Walter Isaacson Discusses Steve Jobs Biography On '60 Minutes' (VIDEOS)
Walter Isaacson's authorized biography of recently deceased Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, goes on sale October 24. The book was initially scheduled for release on November 21, but the date was pushed up soon after Jobs' death on October 5.
At the behest of Jobs, Isaacson pieced together his sweeping bio of the entrepreneur and innovator after conducting 40 one-on-one interviews, as well as sit-downs with over 100 people who knew Jobs.
According to a lengthy interview with CBS's "60 Minutes", which aired on October 23, Isaacson sought out Jobs' friends, family, coworkers and competitors to construct what he calls "a book that's fair."
Isaacson received the blessing of Jobs to tell as accurate a story of his life as possible. Even Laurene Powell, Jobs' wife, advised Isaacson to "be honest with [Jobs'] failings, as well as his strengths." The result is an unabashed telling of the Jobs' life that includes glowing reminiscences alongside unflattering truths.
Known for his, at times, gruff demeanor, Jobs preferred to surround himself with people for whom perfection was a necessity, according to Isaacson. Jobs was also prone to bursts of anger and brutal honesty. "He was very petulant, he was very brittle, he could be very, very mean to people at times," Isaacson shares with "60 Minutes". "Whether it was to a waitress in a restaurant or a guy who had stayed up all night coding, he could really go at them and say, 'You're doing this all wrong, it's horrible."
Isaacson's interview follows the outline of the biography, which begins with Jobs' adoption. Given up by his birth parents, who weren't married when he was conceived, Jobs was adopted by a "salt of the earth" mechanic and his wife. Isaacson goes on to trace Jobs' growth--from a "hippie-ish kid" who went around barefoot, listened to Bob Dylan and dropped acid on occasion--into a businessman who seemed to, as Isaacson puts it, "bend reality" to reach the goals he envisioned for himself and his team.
The interview includes taped conversations between Isaacson and Jobs, who can be heard recalling memories from his life. In one taping, Jobs can be heard describing an early conversation with his parents about his adoption. In another, he describes his experiences with LSD as "one of the most important things in my life."
Despite Jobs' largess, Isaacson explains that he chose to live a relatively simple life. Isaacson describes the Jobs family home as "a house on a normal street with a normal sidewalk, no big winding driveway, no big security fences […] You could walk into the back garden, in the back gate and open the back door to the kitchen, which used to not be locked."
Offering a rare glimpse into Jobs' family life, Isaacson shares photos with "60 Minutes" of Jobs on vacation with his wife and children, snapshots of Jobs' first daughter (who was conceived out of wedlock and rejected by Jobs until her teenage years), and stills of Jobs' biological sister, who wasn't given up for adoption and who didn't know she had a brother until Jobs sought her out.
Among Isaacson's anecdotes about Jobs' personal life is one about the CEO's chance meeting with his biological father. According to Isaacson, the father and son once met and shook hands without either knowing who the other was--until years later.
Isaacson also discusses the pancreatic cancer that Jobs battled from 2004 until his death in 2011. Isaacson tells "60 Minutes" that Jobs chose not to undergo surgery immediately after his diagnosis. Nine months later, Jobs relented and agreed to surgery. But by that time, Isaacson says, the cancer had already spread.
"I think that he kind of felt that if you ignore something, if you don't want something to exist, you can have magical thinking," Isaacson says gravely.
Watch the full interview (below) to hear more about Jobs' fascinating past, the highs and lows in his career, and his own explanation of how his battle with cancer affected his views on the afterlife.
For more details from Isaacson's authorized biography of Steve Jobs, details that don't appear in the "60 Minutes" interview, check out our coverage of Steve Jobs' anger at Google for having "ripped off the iPhone", his biggest failure and what he learned from it, his advice to Bill Clinton during the Lewinsky scandal and his warning to President Obama.