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back to article Jobs' first boss Nolan Bushnell: 'Steve was difficult but valuable'

Steve Jobs' first boss, Atari cofounder Nolan Bushnell, has written a book in which he offers advice on how to find, hire, and retain visionary talent – even though such creative types can be as difficult to deal with as Apple's cofounder. "The truth is that very few companies would hire Steve, even today," Bushnell writes. "Why …

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IT Angle

There are plenty of Steve Jobs running around.

Guys who don't create anything, but just put on a good show.

What you really want is to find the next Woz. Who is the person that is going to make the technical innovations that you can wrap a sales and marketing campaign around?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: There are plenty of Steve Jobs running around.

Absolutely. When Jobs said you should hire people 100x better than average he meant Woz.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: There are plenty of Steve Jobs running around.

A techie would say that - but then you end up with technical products people either can't use or don't want - the reality is you need a mix of both.

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Meh

Strange how

The comments about Steve Jobs come into the fore when the book is actually about hiring and firing talent.

Forget about Steve Jobs, he's just an example, a foot note to describe a character in the book. Actually read what he has said an you will see that some of it makes sense.

Not many big businesses will like his ideas, the ones that do tend to do this stuff anyway. Just like in politics, you'll never convert the unconverted.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: There are plenty of Steve Jobs running around.

No, if you hire the next Woz, you should find the next Woz + Steve.

If you hire Woz(es) you also need someone to actually exploit them in order to have a product. Otherwise they will be endlessly building cool stuff that does not quite make money. Same as Woz after Apple.

So either hire people that are not quite so Wozzy (creatives with some business aptitude) or hire an occasional Steve to ruthlessly exploit the business inept and convert cool geeky stuff into shiny (i,j,k,l,m,n,o)Things.

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Meh

Re: There are plenty of Steve Jobs running around.

"If you hire Woz(es) you also need someone to actually exploit them in order to have a product. "

Indeed. And when it came to ruthless exploitation Jobs was indeed the goto guy.

It's so difficult to find those charismatic borderline psychopaths that are still just this side of serial killer or ponzi fraudster.

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Re: There are plenty of Steve Jobs running around.

Not necessarily, Woz is really only known because of what Jobs did. If not for Jobs he would probably be an excellent but anonymous engineer working for one of the many tech companies. On the flip side, Jobs wouldn't have had anything to do had Woz not did what he did. Each one required the other for them to prosper otherwise both their futures would probably have turned out very different.

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Linux

Re: There are plenty of Steve Jobs running around.

I've always maintained that if it weren't for The Woz, Jobs would have been selling term life policies to blue rinsed old ladies.

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Re: Strange how

Actually read what he has said an you will see that some of it makes sense.

Sure, if you want to found the next Atari.

Personally, if I were in charge of hiring, I'd rather look to build the next IBM - a tech company that has lasted for more than a century, and has had a market cap far in excess of anything Apple's ever achieved (in constant dollars), and has weathered tremendous errors of its own making, a hostile regulatory environment, PR disasters, and dramatic market changes. That's lasting value.

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Mushroom

Misplaced admiration

I'm surprised Bushnell has such reverence for a guy who had zero technical skills [1] and even fewer scruples, who passed his jobs onto Steve Wozniak then conned him [2] out of full payment.

[1] 'On the genius of Jobs, Isaacson is not dazzled. "He was never much of an engineer," "He didn't know how to code or programme a computer. That was Wozniak's job."'

[2] "Jobs returned to his previous job at Atari and was given the task of creating a circuit board for the game Breakout. According to Atari founder Nolan Bushnell, Atari had offered $100 for each chip that was eliminated in the machine. Jobs had little interest or knowledge in circuit board design and made a deal with Wozniak to split the bonus evenly between them if Wozniak could minimize the number of chips. Much to the amazement of Atari, Wozniak reduced the number of chips by 50. At the time, Jobs told Wozniak that Atari had only given them $700 (instead of the actual $5,000) and that Wozniak's share was thus $350."

Frankly I'm at a loss to understand exactly what Jobs' contribution was to, well, anything. It's not like Apple ever actually invented anything, and Jobs himself seemed to be little more than a sort of megalomaniacal spokesmodel.

