May 15, 2022

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Apple’s Steve Jobs Used Vacations for Big-Picture Brainstorms

  • An early Apple engineer said Steve Jobs would use his vacation for big-picture brainstorming.
  • Sometimes that would mean Jobs calling employees five or six times a day.
  • Those chats would cover new technologies and what’s next for Apple.

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs appears to have also struggled to turn his brain off while on vacation.

Tony Fadell — an early Apple engineer who invented the iPod, helped invent the iPhone, and cofounded the connected home company Nest — spoke to podcaster Tim Ferriss on an episode published Monday.

According to Fadell, he expected not to hear from Jobs for the extent of his trips. While that was true for the first 24 to 48 hours, vacation proved to stir the Apple chief’s creative juices more than anything else.

“Steve would be on vacation, and he would be pondering where the next product, the next direction for Apple, new technologies, things he’s reading,” Fadell said. “He used that vacation as a time to kind of expand his thinking and get outside of the Apple day-to-day.”

Fadell said his teams back in the office “would be like Google for him,” where Jobs would call, or “search,” employees and check on updates on any given project.

Apple teams could hear from him during reasonable, not crazy, work hours “five or six times, depending on what he was thinking about at that time, per day” while he was vacationing,” Fadell said, adding that he sometimes wouldn’t call at all.

“You loved it because you got to talk to him about all kinds of things that weren’t day-to-day, but at other times you were like, ‘Okay, Steve, you need to be on vacation,'” Fadell said.

Fadell also said Jobs would usually vacation in the same one or two places because “that’s what he liked.”

Jobs died in late 2011 and is remembered as one of the world’s greatest tech visionaries, who helmed the company that birthed the iPod, iPhone, and Mac computer. He was infamously fired from Apple in 1985 before launching his own company, NeXT, which Apple acquired in 1996. Jobs became Apple’s CEO a few months later.

Fadell worked at General Magic, a handheld product company that Apple had spun off, for three years before later joining Apple itself as a consultant in 2001. He is credited with inventing the company’s iPod, which revolutionized the mobile music player market, and later became a senior vice president at Apple.

He then helped design the company’s now-ubiquitous iPhone, which launched in 2007.

Fadell cofounded Nest with fellow Apple alum Matt Rogers in 2010. Google acquired it in 2014.

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