Jobs – 10 errors you should know before watching the film…

Jobs (1)Jobs is the biopic of Apple founder, Steve Jobs, which was released last year. I quite enjoyed the movie but as with all biopics, there were plenty of errors and simplifications made to focus on Jobs’ rise to fame in the home computer industry.

I’ve previously showcased some of the glaring errors in Braveheart and Rush, so I’m doing the same for this movie as well. Again, the point here is not to rip on the movie, but simply to remind people that it is just a movie and as such is limited in the scope of what it can show to the audience. After knowing about these errors, you’re better equipped to enjoy the movie…

Jobs (2)Error 1: There were no computer classes at Reed University

The opening of the film shows Jobs as a drop-out hippy at Reed University. Rather than focus on any one thing, Jobs drops in and out of classes seemingly depending on his mood. This is surprisingly accurate to Jobs’ real experiences.

Jobs didn’t like the structured nature of college life and after a few weeks asked for and received his tuition back and was allowed to stay at the dorm by dean Jack Dudman (played by James Woods). The error here is of a very negligible nature and includes a scene of Jobs skipping out on technical computer classes, which in fact were not taught at Reed.

The condensing the explanation of Jobs’ lacklustre engineering skills (which leads him to ask Wozniak to help rework Breakout’s circuitry) is probably the main reason this error is in the film to begin with. Other aspects of Jobs’ college life are in fact mostly accurate (including Jobs attending a calligraphy class and taking LSD)

Jobs (4)Error 2: Steve Wozniak had already demoed Apple I before Jobs found out about it

Many details relating to Steve Wozniak got condensed in the film, but the movie also inaccurately portrays Jobs as being the one who convinces the sheepish Wozniak to demo his revolutionary terminal at the Homebrew Computer Club. The truth is, Wozniak was already a regular of Homebrew and didn’t have such a distaste for it as shown in the movie.

Wozniak was a minor celebrity at Homebrew due to his terminal being so small, whereas most computers were still big and clunky. Moreover, Wozniak made Apple I’s design available for everyone, since he wanted people to be able to improve on it. Jobs, however, was the first person who saw the Apple I as having marketing potential. Before going to business in the Jobs’ garage, Wozniak offered his design to his current employer, HP, and was turned down.

The reason for this inaccuracy was probably to better display Jobs’ role as a businessman and better introduce the character of Paul Terrell to whom Jobs eventually makes an offer for the Apple boards. This whole sequence was probably dreamed up to really show Jobs and Wozniak as under-dogs who eventually succeed.

Jobs (3)Error 3: Apple title origin

I’m not going to comment on the whole Beatles and Bob Dylan debacle, since even Steve Wozniak didn’t seem to understand what this scene was about. The film attempts to condense the origins of the Apple title to the scene of Jobs and Wozniak driving to Homebrew.

The exact point in time for the invention of the Apple title is unknown but what is know is that Jobs probably picked the title due to an earlier positive experience working at an apple farm. One conscious decision behind the title mentioned in the film, and which is accurate to real life, is that Jobs and Wozniak chose the title because Apple came up before Atari (Jobs’ previous employer) in the phone-book.

Jobs (5)Error 4: There was no “Jobs speech” at the Apple II unveiling

The scene where Apple II is officially unveiled is mostly accurate except for the speech which Jobs gives to the excited crowd. Jobs didn’t actually give a speech at the West Coast Computer Faire. This scene was clearly added as a prelude to Jobs developing his skill as an inspirational key-note speaker (the speeches which Jobs became famous for much later in life). It is true, however, that Mike Markkula and company took a risk by reserving the most expensive and prominent table at the Faire in order to show off the Apple II.

Another slightly more subtle error is actually made earlier in the film when Jobs tells the irate Terrell (who receives Apple I boards instead of the full computer) that he’s going to love their “next product”. In this scene, Wozniak acts as if he doesn’t know what Jobs is talking about, but in truth he was already deep in the development of the Apple II by the time Jobs delivered Terrell his shipment of Apple I computers.

