Entrepreneurs

Read this 1976 letter from a Silicon Valley exec that calls Steve Jobs 'flaky' and a 'joker'

CIRCA 1982: Steve Jobs of Apple Computer.
Ted Thai | Getty Images
CIRCA 1982: Steve Jobs of Apple Computer.

Today, Steve Jobs is regarded as the brilliant mind behind Apple, the most valuable company in the world.

But in 1976, when Jobs was in his early 20s, he made a much different impression: He seemed to be "flaky," and a "joker."

That's according to letters written by Mike Rose, a Silicon Valley advertising executive whom Jobs contacted to print the operating manual for Apple's first personal computer, the Apple 1.

Rose was suspicious of Jobs, who was unknown at the time, and he took notes on the conversation. He then passed them along to his business partner, "Bob" in a letter dated June 23, 1976.

"[Rose] writes about how there are two young guys in a garage," Leslie Berlin, the historian for the Stanford University Silicon Valley Archives says on an episode of "Recode Decode," adding that Rose said "sounds fishy. Watch out."

Courtesy of the Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries.

The letter, which is preserved in the Department of Special Collections at Stanford University, starts off: "Bob - This joker (attached) is going to be calling you," Rose wrote of Jobs.

"Somebody at Regis McKenna recommended us (you). They are 2 guys — they build kits —operate out of a garage — want our catalog sheets. Wants it for nothing. Wouldn't trust me. Told him we'd like to see what they've got — we'd estimate — then decide. Sounds flaky. Watch it!"

Courtesy of the Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries.

At the time, Rose had reason to be suspicious.

"In the '70s, the notion of going off and trying to do your own thing was still very new," Berlin explains. "Entrepreneurs were basically the washouts who couldn't make it in a real, decent company. "

Courtesy of the Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries.

Jobs and Wozniak officially launched Apple Computer on April Fool's Day, 1976, only a few months before Rose wrote the letter. The first Apple 1 computers were made in Jobs' parents' garage and sold for $666.66.

"The Apple 1 was a relatively bare-bones product by today's standards," the Wall Street Journal reports. "It consisted only of a motherboard; no case was included, and buyers were expected to provide their own keyboard and monitor. Installing the BASIC programming language required a cassette recorder and a special card."

Rose's 1976 notes also include information on the Apple 1's schematics.

Courtesy of the Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries.

While only about 200 Apple 1s were created, the company went on to revolutionize personal computing in coming decades and introduce technologies like the iPhone. Today, the company's market cap is over $916 billion.

The letters were donated to Stanford by Rose in 1998.

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