clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Apple Executives Mark Anniversary of Steve Jobs's Death With Personal Tributes

As Hollywood is poised to refocus Steve Jobs's legacy, those who knew him best share anecdotes.

Magnolia Pictures

At a time when Steve Jobs’s legacy may well be redefined by Hollywood, those who worked alongside him shared personal tributes that reveal a warm, human side of the late Apple co-founder on the fourth anniversary of his death.

The forthcoming “Steve Jobs” movie, which debuts Friday, is expected to cast the iconic Silicon Valley figure as the brilliant despot of Cupertino. The remembrances posted today on Apple’s internal website portrayed other facets of the man whose words and images adorn the walls of the corporate campus.

In a series of email remembrances that seems intended to reach beyond One Infinite Loop, Apple CEO Tim Cook and others offered their personal insights on the man.

Tim Cook:

Today marks four years since Steve passed away. On that day, the world lost a visionary. We at Apple lost a leader, a mentor, and many of us lost a dear friend.

Steve was a brilliant person, and his priorities were very simple. He loved his family above all, he loved Apple, and he loved the people with whom he worked so closely and achieved so much.

Each year since his passing, I have reminded everyone in the Apple community that we share the privilege and responsibility of continuing the work Steve loved so much.

What is his legacy? I see it all around us: An incredible team that embodies his spirit of innovation and creativity. The greatest products on earth, beloved by customers and empowering hundreds of millions of people around the world. Soaring achievements in technology and architecture. Experiences of surprise and delight. A company that only he could have built. A company with an intense determination to change the world for the better.

And, of course, the joy he brought his loved ones.

He told me several times in his final years that he hoped to live long enough to see some of the milestones in his children’s lives. I was in his office over the summer with Laurene and their youngest daughter. Messages and drawings from his kids to their father are still there on Steve’s whiteboard.

If you never knew Steve, you probably work with someone who did or who was here when he led Apple. Please stop one of us today and ask what he was really like. Several of us have posted our personal remembrances on AppleWeb, and I encourage you to read them.

Thank you for honoring Steve by continuing the work he started, and for remembering both who he was and what he stood for.

Bud Tribble, a member of the original Mac team, talked about how he and Jobs were colleagues and friends who went to each others’ weddings and whose children attended the same school.

Steve was a good friend. The boundaries between work and our friendship were not real formal. He went to my wedding, and I went to his wedding. Our kids went to the same school. Early in the first Mac project, I ended up in the hospital for a few days and Steve showed up. I tried to turn on the TV and it didn’t work so Steve got a screwdriver and climbed up behind the TV set and was trying to reattach the wires so that I could watch TV. That’s the kind of guy he was.

Steve was not a lecturer. If he really wanted to impart or teach you something, he would show you. In 1981, just when the original Mac team had formed — there were maybe a dozen people — we were still trying to figure out what we were building. What should it be? What should it do? What should it look like? And Steve came in one day and said, “We’re going to go on a field trip.” And we all thought it would be some team-building exercise. Then he said, “We’re going to San Francisco to the de Young museum. They have a Louis Comfort Tiffany exhibit and we’re going to just spend the whole day there, looking at what this guy did.”

It turned out to be an incredibly good lesson and it set the tone for the Mac group. The electric light had been invented and Thomas Edison wanted to have not just a burning bulb, but a beautiful thing. He convinced Tiffany, an artist, to make lamps. Tiffany used glass and chemistry and metallurgy to build art that was very useful to control light.

I think it was very illustrative of how Steve interacted with his teams and the people who were working for him. And it was an example of art meets technology, and probably one of the first times I saw that from Steve. Just this burning feeling he had — that was so different from what you found in the Valley, you know? Everything was bits and bytes and how fast was it and how much silicon and how many computations can it do. And here was Steve saying, “We’re building something, but it’s equally if not more important that it be an artistic act of creation.” Because these computers we’re making are going to be part of our environment, and if we didn’t pay attention to the aesthetics and the artistic nature of what we were doing, then who would? It would end up like the ugly bare bulb burning at the end of the wire.

I spent a lot of time with Steve. He was one of a kind. Really for the world to understand the impact of Steve on the world we live in, it’s going to require a lot more time and perspective.

Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing, pointedly takes his colleagues backstage during Jobs’s keynote presentations — a device screenwriter Aaron Sorkin uses in the forthcoming film, although he admits to taking artistic license to serve the movie’s narrative.

I was lucky enough to work on keynotes with Steve from the day he came back in 1997 until the day he left us. There were probably 40 to 50 events we put on together. It’s funny, people always talk about our events as if they were full of moments that were incredibly stressful and difficult. But while there was a lot of work, they were usually the opposite. They were incredibly inspiring and emotional things to us.

Steve worked so hard on each and every keynote and event. Harder than people could imagine. He would be working for months ahead of time on each and every show, and he made every slide himself. He sat at his computer, either at Apple or at his home office, creating each slide, agonizing over each font, each letter, each spacing, and each graphic. And he spent so many hours thinking about how to say something, how we could explain something, how people would like to hear it.

He cared so deeply. In fact, once in a while when he would get frustrated with some of us who weren’t as detailed or good at it, he would finally just say, “I’m going to hold a class! I’m going to run a class and teach everyone here how to use Keynote the way I do, so you can do this. Because it matters, every detail matters.”

Steve also had a great sense of humor. We would screw around all of the time. In 2003, we were working on a keynote demo of video conferencing with iChat on the Mac, and Al Gore was gracious enough during his busy schedule to make time to do the demo remotely with us. We were rehearsing the day before the keynote and Al is up on the giant 35-foot screen, and Steve in front of the Mac, and they were going back and forth discussing about what they were going to talk about. Al and Steve start joking a little bit, and as a comeback to something Al said, Steve turned around and mooned Al. He literally dropped his pants. Now, it was PG — he had his boxers on — but he mooned Al. All of us working on it were just dying.

There were so many good times. We would be sitting backstage during the shows in darkness behind a giant wall and on the other side of the wall was an audience, anything from a thousand to six thousand people. We’re watching this huge screen projected in reverse and you know every slide, every video, every demo, and we’re just waiting. And then you’ll hear the applause or the cheer. You just get filled with so much happiness and pride — about all this work for months that came to this moment. We would be back there with Steve and he’s feeling the same thing. And that fuels us through the whole show. Those were always great shared moments with Steve.

Steve cared so much about keynotes that he would want to talk about them immediately after. He’d ask, “How do you think it went? How do you think people reacted? What do you think the press is writing?” He’d always call me while he was driving home and say, “Hey, I want to talk to you.” It was just the way it was, and it was a warm, great thing.

The day before Steve passed away, we had had a keynote, and Steve obviously wasn’t there because he was home ill. We had finished the keynote, and were getting ready for press meetings, and I got the message, “Hey, Steve would like to see you. Can you please come by his house?” Stupid me, I was thinking, “Oh great, we just get done with the keynote, and he wants to talk about it — same old Steve.” I’m driving almost into Palo Alto before it hit me full on: “Oh… that’s not why I’m going to his house.”

This article originally appeared on

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for Vox Recommends

Get curated picks of the best Vox journalism to read, watch, and listen to every week, from our editors.