Steve Jobs through the FBI lens: What a (mundane) life

Steve Jobs through the FBI lens: What a (mundane) life

Summary: Through a "just the facts" lens Steve Jobs looks rather mundane.


Seeing Steve Jobs through the lens of released Federal Bureau of Investigation documents reveals a man who endured extortion attempts, was in line for a presidential nomination and could embellish the truth a bit.

The FBI released its Jobs files and it paints a picture you won't find in his biography. You could argue that there isn't much on Jobs at all. Indeed, the FBI has a just-the-facts approach toward Jobs almost looks mundane. Jobs wasn't a criminal so it's foolish to think there's some huge revealing moment, but the portrait of the former Apple CEO is notable nonetheless---especially when the technology innovation is stripped away.

In other words, the life of Jobs could get messy and there were a few odd things to ponder---just like the rest of us.

Also: FBI releases Steve Jobs' background check: What's inside | CNET: Read FBI background report on Apple CEO Steve Jobs

In 1985, law enforcement agencies investigated an extortion attempt against Jobs and Apple. The flashback comes when police searched the San Francisco Airport Hilton Hotel for explosives. A perp used a pay phone---what's that?---to make verbal threats against Apple. He wanted $1 million (it was 1985 after all) and said there were bombs placed. A telephone trap was placed in case there were further calls, but nothing developed further. The K9 unite of the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office did a sweep of the area for explosives.

Jobs was also considered for a presidential appointment and a background check was needed in 1991. The Feds needed to investigate why Jobs was terminated from Apple as well as his former drug use and even the birthplace of his daughter. "Appointee will be required to make decisions concerning policy and personnel matters; therefore during interviews, determine if appointee has expressed or manifested any bias or prejudice against any individual or group based upon sex, race, color, religion, national origin, handicap or age."

The Feds also wanted to know if Jobs "lives within his financial means."

That same investigation revealed Jobs' credit score as well as his real estate habits. Jobs bought a Central Park West apartment, renovated it, but never occupied it. The FBI dryly finds that Jobs was a former hippie.

In addition, the FBI files reveal a bevy of lawsuits that came and went.

Overall, Jobs looked just like most of us would in any background check. Aside from a few comments about "his personal life being lacking due to his narcissism and shallowness" Jobs looks almost mundane.


Topics: Apple, Government, Government US

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • What a nasty individual

    • Look who's talking

      It's always easy to go after the dead. Isn't it, troll?
      • RE: Steve Jobs through the FBI lens: What a (mundane) life

        @ScorpioBlue don???t feed the trolls.
      • RE: Steve Jobs through the FBI lens: What a (mundane) life

        @Joel-r<br>Toddytroll is a yellow coward who speaks ill will of the dead because the dead are unable to defend themselves so he deserves to be called out on it. I make no apologies.
    • I agree... To call in a bomb threat is NASTY, and rather cowardly.

      @toddybottom_z.. Still Steve handled it well. He also made some human mistakes in life as we all do from time to time but it would seem in the end made good with even his daughter and left her well educated and finacially secure likely his grand children as well if such occurs. So all in all while not perfect.... Pretty good in sum.
      James Quinn
      • Depends on why he did?

        @James Quinn
        Did he do it as he felt a moral responsibility, or was it becuase he was forced to?
        He was trying to start a company. Better to keep your friends close, and your enemies even closer mentality?
        William Farrel
  • Confused

    Wasn't the hippie movement about love, kindness, social conscience and humanitarian efforts?

    I didn't know it was more linked to "narcissism and shallowness".
    • The Government....


