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1976 letter calls 21-year-old Steve Jobs a hard bargaining, secretive 'joker'

Before he became one of the most recognizable people in the world, a 21-year-old Steve Jobs was met with skepticism in Silicon Valley when he was starting Apple.

In a handwritten note, Mike Rose, who ran an advertising agency in Los Altos, Calif., in 1976, expressed concern over Jobs and his partner, Steve Wozniak, who he felt were "flakey" after having met them. The note, brought to light this week by Bloomberg, was written to his business partner. In the letter, Rose referred to Jobs as a "joker."

Then an unknown, Jobs still displayed some of the same characteristics that would eventually become known around the world. Jobs's secretive nature was noted by Rose, who noted that Jobs "wouldn't trust" him.

Jobs met with Rose because he needed someone to print the manual for the Apple I computer, the first product he and Wozniak had created. But Jobs also apparently demonstrated his hard bargaining tactics, as Rose remarked that Jobs "wants it for nothing."

"The note is wonderful in part because it reveals how much Silicon Valley has changed in 35 years," wrote author Leslie Berlin. "In 1976, two guys trying to launch a tech company from a garage in the heart of Silicon Valley were flakes. Today, someone in Rose's position might well ask for a piece of the action — payment in the form of a small bit of stock, perhaps?"

Jobs didn't end up working with Rose, rejecting his bid for being too high. Instead, the Apple I manual was produced by a typesetter.

A year ago, an Apple I computer in "superb" condition was put up for auction in London. It ended up being sold for $174,000. When it was released in 1976, the Apple I sold for $666.66, and only 200 of them were made. Only 30 to 50 units are believed to still exist.