Steve Jobs is widely known as the visionary genius behind Apple Inc., solely responsible for changing the face of personal computing, inventing the smartphone as we know it and successfully executing the graphical user interface which we are all familiar with. It's probably what you are reading this on.
Steve was also known to be arrogant with a difficult temper and had strange quirks. Being the prototype founder that Silicon Valley and many other entrepreneurs model themselves on, it is interesting to explore the other side of Jobs, the father and family man.
Following his prolonged illness and death in 2011, three biopics were released covering only aspects of his life. Ashton Kutcher's Jobs (2013), Danny Boyle’s biopic Steve Jobs (2015) and the documentary Steve Jobs: The Man In The Machine (2015) give us only glimpses of Steve as a father.
A more detailed account of the multifaceted geniuses life can be read in Walter Isaacson's Steve Jobs (2011) and Small Fry (2018) by his daughter Lisa Brennan-Jobs.
Jobs was a father to four children – Lisa Brennan-Jobs, from girlfriend Chrisann Brennan; Reed, Erin and Eve Jobs, from wife Laurene Powell.
Jobs had dated Chrisann Brennan for five years, and in 1978, when they were both 23, she gave birth to Lisa. He was absent for the birth and showed up a few days later. He proceeded to tell everyone that Lisa was not his child. Parting ways with Chrisann, he distanced himself from them and refused to offer any support.
Without any help, Chrisann got on welfare and supported herself and Lisa by cleaning houses and working as a waitress. In 1980, Jobs was sued by the district attorney of San Mateo County, California for refusing child support payments. Even after the court-ordered paternity test proved that he was her father, he continued to vehemently deny it, claiming that he was ‘sterile and infertile’ and naming another man as the father.
During the early days at Apple, Jobs named one of the first personal computers ‘The Lisa’. He denied any connection of the PC's name to his daughter’s.
In high school, when Lisa asked him if the computer was named after her, he replied, “Nope. Sorry, kid.” It was only when she was 27 that he finally confirmed the connection, on a family trip aboard singer Bono’s yacht when he pressed Jobs for an answer.
Steve was almost entirely absent for the first seven years of her life. He occasionally visited her, as they moved from temporary houses to friend’s spare bedrooms to small sublets, up to thirteen times over the seven years. By this time, he was already a successful millionaire and owned a convertible Porsche. They only time they spent together was roller skating around the neighbourhood, and even then he did not talk much.
There were rumours that every time his Porsche was scratched, he would go out and buy a new one. Indulging the rumour, Lisa once asked him if she could have one of them after he was done with it.
Despite his indifference and lack of kindness, there were moments of connection between them. He once brought her a new Macintosh and proudly taught her how to use it. He showed her how to make drawings and save them. When she was a little older, Lisa fell out with her mother and moved in with Steve and his then wife. As a teenager in his house, he refused to support her in any way. He didn't even fix the heating in her room. He retaliated against her by refusing to pay for university after her first year at Harvard. Staying with him, he made sure he was the ultimate authority and she had to follow his strict rules to stay under his roof.
Steve also displayed some creepy behaviour, often moaning, groping and kissing her stepmother in front of her. He made jokes about Lisa growing up to become a stripper.
His decision to come back to her after years of abandonment, according to her, was one of the most loving things he had ever done as a father. She held dearly to the few and far moments of joy they had together.
Towards the end of his life, on his deathbed, Steve apologized to Lisa and regretted the missed opportunities as he reflected on his life.
Despite their complicated relationship and her strange childhood, after all those years, she ultimately told a story of forgiveness and understanding.
During his final days, as he lay on his deathbed with cancer, she reached out to hug him for one of the last times.