If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’ve used one of the many products that Steve Jobs so famously innovated. The late tech genius, who was born on February 24, 1955, set the standard for the look and feel of personal computers.
Jobs co-founded Apple in 1976, was forced out of the company in 1985, and returned as CEO in 1996. He continued to be the face of the brand until his death from neuroendocrine cancer in 2011. Without Jobs, the ubiquitous technology of the modern world might look very different, and the man behind the machine was a fascinatingly complex figure. Here are some facts about Steve Jobs you might not have known.
1. Steve Jobs was adopted.
Jobs may have been a very public figure, but he was always careful to keep his private life hidden. He was adopted, and his biological father, Abdulfattah Jandali, was a Syrian immigrant. He rebuffed Jandali’s attempts to get in touch, and denied paternity of his own daughter, Lisa, for many years.
2. He was also a college dropout.
Don’t let anyone tell you a college degree is a prerequisite for professional success. Jobs came from a working-class background and dropped out of Reed College after just six months due to the financial strain it put on his family. Intriguingly, Jobs revealed decades later that a calligraphy class he took at Reed inspired the earliest typography used in Mac computers.
3. Steve Jobs started wearing his signature black turtleneck because his employees didn’t want to wear a company uniform.
The sleekness of Apple’s product design translated to Jobs’s well-known wardrobe. The majority of pictures of Jobs show him in a black turtleneck paired with jeans and sneakers. He didn’t wear just any black turtleneck—the famous top was by the innovative Japanese designer Issey Miyake.
Jobs was originally inspired to start dressing in uniform when he visited the Tokyo headquarters of Sony in the ’80s and admired the minimalist Miyake-designed uniforms the employees wore. He loved the uniforms so much, in fact, that he commissioned Miyake to design uniforms for Apple, but his employees hated the idea. Jobs compromised by adopting the signature Miyake turtleneck. He owned around 100 of them, and while the exact style he wore was discontinued after his death, Miyake later released a similar black turtleneck as an homage to the unlikely fashion influencer.
4. Steve Jobs didn’t have some of the technological savvy you might expect.
While he forever changed the world of technology, to his colleagues, Jobs was better known for his business savvy and creativity than his technical prowess. Steve Wozniak, who co-founded Apple with Jobs and stepped down in 1985, once said, “He did not know technology. He’d never designed anything as a hardware engineer, and he didn’t know software. He wanted to be important, and the important people are always the business people. So that’s what he wanted to do.”
5. Steve Jobs’s earliest computer was recently auctioned for nearly $500,000.
It’s hard to believe a computer from 1976 would still work today, but Apple’s first desktop model, the rare Apple-1 (originally sold for the devilish price of $666.66) made it to an auction at Christie’s in 2019, and in working condition. The bulky, oh-so-’70s piece of machinery was sold to an anonymous buyer for around $470,000.
6. Steve Jobs dated a ’60s musical icon.
A decade before he met his wife, Laurene Powell, Jobs dated folk singer Joan Baez in 1982. Jobs described their connection as “a serious relationship between two accidental friends who became lovers.”
Baez had famously dated Bob Dylan and performed with him in the ’60s and ’70s. It just so happened that Jobs was also a huge Dylan fan—he and Wozniak originally bonded over their fandom for the prolific artist and collected his bootleg recordings. Jobs finally met his musical hero in 2004, but their topics of conversation remain unknown.
7. Steve Jobs experimented with psychedelic drugs.
Like many Baby Boomers, Jobs was something of a hippie in his younger years. He and his friend and future employee, Daniel Kottke, would frequently trip on LSD during college in the ’70s. Kottke described himself and Jobs as “monk-wannabes.” Jobs was very influenced by Be Here Now, a 1971 book on meditation by spiritual teacher Ram Dass, and practiced Zen Buddhism. The Buddhist principles of mindfulness even supposedly helped inspire Apple’s simple yet effective product designs.
8. Steve Jobs wasn’t so into the concept of the “Genius Bar.”
Apple stores are known for their sparkling white aesthetic and “Genius Bar” customer service. Not every element of the stores was specified to Jobs’s liking, though.
In 2000, Apple hired Ron Johnson to run their first retail stores. Johnson was responsible for coming up with the now-signature Genius Bar, and recalled that when he told him about his idea, Jobs called it “idiotic” and said, “Ron, you might have the right idea, but here’s the big gap: I’ve never met someone who knows technology who knows how to connect with people. They’re all geeks! You can call it the Geek Bar.’”
9. Steve Jobs wanted the original iPhone to be primarily used as … a phone.
It’s no exaggeration to say the iPhone changed cellphones forever, making them into highly functional mini-computers and further pushing users away from making phone calls thanks to the ease of texting and social media integration. It’s somewhat surprising to learn that the original iPhone was primarily meant to be just that: a phone. At the 2007 keynote introducing the product, Jobs said, “We want to reinvent the phone ... What’s the killer app? The killer app is making calls. It’s amazing how hard it is to make calls on most phones.”
10. Steve Jobs’s final words were “Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow.”
Jobs didn’t meet his biological sister, Mona Simpson, until she was in her twenties. Simpson, a novelist, gave the eulogy at Jobs’s funeral, describing their unique relationship and remembering his final days during his battle with cancer. At the end of the speech, Simpson revealed that her older brother died peacefully, with the simple yet poignant final words “Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow.”
A version of this article was originally published in 2021 and has been updated for 2023.