Early Apple Employee Daniel Kottke Likes ‘Steve Jobs’ Film

| Editorial

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.

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All I can say is be prepared for a second movie, Steve Jobs 2.0.


I agree with JonGI, it certainly seems open to a sequel. I think the movie is what both sides are saying, for some, they don’t want to see him in that light, for others, they feel that is part of who Steve Jobs was. I hope there is a second movie.



At the risk of coming across as…how shall I put this, a wet blanket, I’ll simply comment that all human personalities are complex, and none, particularly those of truly complicated and accomplished people, can be rendered in comprehensive, factual fidelity in a single portrait, whether in print, on screen, or on canvas. This is because the medium itself has limitations, particularly when that medium is another mind.

Just as human relationships between individuals are unique and revolve around mutual interests that might not be shared between one of those same individuals and another party (meaning that the same individual will have very different relationships with different people - no surprises there), the mind of an artist will likewise focus on specific elements and events that highlight those elements that they find interesting or important to the portrait they wish to paint. It should not, indeed one can even argue, in cannot be surprising then that, whatever the portrait, it will never capture the full picture, or depict the most important features, to everyone’s liking. No single portrayal ever will.

That said, there is another piece to this question about biographies, and that is in their inherent limitations in explaining the work and accomplishments of any individual for the simple reason that, however faithfully rendered, they are limited in describing our (society’s) response to that individual, which is as rich and diverse as humanity itself. It is that element, our response to that individual, our individual relationship however intimate or remote that defines the universe of our concept of that person, that is missing from the portrait. The artist can never speak for us.

Finally, for most of us, what really defines our relationship with a noted individual, and hence our feelings about them, is their work and the effect that this has had on our life, which has little direct relationship with the daily minutiae, personal habits and interests, personal relationships, weaknesses and frailties of that individual, which is often the focus of these biographical portraits.

I have no intention of going to the cinema to see this film, any more than I did the previous one (I caught the Kutcher Jobs movie on a long haul flight), but will wait for it to come out on iTunes, if then. I find my life is too short, and my time too limited, to spend peering into the lives of others in general, let alone embroil myself in disputations about the accuracy of their life’s portrayal. I tend to rely on academic historians to go back and dispassionately and without prejudice, uncover the facts in time, if for any reason I really need to know about that person. (If one had to do a dissertation on Gandhi, would one really base that on the Kingsley movie, as good as it was?). This is not to say that an individual’s life cannot be inspirational; that is one of the primary reasons for reading a biography, but my relationship with SJ remains alive and active in my continued interaction with his company and their products.

And that, for me, is the most personally relevant portrait.

Janice Deal

I was put off by the beginning of the film.  Time wasted and a bit too Sorkinny.  But once that was out of the way, it began to reveal the struggle he faced as a designer/artist, as a father, as a human being.  I too thought a lot was missing, but unless you are making something like “The Last Emperor,” you can only cover so much in 2 hours.  It was moving.  I don’t get choked up in movies but this one did it for me.  When he pulled the black scarf off the iMac and when he showed Lisa the drawing she did on his computer that day.  I still have my daughter’s drawings done on our Apple II.  That’s why you can’t help but love him.  He connected with even the least of us.

Lee Dronick

Can we turn off the autoplay video?


No autoplay here, so I think it can be turned off smile

I can well imagine that there are 2 Steve Jobs. An early one that was driven and single-minded and an a later one with the sharp edges worn down a little. We all grow and change.

Also, I feel badly for Ms. Powell. I don’t think she’ll change anyones mind and to me, she comes off as bitter. If people want to believe that Mr. Jobs was a black and white character will never believe otherwise and those that understand the complexity of human personality will never believe a Pollyanna tale.

I’m sure Mary Todd was not a fan of Daniel Day-Lewis’ Lincoln smile

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