Early Apple Employee Daniel Kottke Likes 'Steve Jobs' Film

Daniel Kottke, Apple employee #12, liked the new Steve Jobs film. In an interview with CNN, Mr. Kottke said, "[the movie portrayal of Steve Jobs] was very much a caricature ... [but] Aaron Sorkin did such a good job."

CNN said specifically that he enjoyed it, and he added, "It took me a few days after seeing the film...I was surprised to see what a dominant character Lisa became. I found that very gratifying to see."

Daniel Kottke with an Apple /// Motherboard on CNN

Daniel Kottke with an Apple /// Motherboard on CNN

From Reed to India to Apple

Daniel Kottke was a buddy of Steve Jobs's at Reed College, and the two made a pilgrimage together to India in 1974. Mr. Kottke was one of those who helped assemble and test circuit boards in the Jobs family garage, and he was eventually hired as employee #12 to be a full time tester.

In the film, there's a scene where Mr. Jobs refers to Mr. Kottke revealing to a writer that Lisa Brennan-Jobs was his daughter. In that scene Mr. Jobs, as portrayed by Michael Fassbender, says "Daniel Kottke kidney punched me."

CNN posted some of the interview in video form, and in it Mr. Kottke explains that he revealed that information because he didn't realize it was supposed to be a secret. The video:


Mr. Kottke is among those who were once close to Steve Jobs who have offered praise for the movie. Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak said he liked the movie, that it captured the spirit of working with Mr. Jobs even though it made up some scenes from whole cloth.

The Grand Chasm

That's proven to be a dividing line for many fans of Steve Jobs, as well as other people close to him. Walt Mossberg, for instance, heavily criticized the movie on Friday. In addition to faulting factual errors like A Song of Ice and Fire fanatic obsessing over changes in Game of Thrones, he had particularly sharp words for the film for not showing Mr. Jobs during his comeback years at Apple. The movie's final act focuses on the 1998 release of the iMac, skipping over those comeback years almost entirely.

I would even say that's where this dividing line lays. Those who were close to Mr. Jobs and have publicly commented about liking the film knew him best during earlier parts of his life. Those who knew him best and worked with him during his last great act at Apple don't think the movie does him justice, even those who hadn't seen it yet.

Apple CEO Time Cook, and vice presidents Eddy Cue and Phil Schiller join Mr. Mossberg in condemning the movie and not showing "the Steve Jobs I knew," as some of them have put it. Long-time Apple board member Bill Campbell offered a similar take.

Mr. Jobs's widow, Laurene Powell-Jobs, reportedly tried to have the film canned before it was made, and on Friday she tweeted a thanks to Walt Mossberg, "for caring about the difference between fact and fiction."

It says something to me that some of the people portrayed in the movie said they liked the film, while those who worked with Mr. Jobs late in his life—a period not covered by the movie—say it falls short.

Other Ways

It could be argued that screenwriter Aaron Sorkin should have covered that period, which was, after all, the greatest and most successful part of Mr. Jobs's life. I won't yet make that argument because I haven't seen the film.

And it's not like I don't have sympathy for that inner circle of people who feel like their Steve Jobs isn't being shown to the world. The thing is that their Steve Jobs isn't the only Steve Jobs. He had a life, a career, family, and friends before his amazing comeback at Apple, and seeing that version of the man is just as relevant, interesting, and appropriate as seeing the rest of him.

Steve Jobs clearly fascinates many of us, and lots of people feel like they have a special closeness or kinship with him because his products were so important to us. There will be other films. I bet some day there will even be a film known as "the missing fourth act," in reference to the three acts in Aaron Sorkin's film.

And guess what? That film isn't going to please everyone either.

If you've seen the film, let me know what you think in the comments.