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Triangle men remember Jobs as boss, gift-giver

Posted October 6, 2011
Updated October 7, 2011

— Millions of people are mourning the death of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, who died Wednesday. For two Triangle men, Jobs was more than a digital genius, he was a boss and a gift-giver.

From 1981 to 1986, Ron Givens was Apple's director of quality, his office just two doors down from the company's founder.

“People were afraid of him. I was 20 years his senior, so I wasn’t afraid of him,” Givens said. “We’d say, ‘What a stupid idea that is.’ Then, all of a sudden, we’d realize that it wasn’t stupid. It was brilliant.”

Givens says Jobs lived and breathed his job and held high expectations for his staff. Givens recalled one day when a secretary was late, and Jobs demanded to know why.

“(She was a) single mom, good secretary,” Givens said. “She said, ‘My car wouldn’t start.’ So, that afternoon, (Jobs) walks into her office, throws a set of keys to a brand new Jaguar and says, ‘Here, don’t be late anymore.’ He was always doing things like that, surprising people.”

Givens now lives in Cary. At 78, he has an extensive Apple gadget collection and an apple made of Steuben glass, a surprise gift from Jobs worth $1,000.

“He was just one hell of a motivator. (He) just could motivate you out of your socks,” Givens said with a laugh.

Fred Brooks, a computer science professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, also knew Jobs, although briefly.

Jobs was boss, gift-giver to Triangle men Jobs was boss, gift-giver to Triangle men

He met Jobs in Washington, D.C. in 1985 when both men were getting a National Medal of Technology – Jobs for his work on the Apple II and Brooks for his work at IBM.

Brooks says he chatted with the fiercely private Jobs and found him very personable and self-confident. Brooks then told him about the problems he was having with the Apple III. Jobs later sent Brooks a Macintosh, keyboard and mouse.

Brooks says he has been a Mac fan ever since and that the computer Jobs sent him still works. He pulls it out occasionally to show his computer science classes how far technology has come.

“(Jobs) didn’t ask what a product should be. He told people what a product should be based on his own imagination of what people would like,” Brooks said.

9 Comments

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  • maz6123 Oct 7, 4:28 p.m.

    The only limits appeared to be the limits of his imagination. His creativity and vision will be sorely missed by the world. My sympathies to his family and loved ones. RIP - Steve Jobs.

  • InvolvedCitizen Oct 7, 12:46 p.m.

    Very cool.

  • tiblet Oct 7, 12:01 p.m.

    Just for the record...I care.

  • WritNEWlaws Oct 7, 11:26 a.m.

    WOW!!! A Jaguar for being late! My kind of boss! What compassion he showed towards people. There are few and far between like him.... most bosses today get a thrill out of putting you down. He is a true inspiration on pushing the envelope far and above! Will be truly missed. RIP

  • umop apisdn Oct 7, 10:50 a.m.

    "There are a lot more ex and current Apple people in the area. It would be great to hear more stories.."

    I agree, I'm not an Apple fan but I do think this story is interesting. Like him or not Jobs made a huge impact on computing and how the world does business. I would be interested in hearing others stories.

  • davido Oct 7, 10:12 a.m.

    There are a lot more ex and current Apple people in the area. It would be great to hear more stories..

  • oceancandle Oct 7, 9:44 a.m.

    Some people are so negative aren't they, Starling? BPP, what have you contributed to make the world a better place? Steve Jobs dedicated his life to making things better. If it weren't for people like him who could think out of the box and use their imaginations so extremely well we'd still be spending long hours in the library hoping to find what we're looking for. We'd still be riding around looking for a change machine and a phone on the corner to drop our quarters into and hope we had enough change to finish our call. But because of men like him we have it all at the touch of a button everywhere we go now.

  • Starling Oct 7, 8:20 a.m.

    Black Pants Python, who cares that you don't care.

  • Vita Brevis Ars Longa Oct 6, 7:58 p.m.

    WHo cares.