Former Steve Jobs employer once passed on Apple shares

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SALT LAKE CITY -- As millions of people around the country reflect upon the life of Steve Jobs and his recent passing, one former Utahn discusses the relationship he had with Jobs as his former employer.

Entrepreneur and Utah native Nolan Bushnell spoke to KSL about two months ago about hiring Jobs several years ago, saying he was a genius even as a young man. When Bushnell was early in his career as a computer engineer and entrepreneur he hired both Jobs and Steve Wozniak.

"Steve worked for me and so did Waz," Bushnell said. "They did breakout for me. Steve was being Steve -- brilliant, intense, active."

Bushnell, too, has had great success in his life. The Utah native founded Atari, creating the game Pong, and starting the restaurant franchise Chucky Cheese.

I was planning to do Atari at the same time and I thought that it would be a conflict of interest.

–Nolan Bushnell

"I've actually thought that I made one of the biggest mistakes of my life," Bushnell said. "I could have owned a third of Apple computers for $50,000."

Jobs, a budding entrepreneur himself, came to Bushnell with a business proposition. He was starting a new company and needed an investor -- that company was Apple. And although Bushnell had the money and believed in Jobs' vision, he turned the opportunity down.

Reflecting on missed opportunities, Bushnell shared the genius behind Jobs.

"I was planning to do Atari at the same time and I thought that it would be a conflict of interest," Bushnell said.

Of course he had no way of knowing back then his former employee would go on to create a company that would revolutionize computer technology. But that $50,000 investment would have been likely worth several hundred millions today. However, Bushnell has never looked back, wishing the best for his former employee all along.

But as Apple continues to move forward, with innovations in computer technology, one department at the University of Utah embraces the vision of Jobs.

One of the first things noticed at the Scientific Computing and Imaging Institute at the University of Utah is the vast array of Apple products.

"One of the things we do is use a lot of graphics and visualization techniques to better understand our world," said Director Dr. Chris Johnson.

One program the institute is working on is a 3D X-ray image of a hand, which runs on the Apple iPhone and iPad.

"It has enough computing power that I can actually compute and visualize this 3D X-ray image of the hand on the iPhone," Dr. Johnson said.

A decade ago, Dr. Johnson said doing a similar project would take a $22,000 computer. But today, the iPhone has changed the game -- all thanks to Apple and Steve Jobs. Now, there are classes at the university to design apps because the little phone packs a big chip.

"As a computer scientist, (Jobs) affected our lives in many ways," Dr. Johnson said.

In fact, when you come to the institute, you'll find Apple products everywhere, including the reception area where an old iMac computer rests. In the lobby area, there is another Apple machine with Jobs' picture front and center.

"In a sense, it's the end of an era with Steve passing away yesterday," Dr. Johnson said.

And outside the Gateway Apple store, Apple lovers left flowers and letters to Jobs, thanking him for his quality products. One person even took a bite out of an apple and left it to represent the company's logo.

"He was suffering. He had cancer, so at least he's not suffering anymore," said Salt Lake City resident Alexis Davidson.

But Jobs' legacy lives on.


Written by Alex Cabrero and Jennifer Stagg.


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