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15 Surprising Facts About Steve Jobs’ Childhood

High Life

Steven Paul Jobs, better known as just Steve Jobs, was a famous American entrepreneur, inventor, and businessman. Steve Jobs was the co-founder of Apple and helped pioneer such revolutionary technologies as iPhone and iPad. More importantly, he helped make innovative technology accessible to everyday consumers by making it cheaper and easier to use.

The birth of the Apple Computer has by now become a legend that most of us are aware of – two young men, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, who started their entrepreneurial venture by selling Steve’s Volkswagen bus and Wozniak’s beloved scientific calculator. By 1980, the Apple Computer became a publicly traded company that was worth over a billion dollars. But the company’s success did not last forever and before long Apple was losing sales to IBM. It was believed that Jobs was hurting Apple and as a result, he was pushed to a lower position within the company. After this rather degrading move, Jobs did not stay in the company for long and went on to find his own software and hardware company. That proved to be an unsuccessful affair and Apple itself was not doing so great without Jobs. However, before long, Jobs returned to Apple, successfully revitalizing it and ensuring that its products were once again beloved by consumers.

Jobs died from cancer on October 5th, 2011. He was a mysterious and complex person who enjoyed his privacy and as a result, many people came to be irritated by him. But few know of his childhood and the years so important in shaping him as a person. So let’s take a look at 15 shocking facts about Steve Jobs’ childhood.

15. He Was An Unwanted Child

Steve Jobs was not a “planned” or expected child. His biological mother was Joanne Schieble, a woman from a rural Wisconsin family of German heritage. Joanne and her family were devout Catholics and her father was a strict man who disapproved of his daughter’s relationships with non-Catholic men. So, of course, when Joanne fell in love with Abdulfattah “John” Jandali, a Muslim teaching assistant from Syria, there was bound to be trouble.

In the summer of 1954, Joanne accompanied Abdulfattah to the city of Homs in Syria and two months later, she returned home pregnant. Since both Joanne and Abdulfattah were only twenty-three years old they decided that they were not yet ready for marriage. Plus, at the time, Joanne’s father was dying and he had vowed to disown her if she married Abdulfattah. Since abortion was not an option in a small Catholic community, Joanne went to San Francisco. There she was looked after by a doctor who took care of unmarried mothers, delivered their babies and sorted out all matters relating to adoption.

Knowing this, it is hard to believe that Steve was just as heartless when it came to his own first child — he spent years denying his paternity to Lisa, a baby girl whom he had with his childhood sweetheart Chrisann Breannan (photoed above with his daughter).

14. He Was Adopted

Soon after Joanne gave birth to Steve, he was given up for adoption. The baby was adopted by Clara and Paul Jobs. Both Clara and Paul had desperately wanted, and tried, to have children. However, because Clara had suffered an ectopic pregnancy, in which the fertilized egg was implanted in the fallopian tube instead of the uterus, she couldn’t have any children herself. So in 1955, after nine years of marriage and unsuccessful attempts to have a baby, Clara and Paul were more than ready to go down the adoption route. They adopted Joanne’s baby boy and named him Steven Paul Jobs.

It’s also worth mentioning that Joanna and Abdulfattah did eventually marry (only a year later) and had another baby, this time a girl, whom they named Mona and who went on to become a famous novelist.

13. His Adoptive Parents Clara And Paul Jobs Almost Didn’t Get To Adopt Him

Clara and Paul almost didn’t get to adopt Steve. Joanna wanted her baby to be adopted by college graduates and the doctor had initially arranged for the baby to be adopted by a lawyer and his wife. However, when a baby boy was born, the lawyer and his wife suddenly changed their mind, deciding that they in fact wanted a baby girl instead.

So the baby boy was adopted by Clara and Paul Jobs. Paul was a high-school dropout with a keen interest in mechanics and Clara was a bookkeeper. They were certainly not a couple that Joanne wanted to leave her baby with. So she refused to sign the adoption papers for weeks. She budged only when a sincere promise by the Jobses was made that they would immediately start a savings fund to pay for Steve’s college.

12. He Was A Difficult Child And Clara Thought She Had Made A Mistake By Adopting Him

The battle for adopting Steve had been tough and the Jobs’ felt drained by the constant struggle to keep Steve in their lives. The struggle had involved court visits and convincing Joanna that they were fit to be parents and that they would do the best they could for Steve, including sending him to college.

