NYT: The Steve Jobs Archive is not an 'archive.' But...

"The result, for now, is more of a tribute website than an archive."

From Tripp Mickle's "Who Gets the Last Word on Steve Jobs? He Might." in Saturday's New York Times:

Last month, Ms. Powell Jobs introduced the Steve Jobs Archive. It aspires to reinvent the personal archive much as Mr. Jobs, in his years running Apple, remade music with the iPod and communication with the iPhone...

The result, for now, is more of a tribute website than an archive. More than a dozen archivists and scholars who spoke to The New York Times questioned even calling it an archive. It has worried historians who fear it may inspire other wealthy and influential figures to curate the historical record about them just as ordinary people curate their lives on Instagram.

“One of the things that excites me about archives is the warts and all,” said Courtney Chartier, an archivist at Columbia University who has worked on Martin Luther King Jr.’s archive and the papers of Tony Kushner, the playwright. “People are complicated, and that’s something we shouldn’t shy away from.”

My take: I prefer my archives -- like I prefer my history -- "warts and all." And the Steve Jobs Archive website today is like a Wikipedia stub, waiting to be filled in. That said, the "archive" are worth a visit, if only for a never-before-made-public interview with Michael Moritz and the email Jobs sent himself a year before his death:

From:Steve Jobs, sjobs@apple.com
To:Steve Jobs, sjobs@apple.com
Date:Thursday, September 2, 2010 at 11:08PM

I grow little of the food I eat, and of the little I do grow I did not breed or perfect the seeds.

I do not make any of my own clothing.

I speak a language I did not invent or refine.

I did not discover the mathematics I use.

I am protected by freedoms and laws I did not conceive of or legislate, and do not enforce or adjudicate.

I am moved by music I did not create myself.

When I needed medical attention, I was helpless to help myself survive.

I did not invent the transistor, the microprocessor, object oriented programming, or most of the technology I work with.

I love and admire my species, living and dead, and am totally dependent on them for my life and well being.

Sent from my iPad

This line -- "When I needed medical attention, I was helpless to help myself survive." -- breaks my heart.


  1. Robert Stack said:
    This one: “I love and admire my species, living and dead, and am totally dependent on them for my life and well being.”

    …is one that really illustrates the Humility that Steve learned over the course of his life. As well as a deep and profound understanding that we’re all in this together folks.

    October 22, 2022
  2. Jerry Doyle said:
    “…. People are complicated, and that’s something we shouldn’t shy away from.” Tony Kushner.

    I embrace the message of Tony Kushner. From the point I accepted Christ as a kid through young adulthood attempting to emulate respected role models I compared myself with them only to acknowledge my blatant shortcomings.

    As a kid I tried following in the footsteps of Jesus only to find myself entangled in a spiritual battle wanting to do what was right but too often doing what was wrong until I understood acutely the message of Paul in Romans 7:14-25.

    As I entered the world of work and adulthood I scoured for role models and heroes to guide me, only to discover eventually that they were not who I thought they were initially.

    And then I reached a level of peacefulness in later life where I understood and accepted we are not perfect, no matter how hard we try. This revelation gave me higher levels of tolerance, acceptance, along with forgiveness.

    It frustrates me to see folk attempting to obscure, to dim or even conceal the shortcomings of Steve Jobs after his passing. If one allowed himself to gulp all the platitudes unleashed by Jobs’ close associates, then one would think Jobs truly was a Saint deserving through his benevolence, behavior and conscientious personal connections an exalted place in heaven and an inherent right to public veneration or adulation.

    Steve Jobs truly was a visionary. He also was a man who through life had shortcomings and weaknesses. I never doubted Lisa Brennan’s story describing her relationship with her Dad or the biography by Walter Isaacson, a truly respected and admired American author, journalist, and professor whom Steve Jobs sought (even pleaded) to write his life’s account even though reputable folk, such as Tim Cook and Laurene Powell Jobs, attempted later to repudiate its message.

    Young people need to know that we all are imperfect so they better can measure their own self-worth, self-esteem, self-dignity based not on where they once were, but where they work diligently each day to be better than the day before. To me, this is where Steve Jobs consummated his legacy along with his achievements. We (his many fans) need to know that fact.

    October 22, 2022
  3. David Emery said:
    Every “archive” is curated. And historians are free to set up alternatives. This concern about “celebrities managing their reputation” is way over-stated, it’s just a simple fact of human existence. (And my personal sense is that some people would argue for “the guardians” to be set up over such archives to ‘save us from ourselves,’ to which I respond, “Who guards the guardians?”)

    October 22, 2022
    • Gregg Thurman said:
      No, none, nada autobiography, biography or archive is an accurate depiction of a person. All are written from different (biased?) points of view, exaggerating some aspects, or downplaying others, of a life.

      Why Mickle is surprised by this is a mystery to me.

      October 22, 2022
      • Fred Stein said:
        I upvoted Gregg, but Mickle’s shallowness is no surprise.;)

        And right on David, historians as well as bloggers, etc. tell their stories about Steve Jobs, often imposing their own biases. I recall a friend, starting his App business at the start of this phenomena, saying he picked Android because Jobs’ insistence on control and curation doomed the iPhone to marginality. Yes, Jobs was still alive at that time.

        October 22, 2022
        • Bart Yee said:
          @Fred Interesting story about your friend. So how did his app business do focusing on Android? Did he do well at first when Android ran ahead on numbers and did he reconsider when Apple began to pull ahead on user spend and Apple’s growth on App Store and developer revenues?

          Have you ever asked him what his download vs revenue generation is like vis a vis Android vs IOS now and for the past 5 years? Genuinely interested in knowing.

          October 22, 2022
  4. It’s a curated exhibit, among many Jobs resources. It’s not a hagiography. Mickle didn’t even link to it, that I could find. Poor presentation was all Tripp’s.
    FYI: Just had a bionic total shoulder replacement so I’ll be a lurker here until the meds wear off, wouldn’t want to come across as ‘belligerent.’

    October 22, 2022
    • Bart Yee said:
      Thomas, Good luck with your recovery and shoulder rehab. Hopefully you’ll be back soon.

      October 22, 2022

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