lower-income people. They had awesome little features, like radiant heating in the floors. You put carpet on them, and we had nice toasty floors when we were kids.”
Jobs said that his appreciation for Eichler homes instilled in him a passion for making nicely designed products for the mass market. “I love it when you can bring really great design and simple capability to something that doesn’t cost much,” he said as he pointed out the clean elegance of the houses. “It was the original vision for Apple. That’s what we tried to do with the first Mac. That’s what we did with the iPod.”
Across the street from the Jobs family lived a man who had become successful as a real estate agent. “He wasn’t that bright,” Jobs recalled, “but he seemed to be making a fortune. So my dad thought, ‘I can do that.’ He worked so hard, I remember. He took these night classes, passed the license test, and got into real estate. Then the bottom fell outof the market.” As a result, the family found itself financially strapped for a year or so while Steve was in elementary school. His mother took a job as a bookkeeper for Varian Associates, a company that made scientific instruments, and they took out a second mortgage. One day his fourth-grade teacher asked him, “What is it you don’t understand about the universe?” Jobs replied, “I don’t understand why all of a sudden my dad is so broke.” He was proud that his father never adopted a servile attitude or slick style that may have made him a better salesman. “You had to suck up to people to sell real estate, and he wasn’t good at that and it wasn’t in his nature. I admired him for that.” Paul Jobs went back to being a mechanic.
His father was calm and gentle, traits that his son later praised more than emulated. He was also resolute. Jobs described one example:
Nearby was an engineer who was working at Westinghouse. He was a single guy, beatnik type. He had a girlfriend. She would babysit me sometimes. Both my parents worked, so I would come here right after school for a couple of hours. He would get drunk and hit her a couple of times. She came over one night, scared out of her wits, and he came over drunk, and my dad stood him down—saying “She’s here, but you’re not coming in.” He stood right there. We like to think everything was idyllic in the 1950s, but this guy was one of those engineers who had messed-up lives.
What made the neighborhood different from the thousands of other spindly-tree subdivisions across America was that even the ne’er-do-wells tended to be engineers. “When we moved here, there were apricot and plum orchards on all of these corners,” Jobs recalled. “But it was beginning to boom because of military investment.” He soaked up the history of the valley and developed a yearning to play his own role. Edwin Land of Polaroid later told him about being asked by Eisenhower to help build the U-2 spy plane cameras to see how real the Soviet threat was. The film was dropped in canisters and returned to the NASA Ames Research Center in Sunnyvale, not far from where Jobs lived. “The first computer terminal I ever saw was when my dad brought me to the Ames Center,” he said. “I fell totally in love with it.”
Other defense contractors sprouted nearby during the 1950s. The Lockheed Missiles and Space Division, which built submarine-launched ballistic missiles, was founded in 1956 next to the NASA Center; by the time Jobs moved to the area four years later, it employed twenty thousand people. A few hundred yards away, Westinghouse built facilities that produced tubes and electrical transformers for the missile systems. “You had all these military companies on the cutting edge,” he recalled. “It was mysterious and high-tech and made living here very exciting.”
In the wake of the defense industries there arose a booming economy based on technology. Its roots stretched back to 1938, when David Packard and his new wife moved into a house in Palo Alto that had a shed where his friend Bill Hewlett was soon ensconced. The house had a garage—an appendage that would prove both useful and iconic in the valley—in which they tinkered around until they had their first product, an audio oscillator. By the 1950s, Hewlett-Packard was a fast-growing company making technical instruments.
Fortunately there was a place nearby for entrepreneurs who had outgrown their garages. In a move that would help
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