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Insanely Great: The Life and Times of Macintosh, the Computer that Changed Everything

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  1,147 ratings  ·  48 reviews
The creation of the Mac in 1984 catapulted America into the digital millennium, captured a fanatic cult audience, and transformed the computer industry into an unprecedented mix of technology, economics, and show business. Now veteran technology writer and Newsweek senior editor Steven Levy zooms in on the great machine and the fortunes of the unique company responsible ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published June 1st 2000 by Penguin Books (first published July 5th 1993)
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Average rating 3.96  · 
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Nov 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I fell under the spell of Steve Jobs after finishing Walter Isaacson's biography of him, and fortunately I'm slowly stepping out of the glow of the "reality distortion field." What hasn't changed since my reading of Isaacson's biography however, is an admiration and fascination with the personal computer movement and the way it crafted a rhetoric of computers as a means of changing the world. As such I've been looking for books which explore the Apple Phenomena and Steven Levys book does just ...more
Feb 01, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good overview of how the Macintosh came to be and of the people who made it happen.

Steven Levy is a writer who seems to divide opinions. I liked his earlier book Hackers a *lot*, and this book continues with the same style, although this time solely focused on Apple and Macintosh. This time a couple of his stylistic devices rubbed me the wrong way, though he seems to have a real penchant for obscure words with perfectly good common alternatives. This style of writing can come across as
Dec 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Apple Computers had already made its mark before 1984, by pioneering personal computers long before IBM entered the consumer market. In January 1984, it hoped to make a larger one -- to make a dent in history. So it did...just not quite the way its creators intended. Insanely Great chronicles the history and influence of the Macintosh computer, which became the company's chief product before its wildfire consumer products of the 2000s. Originally written in Apple's lost years when it hemorrhaged ...more
This book is still an entertaining and informative listen (or read) even with the passage of a quarter century, which in tech years is a very, very long time. I enjoyed the trip down memory lane, as much of what's covered here marks a sort of personal timeline and I assume many others who are now in their own fifth decade will have the same reaction. The Mac appeared when I was in college, and it was the first computer I worked on. Appreciated the updated chapters at the end of the Audio book, ...more
Jun 18, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2014, kindle
The ebook is a reissue of an older book, originally published in 1994. The author has added a couple of appendices, one of which is his essay, "In Memory of Steve Jobs, 1955 - 2011," and the other a lengthy interview with Steve Jobs that took place shortly before the Macintosh launch (1984).

I enjoyed this review of the Mac's development, the fervor and frenzy and commitment. I've been a Mac user since 1991, but had forgotten a lot of the details e.g., names of display features, software, etc.,
Tammam Aloudat
Sep 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Reading a new (old) book I picked from Phoenix used bookstore in Amsterdam near my apartment.
The book is called Insanely Grea: the life and times of Macintosh, the computer that changed everything. I am reading now about the incredibly intelligent visionaries of the sixties and seventies who visualized what a computer could be and do. Things that are today part of our everyday vocabulary like desktop, windows, mouse, informations ape and others were leaps of imagination beyond belief.

Then come
Peter O'Kelly
Jan 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
The Kindle edition of the latest edition of the book, which adds a lengthly 1983 Steve Jobs interview transcript, is available, as I type this, for $4.99. I read the original hardcover edition in 1994, but rereading it and the Jobs interview (and an afterword from the 2000 edition) was a fascinating experience.

I'd give the latest Kindle edition 5 stars if it weren't for some glaring typos and an obvious factual error that went uncorrected from the 2000 revision: Levy asserted, in reference to
Phil Simon
Mar 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: business
An excellent look at the rise and challenges of the Macintosh. To me, this book was a bit of a trip down memory lane. I remember some of the very applications that Levy describes. I remember the frustrations of first using a personal computer, but didn't know the backstory behind the development of the Mac. Rife with interesting parables from key players like Atkinson and Woz, this is a really interesting book that ages surprisingly well.
Jan 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audible, business
This was decent, although 20 years old. I like Steven Levy and this was read by him, which made it better. The afterword and other updates to the audiobook after Jobs death as well as a very recent roundtable discussion among some of the key players were nice additions to this edition. It was fun to go back in time to remember how many things we take for granted were really innovative back then.
Mar 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
Even though I've heard this story at least 100 times now, the author was still able to make it interesting and added a couple little tidbits that I hadn't heard before.