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Re: Misplaced admiration

Jobs did marketing and branding. He was one of those very rare marketing people who really did have a feel for what the public would consider cool, and who understood that punters don't want hardware or software, they want a wanky thing that could be called the Total Ownership Experience.

So he set about creating that at Apple, then Next, then Apple again, with everything from the initial product announcement to the physical stores to the packaging to the advertising to the design to the technology carefully crafted to sell, sell, sell, and keep selling.

He didn't need to code. He needed enough technical skill to hire good engineers and give them goals and targets.

But engineering was just a small part of market design to him. It wasn't the main event.

He sounds like a nightmare in person. But I think it's unfair to day he did nothing at Apple or Next.

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Re: Misplaced admiration

From what I have read, I would totally agree. The guy just seemed like an over-bearing, bombastic bossy-boots and apparently all he cared about was conning the public into buying grossly over-priced products that could have been bought elsewhere, made by other manufacturers, to do broadly the same function. How people fell for it, I shall never know. iPad - a magical thing? I think not.

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@Homer 1 (was:Re: Misplaced admiration)

"a guy who had zero technical skills"

Uh ... you are wrong. Back in the day, we shared a soldering iron, oscilloscope & VOM at several Homebrew Computer Club meetings, over probably 18 months. The dude grocked hardware.

"passed his jobs onto Steve Wozniak then conned him out of full payment."

Yes. That's what manglement does. Are you listening, peons?

"Jobs himself seemed to be little more than a sort of megalomaniacal spokesmodel."

Yes, after he learned to shower & change clothes. That's why the iFad religion is where it is ...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Misplaced admiration

No doubt what has been written about Steve is correct and he may indeed have been an 'over-bearing, bombastic bossy-boots' but it cannot be denied that he turned Apple into a rather successful business...

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Facepalm

Re: @Homer 1 (was:Misplaced admiration)

Uh ... you are wrong. Back in the day, we shared a soldering iron, oscilloscope & VOM at several Homebrew Computer Club meetings, over probably 18 months. The dude grocked hardware.

Steve was a friend of mine. In that era, I always sat upwind ...

"Oooh, look at me. I knew Steve".

Fella, nobody likes a name-dropper...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Misplaced admiration

>> I'm surprised Bushnell has such reverence for a guy who had zero technical skills

Just because a guy can't program doesn't mean he has zero technical skills. Just watch one of Jobs's product introductions. He loved explaining the technical aspects of his products. That's almost all he talked about. Get your grandmom to explain a backside illuminated sensor to you and you'll see somebody with zero technical skills.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @Homer 1 (was:Misplaced admiration)

"Fella, nobody likes a name-dropper..."

It is in no way name dropping if you have shared time at the orginal Homebrew computer club with Steve Jobs and you say so on a topic where that fact is completely germane to the topic of conversation. It would be weird if you didn't.

A name dropper looks for opportunities to drop names into conversation regardless of the flow of the discussion. If Jake was present at the original Homebrew club meetings, I for one find that very interesting and I would love to know more.

If you are not interested in someone else's experience and knowledge, from a time and place that could not be more central to the home computer revolution, - if you have closed you mind because you have simply allowed petty prejudices about your preferred technology and your preferred view of the world, to get in the way of real first hand experience from someone that was there - then you are a petty individual with limited imagination.

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Unhappy

Re: @Homer 1 (was:Misplaced admiration)

"Steve was a friend of mine. In that era, I always sat upwind ..."

I doubt such people have friends.

They know people who can do things for them.

That's rather different.

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FAIL

Re: @Homer 1 (was:Misplaced admiration)

It is in no way name dropping if you have shared time at the orginal Homebrew computer club with Steve Jobs and you say so on a topic where that fact is completely germane to the topic of conversation. It would be weird if you didn't.

Yes, it is name-dropping.

Seeking to aggrandise yourself in the eyes of your "peers" by telling everyone you shared soldering irons isn't something I find particularly interesting.

If you find the guy interesting, maybe you could get him to write a book. Maybe it would be more interesting than the book reviewed in the article. Who knows?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @Homer 1 (was:Misplaced admiration)

I recommend staying indoors. Or y'know you might come across a world of experience that doesn't fit your prejudices, and you'll have to get all bent out of shape, and mouth off about how there's nothing to learn from people you don't agree with.

