Steve Jobs used to be spoken about in the same hallowed, reverential manner that Saint Lance (Armstrong) was. Even Jobs's obvious flaws were couched in a complimentary context. Temperamental? C'mon, he's just a perfectionist.
I knew people like this at Goldman Sachs. All of them were at the very least narcissistic personalities if not outright sociopaths. They would lose their tempers whenever frustrated, glare at you, and say something along the lines of, hey, I'm losing my temper because I care. In other words, if I didn't lose my temper and act like a hysterical ninny like them, it was only because I didn't care enough about my job.
I was never an Apple fanatic -- I only switched over to a MacBook a year or so ago -- but I always had the vague impression that Jobs deserved credit for every product that came out of the company. Those who were there had a different impression.
According to Apple cofounder, Steve Wozniak, "Steve didn't ever code. He wasn't an engineer and he didn't do any original design... Daniel Kottke, one of Apple's earliest employees and a college friend of Jobs', stated that "Between Woz and Jobs, Woz was the innovator, the inventor. Steve Jobs was the marketing person."
That is the essence of who Jobs was: a marketing person, and the product he was shrewdest about marketing was Steve Jobs.
Walter Isaccson, in his extensive biography of Jobs, made it clear that Jobs was simply not an inventor. Sometimes Jobs didn't even know what he wanted, but would lash subordinates until he got something he liked. And he would often take credit for others' ideas. After Wozniak left, you simply never heard of anyone besides Job at Apple (other than John Sculley, the temporary CEO, and Tim Cook, the heir apparent and current CEO).
Even when it came to marketing, his supposed forte, Jobs still had few ideas of own. He would keep telling his ad agency that what they had shown him wasn't good enough, and that he would know what he wanted when he saw it. In other words: you produce, and I'll take credit.
Jobs then returned to Atari, and was assigned to create a circuit board for the arcade video game Breakout. According to Atari co-founder Nolan Bushnell, Atari offered $100 for each chip that was eliminated in the machine. Jobs had little specialized knowledge of circuit board design and made a deal with Wozniak to split the fee evenly between them if Wozniak could minimize the number of chips. Much to the amazement of Atari engineers, Wozniak reduced the number of chips by 50, a design so tight that it was impossible to reproduce on an assembly line. According to Wozniak, Jobs told him that Atari gave them only $700 (instead of the offered $5,000), and that Wozniak's share was thus $350. Wozniak did not learn about the actual bonus until ten years later, but said that if Jobs had told him about it and had said he needed the money, Wozniak would have given it to him.
What kind of person cheats a friend like this, especially when the friend did all the actual work? This wasn't the spur of the moment sort of dishonesty most of us would be capable of: it required planning, or premeditation, if you will. And Jobs had plenty of time in which to change his mind about it, but he didn't. This is a level of treachery that nonsociopaths simply don't rise to.
Another revealing incident (also via Wiki) from when Jobs was in his 20's:
Jobs's first child, Lisa Brennan-Jobs, was born in 1978, the daughter of his longtime partner Chris Ann Brennan, a Bay Area painter. For two years, she raised their daughter on welfare while Jobs denied paternity by claiming he was sterile; he later acknowledged Lisa as his daughter.
Perhaps Jobs learned about parenting responsibilities from his own biological parents, who gave him up for adoption early on. Bear in mind, by 1978 Apple Computer was already big enough that Jobs was able to lure away Mike Scott from National Semiconductor to serve as their CEO that year. And this baby didn't come from a careless, drunken one night stand, but from his longtime partner, whom he tried to con with that lie about being sterile.
As always with sociopaths, it's the people who've actually spent time with them who are least influenced by the PR. When the Apple board decided to fire Jobs in 1985, they did so for good reason -- because he was so difficult.
Jobs cloaked his sociopathy with a heavy layer of hippie mysticism, a mysticism given ostensible credence by the fact that he'd taken LSD and had traveled to Nepal to visit an ashram. But a difficult person is such no matter what countercultural airs he puts on.
One former employee of his talked of the "reality distortion field" you entered when in Jobs's presence. This is a great description of how a successful sociopath operates: using fear of being fired, as well as of being yelled at, and the sheer weight of his outsize reputation to cow and intimidate others into going along with your plan. In such an atmosphere disagreement feels almost suicidal. (Whenever you hear of someone "bending others to his will through sheer force of personality," it's usually this kind of dynamic at work.)
After Jobs died, he was compared with Edison. Obituaries tend to run fulsome, but this was ridiculous. It was almost as if Jobs had reached out from the grave to make people say what he wanted them to -- through sheer force of personality.
A more appropriate comparison for Jobs would have been Akio Morita, who headed Sony during its glory days of the 70's and 80's. (Remember the Walkman?)
An even better comparison would have been the Wizard of Oz. He thundered at people until they quaked in his presence. People weren't allowed to question him ("Who are you to dare to question the great and powerful Oz?!") He was worshipped by mindless acolytes (Munchkins). And he send supplicants on impossible missions, like getting the Wicked Witch's broom. (He may not have known what he wanted, but he'd know it when he saw it.)
The Wizard was actually a pretty good metaphor for every malignant personality who ever lived, including Steve Jobs.