was hard reporting, and it is painful reading. Some reviewers claimed I had an animus against Jobs. Perhaps so, but it was well earned.

Apple didn't try to boycott my book. There were no Apple stores then, and Doubleday wasn't foolish enough to send an advance copy to Cupertino. I do suspect that I will never speak with Steve Jobs again (gosh, no more two hour waits in the lobby), and, as long as he is in charge, Apple will likely never advertise in any publication at which I am employed.

That's fine by me. Somebody had to speak for the victims. As Jeffrey Young will come to realize, telling the truth is more important than placating plutocrats.

Jobs Will Never Grow Up

Still, there is something depressing in all of this. I was warming up my Little League team when my cell phone rang. It was the New York Times, wanting a comment on the story.

There really wasn't much to say, other than that it had come as a bit of surprise. Image aside, Apple, as I wrote in this column a month ago, is the most totalitarian of companies, forever crushing dissent and deviation, even at the cost of greater business success. The company's moves against bloggers in the last couple months have only underscored this dark side of Apple's nature. Nevertheless, I, like most people, assumed that Jobs himself had been mellowed by parenthood, success, middle-age and a serious illness, that he had finally put away his childishness.

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