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@Ross K (was: Re: @Homer 1 (was:Misplaced admiration))

My portion of Silly Con Valley's rise & fall & rise & fall & rise & fall & fall[1] & possible current upward trend[2] is in the works. Working title "40+ Years of Labor for THIS? (Subtitled "Why I bought a horse ranch ...")".

Unfortunately, when it gets published it'll out me here on ElReg ...

No aggrandizing here. Rather, putting history into perspective.

[1] Not a typo.

[2] Manufacturing is returning to TheValley ... Slowly, but it's definitely on the upturn.

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Thumb Up

Re: @Ross K (was: @Homer 1 (was:Misplaced admiration))

Thumbs up - I'd like to read your book. I love talking to the guys who were around to watch the early history of Silicon Valley.

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Re: Misplaced admiration

Hi Jobs need not have done anything, but follow his logic since early days of quitting Apple, starting NEXT, following a strict object oriented programming, once he gets back move entire Apple to OS X, then onto Intel, the uniformity of an iPod or an iPhone or an iPad running essentially same OS and motivating an entire group of brilliant engineers to work to his plan. You need not be an engineer etc. When you see this consistency and see that neither Microsoft not any one else has such focus over such a long period, do you still go back to "Misplaced admiration", I doubt it..

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Re: @Ross K (was: @Homer 1 (was:Misplaced admiration))

"40+ Years of Labor for THIS?"

I would buy it.

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Re: Misplaced admiration

>Jobs had little interest or knowledge in circuit board design and made a deal with Wozniak to split the bonus evenly between them if Wozniak could minimize the number of chips.

What isn't clear is the employment/contractual details of this work. It seems that at the time it was Jobs who was employed by Atari and tasked by them, whilst Wozniak's was employed as engineer at HP.

So it would seem that Jobs was subcontracting his work to a third-party - just goes to show that the recent news about employees subscontracting work to people in China etc. is actually nothing new...

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Re: @Homer 1 (was:Misplaced admiration)

>The dude grocked hardware

But did he actually do anything constructive and produce something that worked, without you actually wielding the soldering iron and reading the scope for him? I think you will find that practically any one can 'grock' hardware, but few could actually build something that worked.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @Homer 1 (was:Misplaced admiration)

Now Rosky, iThink (groan! sorry) you are being silly. Everyone here is discussing a certain person's character traits, most likely without having ever met that person in question. If someone intervenes with an observation made on the basis of first-hand experience, it's only natural that he should say so.

The fact that a certain person might have been famous is neither here nor there in this case.

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+1 +1

Andy Prough and Homer 1, claim your upvotes for the two best comments I've read in ages. You both cut through the veneer of someone wholly overrated (and today: worshipped).

To say that Woz wouldn't have amounted to anything had it not been for Jobs... I think you need to get your coat.

Homer - thanks for bringing to light again that scummy dastardly deed. It says so much about character.

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Re: @Homer 1 (was:Misplaced admiration)

Michael Parkinson bought me a pint once. Honestly.

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Meh

Re: Misplaced admiration

Well...there was an "inventor" from Menlo Park, NJ who took credit for all sorts of inventions a century plus ago, which were actually invented by his employees. And he too was very unliked by a lot of people. Especially those who knew him back then...like my parents & grand-parents...and many other residents of the community.

Nothing much has changed in the world in nearly one hundred years.

And yes...Thomas Edison was his name.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @Homer 1 (was:Misplaced admiration)

@Jake: Never name drop, people don't like it. Mick Jagger told me that.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @Homer 1 (was:Misplaced admiration)

If you do it occasionally, or maybe even anonymously, but Jake seems to take every opportunity to mention how much stuff he's got, how great he is, ho big his house and grounds are, how many cars and yatchs he's got, how he's got specialist know how in any number of subjects and it's bloody tedious.

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Holmes

Re: Misplaced admiration

"So it would seem that Jobs was subcontracting his work to a third-party"

Interesting deduction. I won't rely on you for any important binary addition.

Equally obtuse, I shall deduce the following, then:

"So it would seem that Woz subcontracted the menial financial aspects to his inferior, Jobs, and got totally shafted on the Atari deal"

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Unhappy

Re: @Ross K (was: @Homer 1 (was:Misplaced admiration))

"My portion of Silly Con Valley's rise & fall & rise & fall & rise & fall & fall[1] & possible current upward trend[2] is in the works. Working title "40+ Years of Labor for THIS? (Subtitled "Why I bought a horse ranch ...")".