Clara later said that she was frightened to love Steve for the first six months of his life in case he was taken away from them. By then, the case for adopting Steve had been won by the Jobses but still, the terror of losing him did not leave them for quite some time. And even then, the hardships did not end there. Steve was apparently a difficult child and by the time he was two, Clara had wondered if she had made a mistake adopting him, and at one point even wished she could return him.

11. He Was A Troublemaker In School

Steve was a real troublemaker in school. As in many cases, his desire to cause trouble stemmed from boredom and his school’s inability to satisfy his curiosity. From a young age, his father Paul had allowed Steve to dabble in electronics and his mother Clara had taught him to read before he entered school. Steve later said that elementary school was tough because all he wanted to do was read books and chase butterflies all day long.

Steve soon became friends with a boy named Rick Farentino. The duo loved causing mischief. For example, one day after talking to their classmates, Steve and Rick traded bike lock combinations and somehow managed to put incorrect locks on everyone’s bikes in the school. Another time, they put explosives in the teachers’ desks. Both Steve and Rick were often suspended from school and were eventually separated into different classes to prevent them from causing more mischief.

10. He Was Bribed Into Learning

Perhaps Steve would have forever remained indifferent to school if it wasn’t for his fourth-grade teacher, Imogene Teddy Hill. She taught advanced fourth-grade class and it took her only a month to figure out Steve and the best way to ignite his passion for knowledge. She ended up giving him challenges and bribed him to finish his textbook exercises by giving him $5 bills out of her own money. Quite often she would even buy him various learning kits for projects like building his own camera. Unsurprisingly, Steve loved her and later said that that period was a wonderful time in his life and that he probably learned more in that one academic year than in his whole life. You have to admit, that’s a pretty big compliment.

9. He Was So Smart That His School Wanted Him To Skip Two Grades

Thanks to Steve’s fourth-grade teacher Imogene Teddy Hill and her wonderful incentives to study, Steve became one of the best students in class. In fact, Steve worked so hard and scored so high in school tests (he later said that he scored at the high school sophomore level) that the school proposed he skip two grades to ensure he remained challenged and stimulated. His parents did not think it wise that he do so, although they did consent to him skipping one grade. This resulted in him going straight to middle school, namely Crittenden Middle School. The transition proved to be too much – Steve was unable to fit in among students who were a year older and was mocked ceaselessly for being so smart.

8. He Was Bullied So Much That He Told His Parents To Transfer Him To Another School Or He’d Never Attend School Again

Steve hated Crittenden Middle School. It was located in a poor area and many of the kids who attended the school were bullied, including Steve. It was a tough experience, especially for an eleven-year-old child who liked to go about his way undisturbed. Eventually, he could take no more of the bullying. One day when he came home he told his parents that he wanted to transfer schools, or else he would never attend school again. His parents, recognizing the struggle and the hardship that Steve was undergoing, agreed to transfer him to a new school. The family moved to Los Altos, where Steve began to attend Cupertino Junior High. The new school came with a new set of challenges, but at least Steve was no longer bullied.

7. He Contacted The Co-Founder Of Hewlett-Packard And Impressed Him So Much That He Was Offered A Summer Job

Steve’s passion for electronics began to blossom when he was only twelve years old. It is said that one day he was building an electronic counting machine and ran out of some parts. Knowing that the large electronics company Hewlett-Packard, located near his house, sold the parts he needed, he looked up the phone number of Bill Hewlett, the co-founder of the company, and gave him a call. Steve’s conversation with Bill Hewlett lasted for about twenty minutes, and at the end of it, Hewlett was so impressed with the boy that not only did he give him the parts he needed, but also offered him a summer job at the company. The job was assembling frequency counters, although Steve later said that it really only involved putting in screws. Still, Steve was delighted with the opportunity and the life lessons he received there.

