How Steve Jobs' swimming failure became unlikely inspiration | Cult of Mac

How Steve Jobs’ swimming failure became unlikely inspiration


Steve King never would've guessed that he would be designing products to go with computers created by an old swim club teammate, Steve Jobs.
Steve King never would've guessed that he would be designing products to go with computers created by an old swim club teammate, Steve Jobs.
Photo: PRISM

Cult of Mac 2.0 bug Two people couldn’t have been further apart as they sat close to each other on carpool rides to swim meets. Steve King was a jock. The other kid was a geek.

But the geek did something one day that King would never forget. King watched as his teammate made a horrific turn at the wall in the backstroke and popped up in a neighboring lane.

Steve Jobs was immediately disqualified. He got back in his lane and finished the race.

Steve Jobs: destined to persevere

“There was no point in finishing the race,” King remembered of his Mountain View Dolphins teammate. “He was far behind the other swimmers. But he refused to quit. If I was going back in time with knowledge of the future, then I would probably ask him if he had any sense that he was destined for great things.”

King wonders what part Jobs’ finish in that race played in his own destiny. King heads a design company that makes elegant accessories for Apple, the very computer company Jobs and another carpool Dolphins teammate, Steve Wozniak, founded.

King’s design firm, PRISM, began a Kickstarter campaign Tuesday for its latest product, the Float Shelf. It’s a simple yet perfectly balanced shelf that fits on the base behind an iMac to store everything from books and extra hard drives to decorative desk objects.

Float shelf
The Float Shelf fits on the base of the iMac and can hold quite a few objects.
Photo: PRISM

Like most of PRISM’s accessories, the Float Shelf is made from aluminum with an anodized finish that will integrate with the housing on Apple computers. The shelf covers the width of the monitor. It requires no bolts or brackets; a centered cut-out slips easily down an iMac’s tapered base until it locks in.

An early bird pledge of $75 will buy a Float Shelf for the 21.5-inch iMac. The shelf for a 27-inch monitor starts at $85.

Float Shelf
Float Shelf can hold peripheral devices and clear your desk for other things.
Photo: PRISM

King remembers little about Jobs and Wozniak, mostly because of an age difference and the pursuit of other interests throughout their youth and high school. King said he was closer to Jobs’ sister, Patty, who, King remembers, stood next to him as they watched the backstroke event.

Jobs was competitive, but not necessarily a good sport when he lost, according to Michale Moritz’s book, Return to the Little Kingdom: How Apple and Steve Jobs changed the World.

Wozniak’s brother, Mark, said Jobs was taunted by some teammates, who sometimes snapped wet towels at him. “He was pretty much a crybaby,” Mark Wozniak says in Moritz’s book. “He’d lose a race and go off and cry. He’d didn’t quite fit in with everyone else. He wasn’t one of the guys.”

King remembers snapping his share of wet towels, but said he wasn’t part of the group that picked on Jobs. But he does recall how awkward Jobs interactions were with some of his peers.

Absorbing Apple’s aesthetic

At Homestead High School in Cupertino, King pursued art but again, his group of friends and the computer kids, which Jobs and Wozniak were a part of, never mixed.

It was at Yale, where King graduated with degrees in art/design and environmental studies when he first became interested in computers. During that time, Jobs and Wozniak began making news with their new computer company so King began closely following the progress of his former teammates.

“I definitely admired them from afar and I think from that, I absorbed the Apple aesthetic,” King said. “I don’t think I had any special insights. I followed their careers and was always an Apple enthusiast.”

What Jobs and Wozniak went on to do is legendary. King, himself, has also enjoyed a remarkable career, designing green products for the Monterey Bay Aquarium, San Diego Zoo, and the Smithsonian.

Long interested in the conservation of whales, King led whale watching trips in Baja, Mexico for 15 years, produced a day-long event, California Celebrates the Whale for California Gov. Jerry Brown, and was a producer on a documentary about blue whales that won an Emmy.

The first launch of his tech accessories company was a hand stylus that works with most touch-screen devices. PRISM has also designed a base and charger as well as a magnetic leather sheath for the Apple Pencil that attached to the cover of the iPad Pro, two different headphone stands, and a riser for MacBooks.

King sometimes wonders what would have happened had he been in the same social circle as Jobs and Wozniak, but is content with the path he chose.

“To this day, I feel a kinship,” King said. “When (Jobs) was on stage, I always felt like he represented a part of me.”

Update: Float Shelf surpassed its Kickstarter funding goal after four days, so PRISM has since made the accessory available for all earlier iMacs and Apple Thunderbolt and Cinema displays. Check here for sizes and prices.


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