Unfortunately, when it gets published it'll out me here on ElReg ...

No aggrandizing here. Rather, putting history into perspective.

[1] Not a typo.

[2] Manufacturing is returning to TheValley ... Slowly, but it's definitely on the upturn.

House Rules Post your own message "

Now, if only you could process individual chips of Silicon in the way that you could thick film or thin film hybrids.

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Thumb Up

Re: +1 +1

"Homer - thanks for bringing to light again that scummy dastardly deed. It says so much about character."

Think of it as a dry run for his work in avoiding a mult $Bn paternity suite by claiming he was firing blanks, no way was the girl his etc.

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Anonymous Coward

@AC 16:37 [Was: Re: @Homer 1 (was:Misplaced admiration)]

I never told you that.

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@John Smith 19 (was: Re: @Ross K (was: @Homer 1 (was:Misplaced admiration)))

"Now, if only you could process individual chips of Silicon in the way that you could thick film or thin film hybrids."

I tried to buy Trilogy's Fab, back in late 1984/early '85, when they were attempting to not go under ... Unfortunately, all I have in my collection is a few trays of 4-inch "system on a 2.5 inch chip" wafers in various layer steppings, a couple of masks, and a couple of lab-grown un-cut silicon ingots. If I had managed to purchase the Fab, I'd probably still be able to do what you suggest.

Maybe. Going down hill with a stiff tail wind ;-)

I can cut and polish silicon ingots into wafers, I have a HyPOx, and a Class 10 clean-room, but ... Lots of this old stuff is pretty much impossible to get "day-to-day" functional these days, for a lot of reasons. And probably a waste of electricity to even try. I only keep the kit around because I have the space, and hope that eventually there will be a place in a museum for it.

The old screen printer keeps on chugging, though ... and the laser can still cut the resistors, according to what the CAD system recommends for any given hybrid. I fire it up several times per year, and always at a profit.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Misplaced admiration

The world is full of these types.

If you can't compete on level terms, then you have to cheat.

Some of these people do very well, but I have no respect for them.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Misplaced admiration

Invented nothing.

Helped no-one.

Conned chumps by sleight of hand.

Anyone can do it.

Most people have too much respect for themselves.

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Boffin

Re: "Jobs did marketing and branding"

Or in other words ... nothing.

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Childcatcher

Re: "he turned Apple into a rather successful business"

Yes, and Al Capone had a rather successful business too, no doubt by making similarly violent, sinister and unwarranted threats in pursuit of that "success".

The mere fact of making lots of money is not praiseworthy, not least of which because the means used to make that money might be highly unethical if not blatantly criminal. Moreover, others' financial success, whether or not it's achieved legitimately, is of no particular benefit to anyone else, and therefore it's highly irrational to fawn over it.

So this is the totality of Jobs' achievements: he was a belligerent but effective carpetbagger for a company that "shamelessly stole" everyone else's ideas, then repackaged and sold them at an extortionate price, whilst hypocritically litigating against anyone else who did likewise.

What award should that qualify him for, exactly?

"Gangster of the Year", maybe?

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Complete these well known phrases:

Good artists copy, _________________

What's good for the goose, __________________

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Re: Complete these well known phrases:

Homework: find out who first came up with the first quote and what was meant by it

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Re: Complete these well known phrases:

Picasso, and in the same sense as the old "standing on the shoulders of giants" quote, attributed to either Isaac Newton or Bernard of Chartres. Nothing is invented in isolation.

In some cases, it's barely "invented" at all.

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Anonymous Coward

"Speaking of shareholders: back when Apple was in its early days, Bushnell turned down an offer from Jobs to invest $50,000 in the fledgling company, an amount that would have given him a one-third ownership stake. Even after Apple's recent stock-price plummet, that investment would now be worth about $138.5bn; that's an ROI of about 280 million per cent."

So we should really listen to this guys advice...

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MrT
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Hindsight...

...is always the clearest.

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> So we should really listen to this guys advice...

So who should you listen to - people who've learned from the past - or people who haven't...

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Optional

"So we should really listen to this guys advice..."

Well, if it was a book offering advice about investing, you probably shouldn't - but it's not.

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