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Apple's Steve Jobs: Myth Vs. Reality

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Is he Muslim? Does he never give to charity? We clear up some urban legends churned out by the Apple rumor mill over the years.

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Throughout its storied 35-year history, Apple has shrouded itself in secrecy, enforcing a strict policy on employees to keep information under wraps. But being the corporate Skull and Bones has bred so much public speculation that the company deserves its own Snopes category. We've listed some of the myths and legends that have been churned out of the Apple rumor mill over the years.
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The Rumor: There are many theories about the origin of the Apple namesake including Steve Jobs' fondness for his summer work on an orchard in Oregon, claims that Jobs was a fan of the Beatles' record label and, quite simply, the fruit itself.
The Reality: After dropping out of college in Portland, Jobs spent time working on an apple Orchard/Zen commune called All-One Farm. When he and Wozniak were brainstorming a name for their new startup, Wozniak recounted, "I remember I was driving Steve back from the airport. Steve was coming back from a visit to Oregon to a place he called an 'apple orchard.' Steve suggested a name-Apple Computer…. We both tried to come up with technical-sounding names that were better, but we couldn't think of any good ones. Apple was so much better, better than any other name we could think of. So Apple it was. Apple it had to be."


The Rumor:
Steve Jobs credits psychedelic drugs for the thinking that led to his inventions.
The Reality: In the mid-70s, while on sabbatical from Atari, Jobs went on a spiritual backpacking retreat in India in which he dabbled in, not just Buddhism -- shaving his head and assuming traditional Indian dress -- but psychedelic drugs. He was famously quoted in John Markoff's What the Dormouse Said: How the Sixties Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry as saying that experimenting with LSD was "one of the two or three most important things I have done in my life."

In 2007, 101-year-old Swiss scientist and LSD inventor Albert Hofmann reached out to Jobs, on behalf of fellow psychedelic drug pioneer Rick Doblin, requesting funding for a proposed LSD-assisted psychotherapy study. While the request led to a half-hour phone call between Jobs and Doblin, the only contribution that resulted was Jobs' suggestion: "Let's put it in the water supply and turn everybody on."


The Rumor:
Apple will manufacture an iPhone that works on CDMA cellular networks, allowing the phones to be used by Verizon.
The Reality: False, then true. After years of delay, Verizon finally released the iPhone in February 2011. The last full quarter before AT&T's exclusivity agreement for Apple's iPhone expired, sales totaled $4.1 million -- with these users locked into enalty-heavy two-year contracts. According to Wells Fargo predictions, the exodus from AT&T to Verizon won't be as mass an event as was initially expected. Only 150,000 AT&T contract customers defected to Verizon in the first quarter of 2011, whereas 225,000 were projected.


The Rumor: Steve Jobs is a Shiite Muslim.
The Reality: According to the ever-reliable Drudge Report in 2003, Michael Eisner called Jobs a Shiite Muslim as a dig at his "extremist" views and practices as a hot-tempered, micromanaging tyrant. Oddly enough, Jobs is, in fact, half Syrian Muslim by birth from his biological father, Abdulfattah Jandali.

Jobs is, reportedly, a devout practitioner of the Buddhist faith. A Zen Buddhist monk named Kobun Chino has served as Jobs' spiritual guru and, in 1991, officiated his marriage to Laurene Powell at their Yosemite National Park wedding.

According to Minyanville's Danielle Beurteaux, "In what was for Jobs a remarkably personal and frank commencement address at Stanford University in June, 2005, he talked about how failure led him back to success, and also referred to 'Beginner's Mind,' a Zen Buddhist idea...[that] refers to the openness and eagerness of a learner. [Zen Master Shunryu] Suzuki said, 'In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, in the expert's there are few.' Jobs told the graduating class, 'The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything.'"


The Rumor: The anti-Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, worth $5.1 billion, has no public record of charity.
The Reality: In 1987, Jobs created the Steven P. Jobs Foundation with the intended purpose of promoting "social entrepreneurship" but shut it down after a little more than a year with no charitable output of which to speak.

Over the last decade, Jobs has emptied his change drawer of $254,000 in donations to national political Democratic campaigns while Apple's contributions went as high, in 2008 alone, as $1.7 million. However, this money shouldn't be confused with charity; it's quite literally, buying influence in Washington. Corporations making heavy investments in congressional influence is the cost of doing business. Apple is just one of the 700-plus clients in the communications and electronic sector that spent a collective $363 million on lobbying during the 2010 election cycle.

However, it's not outside the realm of possibility that the secrecy shrouding Jobs' private life may very well extend to his charitable giving protocol. Who knows...maybe he was the anonymous donor behind a $150-million pledge to the Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of California at San Francisco in 2007. A donation like that would certainly square with his highly altruistic 1993 quote in the Wall Street Journal: "Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn't matter to me. Going to bed at night saying we've done something wonderful ... that's what matters to me."


