Steve Jobs cried when he read Time’s 1982 Man of the Year

October 24, 2011, 12:00 PM UTC

He thought his face was going to be on the magazine’s cover, not a computer

Copyright: Time Inc.

“As 1982 drew to a close,” Walter Isaacson writes in
Steve Jobs
, the definitive biography published Monday, “Jobs came to believe that he was going to be Time‘s Man of the Year.”

I read this passage of Isaacson’s book with particular interest, since both he (as a junior editor) and I (on a writer’s trial) were working at the magazine at the time.

The word in the hallways in December 1982 was that Ray Cave, Time’s managing editor, was waiting until the last minute to choose between Jobs and the magazine’s first “Machine of the Year.”

That rumor turned out to be a subterfuge. “We never considered Jobs,” Cave told Isaacson.

But nobody told Steve Jobs, who had given Michael Moritz, then a correspondent in Time‘s San Francisco bureau, extraordinary access to Apple’s (AAPL) inner workings.

“They FedExed me the magazine,” Jobs says in the book, “and I remember opening the package, thoroughly expecting to see my mug on the cover, and it was this computer sculpture thing. I thought “Huh?” And then I read the article [about him], and it was so awful that I actually cried.”

Jobs believed he had been betrayed by Moritz (“he was jealous and … wrote this terrible hatchet job. So the editors in New York get this story and say, ‘We can’t make this guy Man of the Year.'”)

Moritz, for his part, felt he had been betrayed by Jay Cocks, the writer who turned Moritz’ rich reporting from Cupertino into a sprightly — but rather cruel — 2,600-word story.

“It was hard to say who was more incensed, Jobs or me,” Moritz wrote many years later in 
Return to The Little Kingdom
. “Steve rightly took umbrage over his portrayal and what he saw as a grotesque betrayal of confidences, while I was equally distraught by the way material I had arduously gathered was siphoned, filtered, and poisoned with gossipy benzene by an editor in New York whose regular task was to chronicle the wayward world of rock-and-roll music.”

Moritz left the magazine as soon as he could and went on to become a partner at the venture firm Sequoia Capital, where helped launch, among other companies, Google (GOOG), Yahoo (YHOO), PayPal and YouTube.

Jay Cocks became a Hollywood screenwriter (The Age of Innocence, Strange Days, Gangs of New York and De-Lovely and a uncredited rewrite of Titanic.)

Jobs went on to appear on the cover of countless other magazines, including Time’s. But he also learned what he told Isaacson was “a good lesson. It taught me never to get too excited about things like that, since the media is a circus anyway.”

The Updated Book of Jobs
, as reported by Moritz and written by Cocks, is available in Time‘s archives. The story that ended up on the cover, The Machine Moves In, was written by the late Otto Friedrich on a 15-year-old Royal 440 typewriter.

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