Local News

Triangle men remember Jobs as boss, gift-giver

Posted October 6, 2011 6:37 p.m. EDT
Updated October 7, 2011 5:53 a.m. EDT

— 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.

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.