      ...didn't approve of the hippie movement.
      sissy sue
    • RE: Steve Jobs through the FBI lens: What a (mundane) life


      the hippie movement was, and is, pretty much about narcissism and shallowness.
  • RE: Steve Jobs through the FBI lens: What a (mundane) life

    I'm pretty sure in reality Steve Jobs was a very fine guy. It was just the FBI holding^H^H^H^H^H^H^H observing him wrong.
  • Government intrusiveness

    Doesn't it occur to anyone that the Federal Bureau of Investigation is just another intrusive government agency that shouldn't exist in a so-called free country?
    sissy sue
    • RE: Steve Jobs through the FBI lens: What a (mundane) life

      @sissy sue So you don't see the need for a police agency that can cross state lines? They only intruded because he had agreed to be considered for a government post. If he doesn't do that, they don't investigate him.
  • Let's have a look at the details of J. Edgar Hoover's personal life

    Not mundane.
  • He WAS a piece of work...

    So he made himself a corrupt billionaire by being head of the mostest evilest empire in decades.
    What more incentive do you need to suck up and glorify? I mean humans revolve around money right? And evil people never get cancer. Or maybe it WAS the cancer that'll keep us remembering him forever as some angelic santa claus figure?
    Nice to see SOME of the real innovators get a knighthood at the very least.

    He wasn't useless, but "praiseworthy" beyond the personal level? That's just downright deluded.
  • RE: Steve Jobs through the FBI lens: What a (mundane) life

    Today's headlines! Steve Jobs is human! OMG! I thought he was a god! Seriously people. Everyone knows he was a narcissistic guy and that his main technique was distorting reality to get his way. Just look at his patent war. That being said. There are a lot of people like that. Just because I didn't agree with the guy, and knew he took credit for far more than he actually did and was. Didn't mean he was a devil either. Bill Gates isn't the cleanest soul either and Ballmer is a blatant fool. I say it like it is. No need for defending. I'm probably stepping on some toes. But the fact is ALL these people are human.

    I'd hardly call a C+ average person a "genius". Steven Wozniak actually invented Apple and did all the geek grunt work. After the company was built and Woz ended up in a plane crash, Woz left Apple to Jobs. Woz didn't die, but after recovering from amnesia, he decided Apple could be the death of him and left the company. Does this mean Jobs wasn't a good leader for Apple? Simply put, No. He did well as a leader. People just made him out to be more than human.
    • RE: Steve Jobs through the FBI lens: What a (mundane) life

      @Darksurf- I don't disagree with anything you've said, but I'd like to add something to it: although Gates and Ballmer aren't saints, neither am I, nor you, nor any other person we're likely to meet in our entire lives (your point, of course), but- Gates has committed to donate at least half of his wealth to charities, and of what's left, half of that goes to charity as well. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has spent literally 10's (or 100's?) of millions of dollars to help the poorest and most destitute people of the world, and last year (I believe it was 2011?) he committed another $100 million for medical research into treatments and possibly cures for diseases that affect billions of people worldwide, including some US citizens, yet I can't ever recall hearing of Jobs donating a single dime to anyone in need for any reason. He was clearly a selfish man who stole ideas of others and then made Apple huge by turning into a marketing organization and reinvested all of his money into building up Apple, NOT in building up a single fellow human being. So, in that context, Bill Gates comes much closer to be saintly than does Steve Jobs, who appears to be nothing more than a worshipper of self and money; I believe those traits- vanity/ love of self over others. and idol worship (the love of money over your fellow human being) were both over consiidered sins of the most vile kind.
  • RE: Steve Jobs through the FBI lens: What a (mundane) life

    As Walter Cronkite used to say. That's the way it is.
  • RE: Steve Jobs through the FBI lens: What a (mundane) life

    "Jobs was also considered for a presidential appointment and a background check was needed in 1991"

    So, to what post what was GHW Bush wanting to appoint Steve Jobs?
  • RE: Steve Jobs through the FBI lens: What a (mundane) life

    Good report, Larry. Doc hates to think what his ex-girlfriends and coworkers would have to say if confronted by a G-man. Hopefully I'll never be up for a Presidential appointment. Seems like the FBI only discovered things about Steve that were pretty widely known. Wonder how many tax-payer dollars went into that report.
    DocuMentor (Doc)