Brash Young Jobs Wrote Own Epitaph

In his famous challenge to John Sculley, Steve Jobs asked if he wanted to spend his life selling sugared water to kids, or did he want to change the world?

Jobs was quite a salesman. About a year after that famous quote, I saw much of that legendary asset when I met him to discuss the new Apple headquarters that he wanted to build in the southern reaches of San Jose. He had I.M. Pei to design it, bundles of cash, more cachet and a plan that was “awesome.” And he made me an offer that was tough to refuse: He’d make San Jose a great city. Jobs even talked about living in a loft downtown. Wow. You could really see that glimmer of greatness.

But within a year, the man he seduced to lead Apple would send Jobs on his way, and with him went much of the spark that so enlivened that company.

Gone but not forgotten. Like many other parents, I made sure a Mac was on my daughters’ desks, part of their kit like a pencil.

There was a sign in my grammar school library at old St. Joseph’s—now under the Adobe Towers—that said, “you can travel the world over in your library.” Now it was possible in your own room. It was a gift to education and a boon to Luddites like me as well.

The word “great” is nowadays used in the most casual way. I prefer it for those who have transcending ideas or real courage. Jobs surely did.

Some of the reason for his unique cult status was his straight talk.

It was as legendary as his ability to turn the inventions of others into cash. As the “Woz” has noted, “he sells all the stuff I made.”

In my conversation with Jobs about the “insanely great” headquarters that he would build, he disparaged a prominent Silicon Valley developer and philanthropist as a “sleaze ball” and ranted about how Jacob Rothschild had changed a deal at the last minute to buy a New York apartment.
He only savaged the important and dropped only the best names. He was brash and a bit annoying. And remember, he was still in his mid-20s.

Others have written how he changed the world, and I will let others more qualified expand on it.

But I do know this, because I have seen it clearly in my children and grandchildren, and in classrooms from Costa Rica to Ireland. Steve Jobs helped us all to dream a little more and to make those dreams easier to see. He may have been the supreme visionary in this special valley. Perhaps most remarkable was that as a young man, he wrote his own epitaph when he said to another: “Do you want to change the world?”

Steve Jobs surely did and we are all the better for it.


  1. Yah let’s not forget..

    Jobs moved all the manufacturing overseas.  Ipods are made by foxcon in such horrid conditions, they had to install safety nets to prevent the workers from jumping.

    His wikipedia article has all sorts of nice factoids.  Of note, he sits on the board for Disney, a company that has lobbied congress to extend copyrights well past what most of us would consider reasonable.

    And the great names of American industry are also associated with their philanthropic work, and the charitable foundations that have outlived them. Jobs isn’t widely known for his association with philanthropic causes. Neither he nor wife Laurene Powell Jobs are mentioned on any of the lists of major philanthropic gifts, though it’s certainly possible if not likely that they make anonymous gifts and as such never see any publicity for them. Apple has however been criticized as one of America’s Least Philanthropic Companies by the Stanford Social Innovation Review. (There’s that nagging question about the huge pile of cash Apple is sitting on again.) Here Gates would again, appear to have eclipsed Jobs via the $33 billion Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

    What about Dennis Ritchie?  Taken from a slashdot comment:

    Steve Jobs helped make Objective C, an offshoot of C, popular.
    Dennis Ritchie made C.

    Steve Jobs convinced his company to port an OS.
    Dennis Ritchie helped create the very idea of a portable OS.

    Steve Jobs eventually decided Unix would make a good basis for the OS on his hardware.
    Dennis Ritchie helped Ken Thompson create Unix.

    Steve Jobs and his company eventually decided that a similar OS and development stack across all the company’s devices would be a useful idea.
    Dennis Ritchie helped create an OS and development stack used on everything from phones to supercomputers.

      • Oh my curious, I see what you did there.  You clever little poster you.  Your retort was so well thought out, and chock full of citation. 

        How am I ever going to defend myself against such a clever little poster like you?  Uh oh, look out Andy Rooney, here comes curious. 

        I’ll do my best though…

        If it wasn’t for Jobs touring Xerox’s PARC, the modern GUI NEVER would have made it outside of research.  I mean hell, those eggheads at PARC never would have actually made an accessible product from it or sold it to business.  I mean heck, Xerox?  Who the hell are they?  It’s not like they ever invented anything either.  Never in a million years could such a shoddy outfit as Xerox actually make something from it.

        I apologize for my obvious lack of foresight before responding to McEnery.  Next time, I will be sure to drink my pot laced kool aid in a sharks cup before posting from my Ipad while coasting down 1st street in an antique trolley car.

        (in case you missed it, that’s sarcasm, but I’m sure someone as clever as yourself knew that)

    • Usually you are polite and find nice stuff to say after someone dies out of consideration for the family and such.

      I agree, however, that a lot of the praise seems a little overboard.  He was a passionate guy and a good salesman who made a lot of money for himself and his company and did it by making products people actually wanted to buy.  That’s pretty good, Henry Ford type stuff.

      There’s also many other pioneers who aren’t going to cross over into pop culture, but that’s okay too.  Its enough if some kids are inspired to go into Engineering, business or something and in school they’ll learn about all the pioneers whose work contributed to what they’ll be doing.

  2. What did you learn from Steve Jobs tommy the crook! The difference from him and you is he used investers money to create a successful business! He didn’t have his boyfriend mayor to squeeze money from tax payers to fund a business that will fail! Your San Pedro farmers market is going to be a bust!  How do you sleep at night knowing you are so hated by the citizens and employees of San Jose!  Be a real business man and use your own money and not a free loading loser and depend handouts given by your boyfriends reed and lacardo!

  3. Good to hear from you Mr. McEnery.

    Jobs’ life proved that enormous opportunity exists for those who will simply take off the blinders and see it. His epitaph ought to read, “Stop whining that somebody needs to give you a job. Go out and create something.”

  4. His considerable gifts notwithstanding, had Steve Jobs been forced to hire and promote according to the rules and priorities used by our government he would today be memorialized as the once promising entrepreneur who never produced anything besides iCrap.

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