The Rumor: Steve Jobs makes only $1 per year.
The Reality: While his annual salary is only a buck, SEC filings indicate that Jobs owns 5.5 million shares of Apple stock in a trust.

According to 24/7 Wall St.:

In 2010, Apple's revenue grew 52% to $65.2 billion while Apple's net income grew 70% to about $14 billion. Its cash and cash equivalents in marketable securities rose by $17 billion to about $51 billion at the end of 2010. Apple's share price rose yet another 53% to $322.56 during calendar 2010.

The [SEC] filing showed that Steve Jobs holds some 5,546,451 shares in a trust. The shares in the same proxy materials from the year before were listed as 5,546,451, meaning his share count has not even gained. The end of 2009 share price of $210.73 gave Steve Jobs a value a year ago of $1,168,803,619.23. The 2010 end of year price of $322.56 gave Steve Jobs an end of 2010 balance of $1,789,063,234.56. He saw the value of his stock grow by $620,259,615.33.

The Rumor: The Apple brand logo contains subliminal messages.
The Reality: Whether intentional or not, even brief exposure to the Apple logo drives creative behavior, according to a Duke University/University of Waterloo, Canada study.

Researchers tested whether incidental exposure to the Apple and IBM logo imbued subjects with the character traits associated with the distinct corporate brands -- Apple's image being one of "nonconformity, innovation and creativity" and IBM's as "traditional, smart and responsible."

While being asked to generate creative uses for a brick (aside from building a wall), 341 students were subliminally primed, for 30 milliseconds, to either the Apple or IBM logo. Those exposed to the Apple logo produced more unusual ideas for the brick than the IBM group and were rated as more creative by independent judges.

"This is the first clear evidence that subliminal brand exposures can cause people to act in very specific ways," said professor and researcher Gráinne Fitzsimons. "We've performed tests where we've offered people $100 to tell us what logo was being flashed on screen, and none of them could do it. But even this imperceptible exposure is enough to spark changes in behavior."


The Rumor:
Steve Jobs had a love child in 1978 for whom he denied paternity.
The Reality: It took two years before Jobs would acknowledge that Lisa Brennan-Jobs was his daughter, swearing in a court document that he was "sterile and infertile, and as a result thereof, did not have the physical capacity to procreate a child."

Although Lisa was estranged from her father until about age 7, she lived with him during her teenage years and the two reportedly remain close. Now 32, Lisa is a respected journalist and magazine writer with credits including The Southwest Review, The Massachusetts Review, Spiked, and O, The Oprah Magazine. She also writes essays for her personal blog.


The Rumor:
Steve Jobs has a famous novelist sister.
The Reality: Mona Simpson, Jobs' biological sister, whom he didn't meet until adulthood, is the author of the bestseller Anywhere But Here. Of her 1992 novel The Lost Father, The New York Times lauded it ''should galvanize Mona Simpson's reputation as one of the most accomplished writers of her generation.''

Steve Jobs, the adopted son of a machinist and accountant in middle class Northern California, had been trying to find his biological family since his teens. At age 27, he learned his biological parents, the Simpsons who were unwed at the time of his birth, got married and had a daughter, Mona, two and a half years later. Jobs and his sister kept their relationship private for many years, only to 'come out' as siblings at a book release party in 1986 that George Plimpton threw for Mona's first novel.

Jobs' biological parents, a political science professor and speech therapist, lived in Green Bay, Wisconsin where they raised Mona until age ten when they separated. Later, during her teenage years, Mona moved with her mother to Los Angeles. In terms of the relationship she forged with her long-lost biological brother, Mona has remarked that the two are "very close" and Jobs has referred to her as "one of my best friends in the world."


The Rumor: Steve Jobs is dead.
The Reality: In August 2008, the Bloomberg financial newswire published in error its work-in-progress Steve Jobs obituary, driving speculation that the CEO had lost his battle with pancreatic cancer.

Marked "Hold for release – Do not use," the obituary was unwittingly sent to the news service's thousands of corporate clients. Although immediately deleted, the story publicizing the death of the "Apple Founder, Tech Visionary" still warranted a retraction from Bloomberg editors Joe Winski and Cesca Antonelli:

Story Referencing Apple Was Sent in Error by Bloomberg News
Aug. 27 (Bloomberg) - An incomplete story referencing Apple Inc. was inadvertently published by Bloomberg News at 4:27 p.m. New York time today. The item was never meant for publication and
has been retracted.
Unless he's been pulling off an incredible two-and-a-half-year Weekend at Bernie's stunt, Jobs is very much alive -- even putting himself front and center at last week's iPad 2 unveiling.

SEE ALSO: Kids of Business Icons: Lisa Jobs


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Click here to return to "The Mythology of Apple" and our complete list of Apple stories.

Why is Apple so important to us? What's next for the iconic brand? Click here to continue reading from our series on the mythology of Apple. You'll also find a link to our video, "Is Apple a Religion?"


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No positions in stocks mentioned.

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