Introduction: How This Book Came to Be
In the early summer of 2004, I got a phone call from Steve Jobs.
He had been scattershot friendly to me over the years, with occasional bursts of intensity,
especially when he was launching a new product that he wanted on the cover of Time or featured on CNN, places where I’d worked.
But now that I was no longer at either of those places, I hadn’t heard from him much.
We talked a bit about the Aspen Institute, which I had recently joined, and I invited him to speak at our summer campus in Colorado.
He’d be happy to come, he said, but not to be onstage. He wanted instead to take a walk so that we could talk.
That seemed a bit odd. I didn’t yet know that taking a long walk was his preferred way to have a serious conversation.
It turned out that he wanted me to write a biography of him.
I had recently published one on Benjamin Franklin and was writing one about Albert Einstein,
and my initial reaction was to wonder, half jokingly, whether he saw himself as the natural successor in that sequence.
Because I assumed that he was still in the middle of an oscillating career that had many more ups and downs left, I demurred.
Not now, I said. Maybe in a decade or two, when you retire.
I had known him since 1984, when he came to Manhattan to have lunch with Time’s editors and extol his new Macintosh.
He was petulant even then, attacking a Time correspondent for having wounded him with a story that was too revealing.
But talking to him afterward, I found myself rather captivated, as so many others have been over the years, by his engaging intensity.
We stayed in touch, even after he was ousted from Apple.
When he had something to pitch, such as a NeXT computer or Pixar movie, the beam of his charm would suddenly refocus on me,
and he would take me to a sushi restaurant in Lower Manhattan to tell me that whatever he was touting was the best thing he had ever produced.
I liked him.