Jobs (7)Error 5: Arthur Rock / Michael Scott

Another victim of condensing in the film was former Apple CEO Michael Scott who doesn’t appear at all in the film. As biopics need drama, Arthur Rock (played by J.K. Simmons) is cast as Jobs’ adversary at the company as a stuffy suit opposed to the temperamental and out-of-control Jobs. Rock has Jobs forcibly moved to the Macintosh project and goes around him multiple times during the film.

In truth, Arthur Rock was a more positive figure and one of the earliest investors in the Silicon Valley computer industry. In truth, many of his actions and his animosity towards Jobs are traits that came from Michael Scott, so the character depicted in the film appears to be a fusion of these two. Why Michael Scott doesn’t appear in the film at all is probably because Scott left Apple in 1983 and wouldn’t have been relevant to the film’s events. Understandably, the film-makers wouldn’t have wanted to cast an A-lister to play a character who would have been in-and-out of the film in five minutes.

Regardless, Arthur Rock’s appearance in the film is egregiously inaccurate and should be considered mostly fictional.

Jobs (6)Error 6: Jobs never fired an engineer for saying that “type faces don’t matter”

A minor detail but since it was also in the film’s trailer, I’m sure people are curious. Jobs was obsessed with style and fonts, but he never fired the head engineer of the Lisa-project for saying that type-faces were unimportant. The real reason Jobs fired the head-engineer on the Lisa-project was because he didn’t want to integrate a mouse into the operating system, which Jobs found essential.

Jobs’ other aggressive behaviour at Apple, however, is depicted mostly accurately. He actually did park in the handicapped spots, he didn’t acknowledge Lisa Brennan-Jobs as his own child (a fact which was written about in Time-magazine at the time) and he did indeed cut all his fellow founding Apple members from having shares in the company.

Jobs (8)Error 7: Jobs didn’t go “recruiting” for the Macintosh division

After being sent off to the troubled Macintosh division, Jobs takes it as his mission to recruit the best people at Apple to work for him, carrying off their monitors to his offices in order to make the Mac II. While the actual scene is entirely fictional it is partly based in reality.

Firstly, Jobs didn’t actually hire any new people to the Macintosh division. He did, to some extent, undermine Jef Raskin but not in the same confrontational way as seen in the movie. However, he did move Andy Hertzfeld into Raskin’s office by unhooking his computer while working, which was the probable inspiration for the scene in question.

In addition, the line “What’s a Macintosh?” was considered absurd by some former Apple employees. The film portrays Macintosh as an uninspired section of Apple, while in truth the Macintosh project was widely known about within the company, including Jobs himself.

Jobs (9)Error 8: Steve Wozniak didn’t confront Jobs about leaving

A rather typical cinematic convention of biopics is the dramatic confrontation between two characters about to part ways. After Jobs systematically alienates his fellow Apple founders, Wozniak is the only one who comes to tell him personally that he’s leaving Apple.

The real reason for Wozniak’s departure is also not given in the film, where he simply states that working at Apple isn’t fun anymore. In truth, Wozniak was starting a company on his own and needed to leave Apple because of this. Wozniak also gave out his own shares in the company to other former employees after leaving the company.

Jobs (10)Error 9: Steve’s Coup

Before Jobs gets usurped by John Sculley at a board-meeting, he’s shown planning a coup of the company with his fellow Macintosh crew-men. He also invites Mike Markkula (Dermot Mulroney), who instead of joining them warns Steve that he’s going to be made into a simple figurehead for the company.

This is another negligible error, but the people part of Steve’s unsuccessful coup are the wrong people. Again, this simplification was probably made so that the film-makers didn’t have to hire new actors for just one scene.

Markkula support of Steve during the coup phase was also inaccurate, although he does vote against Jobs (just as he did in real life) thus making him into a traitorous character in the film.

Jobs (11)Error 10: Steve Jobs wasn’t “fired” from Apple

Neither is he in the film, but the board-room vote scene is maybe vague enough to lead people to misunderstand the implications that the vote had. Steve had to step down from head of the Macintosh division but remained officially employed at Apple until 1988, which is when he left to form the NeXT Computer Company.

Technically, Jobs could have continued working at Apple on other projects, but eventually left in order to prove himself. As eventually happened (both in real life and the film), Jobs’ success and Apple’s lack of it causes him to come back to the company.

Once again, this time condensing was done for dramatic purposes.