6. He And Woz Ran An Illegal Business Of “Blue Boxes”

With time, Steve became friends with another boy who lived near him and whose name was Steve Wozniak, or “Woz”, as he was known to his friends. Steve was smitten with Woz, mostly because he was the first person that he had met who knew more about electronics than he did. At the time, Woz went to college at Berkeley and Steve attended Homestead High School, but their educational obligations did not get in the way of their friendship. In fact, they met frequently and even worked on a prank project which involved making and selling “blue boxes” which were homemade machines that allowed users to make long-distance calls anywhere in the world without paying any money. It has been said that once, Woz prank called the Pope at Vatican and pretended to be Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Steve had met his match, not only in electronics but also in wits.

5. He Knew From An Early Age That He Was Adopted

Steve’s adoptive parents, Clara and Paul Jobs, never hid the fact that Steve was adopted and so he knew from an early age that Clara and Paul were not his biological parents. Steve recalled how one time, when he was about six or seven years old, a girl from his neighborhood, upon learning that Steve was adopted, asked him if his real parents didn’t want him. That question hit Steve hard and he ran back home, crying and seeking consolation. But Clara and Paul eased his mind, telling him, very seriously and with emphasis on each word, that they had specifically picked him out. And ever since that conversation, Steve never felt abandoned. He felt special. Furthermore, if anyone ever referred to Clara and Paul as his “adoptive parents” or said that they were not his real parents, he would quickly rebuke them by saying that to him, they were his real parents. Understandably, he was not as sweet when talking about his biological parents and often referred to them as a “sperm and egg bank”.

4. He Was An Outsider In School And Did Not Really Belong To Any Group

Steve Jobs did not fit into any group in school. Sometimes it seemed as if he was a regular science nerd. He entered a science fair with a silicon-controlled rectifier which he had built himself and which could be sued for controlling alternating current; enrolled in an electronics class but dropped the class only a year later; attended meetings at the school’s electronic club; went to meetings at the Hewlett-Packard Explorer Group; and visited NASA’s flight simulator. But Steve was also interested in art and literature. He studied Shakespeare and devoured classic movies. For a time, he attended swimming practise and later took up water polo although he quit the latter after his coach advised him to knee his opponents in the groin. He then decided to play the trumpet in the school marching band and with a couple of close friends established a group called “The Buck Fry Club” (the name could be unraveled into an obscene message). This lack of stability made Steve stand out and turned him into an outsider who did not really belong anywhere.

3. His Classmates At Cupertino Junior High School Thought He Was Odd

Perhaps because Steve did not fit into any group at school, and indeed, drifted from one hobby to another, his classmates did not really like him and thought he was odd. But Steve was not a complete loner and had a few select friends, of whom Wozniak was one, and Bill Fernandez, a guy he met at Cupertino Junior High School, was another. They were all introverts and were pretty much wrapped up in the privacy of their own worlds. So they stuck together, as friends do. And of course, it helped that they all shared the same interest: electronics. While neither Steve nor Fernandez was as obsessed with electronics as Wozniak was, they still found the pastime to be engaging, and worked quietly in their garage on projects that interested them.

2. He And Woz Dressed Up As Characters From Alice In Wonderland As Part Of A Summer Job

After Steve finished high school he decided that it was time to get a part-time job so he could earn some spending money for the summer of 1972. For some reason, he did not return to Hewlett-Packard and instead opted to dress up as a character from Alice in Wonderland at the Westgate Mall in San Jose. Wozniak, a loyal friend who was also in need of money, accompanied Steve in this slightly bizarre undertaking. The summer position paid $3 an hour, 50 cents more than minimum wage at the time, and had the advantage of being legal (unlike the blue boxes venture). Steve’s girlfriend of the time joined the two young men. She dressed up as Alice and Steve and Wozniak alternated between the characters of the White Rabbit and the Mad Hatter.

1. He Was So Poor He Returned Empty Coke Bottles For Food Money

Even though Steve was admitted to the Reed College in Portland, Oregon, his parents could not afford the fees and as a result he dropped out only six months later. Instead, he enrolled for part-time courses and attended a typography class where he learned the various types of letters, fonts and the art of printing. The course was taught by a Trappist monk and was an important period in Steve’s life as it later influenced the typography of the Macintosh computers.

However, at this important time of Steve’s life, he was completely broke. He slept on the floor of his friends’ rooms, returned empty Coke bottles to get money for food and often walked seven miles across town on Sundays in order to get a free meal at the Hare Krishna temple.

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