The childhood that Paul and Clara Jobs created for their new son was, in many ways, a stereotype of the late 1950s.
When Steve was two they adopted a girl they named Patty, and three years later they moved to a tract house in the suburbs.
The finance company where Paul worked as a repo man, CIT, had transferred him down to its Palo Alto office,
but he could not afford to live there, so they landed in a subdivision in Mountain View, a less expensive town just to the south.
There Paul tried to pass along his love of mechanics and cars. “Steve, this is your workbench now,” he said as he marked off a section of the table in their garage.
Jobs remembered being impressed by his father’s focus on craftsmanship.
“I thought my dad’s sense of design was pretty good,” he said, “because he knew how to build anything.
If we needed a cabinet, he would build it. When he built our fence, he gave me a hammer so I could work with him.”
Fifty years later the fence still surrounds the back and side yards of the house in Mountain View.
As Jobs showed it off to me, he caressed the stockade panels and recalled a lesson that his father implanted deeply in him.
It was important, his father said, to craft the backs of cabinets and fences properly, even though they were hidden.
“He loved doing things right. He even cared about the look of the parts you couldn’t see.”
His father continued to refurbish and resell used cars, and he festooned the garage with pictures of his favorites.
He would point out the detailing of the design to his son: the lines, the vents, the chrome, the trim of the seats.
After work each day, he would change into his dungarees and retreat to the garage, often with Steve tagging along.
“I figured I could get him nailed down with a little mechanical ability, but he really wasn’t interested in getting his hands dirty,” Paul later recalled.
“He never really cared too much about mechanical things.” “I wasn’t that into fixing cars,” Jobs admitted. “But I was eager to hang out with my dad.”
Even as he was growing more aware that he had been adopted, he was becoming more attached to his father.
One day when he was about eight, he discovered a photograph of his father from his time in the Coast Guard.
“He’s in the engine room, and he’s got his shirt off and looks like James Dean. It was one of those Oh wow moments for a kid.
Wow, oooh, my parents were actually once very young and really good-looking.”
Through cars, his father gave Steve his first exposure to electronics.
“My dad did not have a deep understanding of electronics, but he’d encountered it a lot in automobiles and other things he would fix.
He showed me the rudiments of electronics, and I got very interested in that.”
Even more interesting were the trips to scavenge for parts.