Steve Jobs' Wilderness Years Photographer Shares Rare Snaps With BBC

By Matt Hill on at

Steve Jobs' leaving/ousting from Apple in 1985 may be well-documented in writing, before he returned in 1997 with a knowing wink and a brain full of iDevices to bring back the good times, but photos of that time remain fairly scant.

Luckily we have then-aspiring freelance photojournalist Doug Menuez to help, who having started interning at The Washington Post in 1981 happened to be jobbing around Silicon Valley for Time, Newsweek and more as Jobs planned his next big adventure: NeXT computers, which our own Tim Berners-Lee made the most of at CERN to build the World Wide Web. And he'll be talking to the BBC tomorrow morning as part of a World Update documentary, too.

Menuez's snaps are brilliantly candid. The photo at the very top, taken from his Fearless Genius book that also features shots of major players from Bill Gates to Bill Clinton, is Jobs at a NeXT company picnic in Menlo Park, California, in 1987.

"Steve was not the kind of guy who ever seemed to relax," says Menuez. "He was usually focused like a laser on the task at hand. So it was surprising to see Steve kicking this beach ball around at a company picnic. He seemed to be having a good time, but it felt more like a performance designed to encourage the team to relax. He knew well from previous experience that his team needed breaks in order to sustain the forced march that would culminate in shipping the product."

Above is him returning from a new NeXT factory in Fremont, California, with his employees in an old, rented school bus in 1986.

"Although Steve could be extremely rude, critical, and occasionally even vindictive, he also was incredibly joyful, with an infectious grin and energy that was irresistible," says Menuez. "In the early days at NeXT he would often come bounding in, hungry to get to work. Still, there were not too many unrestrained moments of hilarity such as this one."

Indeed, the focused shot below from the same year is at a NeXT off-site in Sonoma, explaining ten-year technology development cycles to his new staff.

"Most industry pundits believed NeXT would be a huge and rapid success, as did Steve," says Menuez. "Instead, it was the start of a decade of difficult, often bitter struggle."

Menuez will be chatting more with the BBC's Dan Damon about his days in Silicon Valley on World Service at 10.05am tomorrow morning. Here's a sneek peak of what you may like to tune in for…

Image Credit: Doug Menuez (fearlessgenius.org)