The “iGenius” Of Steve Jobs: “Mythbusters” On The Making Of A Documentary Tribute

They only saw the script a few days before the show airs, yet this Sunday Mythbusters Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman will guide viewers on a Discovery Channel special devoted to Steve Jobs. “Corporations should take note,” Hyneman tells us, “to follow their vision and not have it watered down and flattened by committees.”

The “iGenius” Of Steve Jobs: “Mythbusters” On The Making Of A Documentary Tribute
Rusty Clark

You’d think the guys who wrangled President Obama for their show would have at least crossed paths with Steve Jobs. Or that the folks who try to repair a bear-ravaged plane with only duct tape could make anything happen (hello time machine!).


Alas, no. But this Sunday, Mythbusters Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman do get to help the Discovery Channel honor his memory by hosting a one-hour tribute, iGenius: How Steve Jobs Changed the World, premiering Oct. 16 at 8pm ET/ PT. On the show, Savage and Hyneman guide viewers through archival footage and commentary from such luminaries as NBC News’ Tom Brokaw, theoretical physicist Michio Kaku, and Stevie Wonder, about their encounters with the Apple co-founder and CEO, and how his technology impacted their lives.

“We’re both so honored to be doing this, although sad about the circumstances that lead to its coming about. The world is a little worse for it,” says Hyneman. “I was surprised by amount of adulation for Jobs.  He’s acquired the status of deity in the [tech] community.”

Discovery chose Savage and Hyneman as hosts because they share Jobs’s spirit of critical thinking, innovation, and curiosity. After his passing on Oct. 5 from pancreatic cancer and respiratory arrest, Discovery ramped up plans for the program. Savage and Hyneman joined the project last week and only saw the script a few days before the show airs. They filmed their bits over six hours yesterday morning at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA.

“We had to leave San Francisco just before 5 am. When the museum opened at 10, we started getting an impromptu audience,” says Savage. “The production is moving very fast. Several teams of editors are working to deliver the documentary on Saturday.”

The Mythbusters say that the documentary addresses Jobs’s legendary doggedness, and sends a message about the power of a singular vision, as compared to one compromised by market research and consensus.

“He was uncompromising by every account and could be taciturn and difficult,” says Savage. “His ability to stick to his vision, and not rely on outside product testing–it can be done, but it takes passion and obsession. What stood out for me was his  [2005] Stanford commencement speech, when he referred to the fear of death changing what he found important, and the Buddhist ideal of keeping a child’s mind.”


Adds Hyneman: “Corporations should take note, to follow their vision and not have it watered down and flattened by committees.”

The pair is known for their devotion to Apple products. Savage is a rabid Mac enthusiast–so much so that he landed on a 2009 cover of Mac Life. A decade earlier, he even found a mold of Bill Gates’s head in a San Francisco Art Museum dumpster, and, during the height of the Microsoft-Apple rivalry, thought about sending Jobs Bill Gates’s head on a platter. “I never got around to doing it. I could kick myself now,” Savage laments. “I still have the mold.”

While they never actually met Jobs in person, they managed a creative meeting of the minds. During a 2008 appearance for NVIDIA, they crafted the world’s largest paintball gun, which painted a version of the Mona Lisa in 80 milliseconds to illustrate the difference between single and parallel processing. 

“It took several months to build and loading it with a single shot took five hours,” says Savage. “The guy who built the machine ran into Steve Jobs, who told him he really liked the paintball gun. So we have the pleasure of having had our work complimented by the man himself.”

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About the author

Susan Karlin is an award-winning journalist in Los Angeles, covering the nexus of science, technology, and arts, with a fondness for sci-fi and comics. She's a regular contributor to Fast Company, NPR, and IEEE Spectrum, and has written for Newsweek, Forbes, Wired, Scientific American, Discover, NY and London Times, and BBC Radio.