According to this 1976 referral letter, ‘flaky’ Steve Jobs did not come across well on the phone

Steve Jobs may have been one of the greatest minds of our time, but he didn’t come across that way when he was launching the Apple 1 computer back in the mid-70s. According to letters written by Mike Rose in 1976, a Silicon Valley advertising executive, after speaking with Jobs on the phone he found the project they were working on to be “flakey” and even called him a “joker.”

Steve Jobs may have been one of the greatest minds of our time, but he didn’t come across that way when he was launching the Apple 1 computer back in the mid-70s.

According to letters written by Mike Rose in 1976, a Silicon Valley advertising executive, after speaking with Jobs on the phone he found the project they were working on to be “flaky” and even called him a “joker.”

Jobs had reached out to Rose because he needed  a company to print the instruction manual for the Apple I computer he had just built with Steve Wozniak.

Clearly his communication skills improved over the years but at this time Rose was not impressed with what he heard on the phone. He wrote a note to his business partner with the following text:

“Bob — This joker (attached) is going to be calling you. Somebody at Regis McKenna recommended us (you). They are 2 guys — they build kits — operate out of a garage — want our catalog sheets. Wants it for nothing. Wouldn’t trust me. Told him we’d like to see what they’ve got — we’d estimate — then decide.

Sounds flakey. Watch it!

Mike”

Little did he know those two guys had just built a game changing machine. The letter is now preserved in the Department of Special Collections at Stanford University.

It clearly was a different time as two guys building a piece of technology in a garage today would sound like a hot startup but back then it was atypical and therefore seen as risky by much of Silicon Valley.

Plus an innovative CEO and founder who isn’t a fabulous communicator is the status quo with many startups these days. Clearly he needed some phone call etiquette training.

Check out a copy of the original letter below.

Meredith Lepore|is the Deputy Editor of Ladders and can be reached at mlepore@theladders.com.