Steve Jobs was able to inspire Apple engineers to make seemingly impossible tasks possible through his sheer strength of will, Apple's former chief technology officer has said.

Avie Tevanian, who left the company in 2006, was speaking on the Steve Jobs - Billion Dollar Hippy programme shown on BBC 2 on Wednesday evening. The programme also featured interviews with Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and creator of the World Wide Web Sir Tim Berners-Lee.

According to Tevanian, Jobs had a "reality distortion field" that led him to challenge conventional ideas about the boundary of possibilities. 

"He was the kind of person that could convince himself of things that weren't necessarily true or necessarily easy, maybe easy is the better way to think of it. That always worked with him for designing products, where he could go to people and ask them to do something that they thought was impossible," he said.

"But he would keep asking and say: 'You know, it's impossible but I still want you to try' - and because of his sheer will, they would actually make it happen, or make something like it happen."

However, this characteristic could also be manifested in sheer bloody-mindedness, even in the face of serious illness. Jobs spent several years pursuing alternative treatments when first diagnosed with cancer, something he later expressed regret over.

"Many of us around him, myself included, his wife and other people were saying: 'Steve, you know, maybe you should just have some surgery here and get it over with," said Tevenian.

Walter Isaacson, Jobs' biographer, had previously detailed Jobs reaction to his cancer diagnosis. 

"He tries to treat it with diet. He goes to spiritualists. He goes to various ways of doing it macrobiotically and he doesn't get an operation. I think that he kind of felt that if you ignore something, if you don't want something to exist, you can have magical thinking," Isaacson said in an interview on the eve of the launch of his book.

The programme is available on the iPlayer for UK citizens for the next six days. You can also see clips of the programme on the BBC website.