A 20-Year-Old Ho Chi Minh

The personnel lady came in with a young candidate who had shown up on our doorstep. He was this real scuzzy kid. She said, “What shall we do?” I think I said, “We should either call the cops or we should talk to him.” So I talked to him. The kid was a dropout and really grungy. He was 18 years old and he knew something…. He had a spark of brilliance. Don Lang, one of my engineers, was asking for a tech, so I said, “Great. I’ll give you a job working for a real engineer.”

The next day Don came to me and said, “What did I do to deserve this?” I said, “What? You wanted a tech, you got a tech.” He said, “This guy’s filthy. He’s just obnoxious. And he doesn’t know electronics.” The kid worked out in the end. His name was Steve Jobs. —Al Alcorn Shortly after Atari re-absorbed Kee Games, Al Alcorn hired the man who would become the company’s most distinguished alumnus—Steve Jobs.

Though he went on to found such companies as Apple Computers and Pixar Animation Studios, at the time Jobs was little more than a skinny kid with long hair and a wispy beard. Several people described him as looking like a “20-year-old Ho Chi Minh.” (Ho Chi Minh was the leader of North Vietnam during the Vietnam war.) Like many luminaries in the computer industry, Jobs knew more about technology than social graces. He was dismissed as a hippie by most of his fellow engineers.

According to Alcorn, Jobs once came to work with a jar of cranberry juice and told his supervisor he was fasting. “He said, ‘If I pass out, just lay me on the workbench. Don’t call the police, please. I’ll be fine. I’m just a little weak right now.’” Some co-workers complained that Jobs smelled bad.

He offended others by openly treating them like idiots. In the end, Jobs’ genius helped him emerge as a valuable employee, but by that time, he had managed to make enemies throughout the company. If he thought you were a dumb shit, he’d treat you like shit. That pissed certain people off. I liked him a lot…. Still do.

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