Steve Jobs Called a Male Engineer “Margaret” Because He Was also Named Steve

Tidbits from inside Steve Jobs’ Apple from a former software engineer

You’ll find just as much praise as you will find hate about Steve Jobs, but that’s just one of the facts of life. The guy had a complex personality and he was also on a mission to change the world, with no time to spare.

Former Apple engineer Francisco Tolmasky spoke to the NY Times recently and he agreed to an interview for the paper’s Bits blog, where he reveals some interesting stuff about the time he got hired at 1 Infinite Loop to work on the Safari browser for the iPhone.

He relays a lot of things about Steve Jobs’ reported mercurial personality, and he’s not shy to mention some of the CEO’s worst moments. Take for instance this tidbit about Jobs changing a staffer’s name simply because that staffer was also named Steve and it would confuse people in meetings.

“At some point Steve Jobs got really frustrated with this and said ‘Guess what, you’re Margaret from now on’,” Mr. Tolmasky said. “From there on, members of the team would always address the designer Steve as Margaret,” the report adds.

While it’s certainly a bit amusing to picture this conversation taking place, one would hope it was met with laughter, not embarrassment, by Steve the staffer. As for Jobs, everyone knows he was so focused on his goals that he hardly ever cared about people’s feelings.

Tolmasky had experience with this side of Apple’s co-founder first-hand. He relays to the interviewers, “Steve was really adamant, where he said, ‘This needs to be like magic. Go back, this isn’t magical enough!‘ I remember being very frustrated. This was, like, an impossible task,” he said, recalling the time he was tasked with building Mobile Safari, which he eventually produced.

Jobs did the same with another employee who was tasked with building a Maps app for the iPhone just weeks prior to the phone’s unveiling, simply because the Apple boss hadn’t thought of it earlier. Talk about self-importance.

Other aspects relayed by Tolmasky deal with the extreme secrecy surrounding the iPhone project and how Jobs kept the software and hardware teams separated to avoid leaks. To put a great-working keyboard on the iPhone OS, Jobs decided to hold a contest of sorts and see who can come up with the best design.

Engineers participating in the contest worked on nothing but keyboard prototypes for an entire week. Tolmasky’s team won the contest, and the lucky engineer who made the best version received a full-time job that consisted of working on the iPhone keyboard exclusively.

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