I would recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about the creation of the Macintosh without all of the technical jargon.
Ben Galbraith
Oct 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I generally love Steven Levy's work and this is no exception.
Jul 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: work-read
Excellent book. Enjoyed it. (This review was created in July 2011, long after I read the book.)
Øystein Nygård
The history of THE most important computer of all time, by a person very close to the action but also with the distance from it to tell the story with all its aspects. Great book for those looking to get to know the innovations that defines almost all user interfaces that we see today; from windows and mac-computers, to the android and iphone smartphones.
The only thing that I would have wanted was an updated version also including the lines drawn all the way to the UIs of today - that would have
This book is still an entertaining and informative listen (or read) even with the passage of a quarter century, which in tech years is a very, very long time. I enjoyed the trip down memory lane, as much of what's covered here marks a sort of personal timeline and I assume many others who are now in their own fifth decade will have the same reaction. The Mac appeared when I was in college, and it was the first computer I worked on. Appreciated the updated chapters at the end of the Audio book, ...more
Glen Engel-Cox
Nov 21, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I bought my first computer, a Macintosh, in 1984. I had wanted a computer for years, watching friends with envy at their Commodore 64s, Radio Shack Color Computers, and wonderful Apple IIs. When the Macintosh was introduced in 1984, I had to have it. It was the computer built for the rest of us. Never mind that I could have had everything I needed in a computerword processing program, a few gamesfor $1,400 less, as soon as I sat down in front of the Macintosh, my life changed. The Macintosh, and ...more
Aug 25, 2018 rated it liked it
Like almost every operation performed on the Mac, it was much harder to describe than perform.
Levy posits that the Macs success was owed to desktop publishing thanks to a 3rd party developed app called PageMaker that empowered writers to do what they could otherwise never afford to. It would become clear that the toy was a tool.
Jul 02, 2017 rated it it was ok
Not a particularly impressive one of these technological Silicon Valley deep dive profiles, and they're all usually pretty fawning and low information-content. It wasn't unpleasant to read, but I wouldn't really recommend it.
Ignacio Torres Masdeu
I would've loved reading this in the 90s. Nowadays I already know most of it from other more up-to-date sources (Revolution in the Valley by Andy Herzfeld, Dealers of Lightning by Michael A. Hiltzik and What the Dormouse Said by John Markoff), but Levy's writing is the best bar none.
John Hart
A computer history for a fantastical world where Microsoft and Bill Gates didn't exist.
Jan 29, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nowhere near as comprehensive as I expected, and filled with minor errors and inconsistencies. Still, there were a couple of anecdotes that I hadn't heard previously, and it was a pleasant read.
Sep 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: review, ebook, kindle
Dated now, but still a definitive historical record of the early days of Apple. Well written, as Levys work usually is, and eminently readable. Worth reading. ...more
Jul 17, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Having read the more recent Walter Isaacson Jobs biography, this seemed to have quite some overlap.
Mar 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A quick read and thought I had read it but probably only read about it.
Erick Petersen
Sep 26, 2009 rated it liked it
Interesting story behind the creation of the Macintosh computer and the general history of Apple. What was fascinating was learning about the people who designed these computers. Many of them were musicians, poets, artists who happen to be computer engineers as well. I was particularly impressed with the man who initially launched the Mac project for Apple, Jef Raskin, who majored in Philosophy and Engineering, taught computer science classes and conducted the San Francisco Chamber Opera Society ...more
Tim Jin
Dec 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Any Mac aficionado will love this book. I am very aware of Steven Levy's writing. He is one of the best technology chronologist of our time. Even though I am not a Mac User, I really enjoyed listening about how Apple got started. There is a secret hidden gem about Apple and their stories.

This company is like a blockbuster movie, lights, action, and drama. There is no other tech company out there like Apple that keep their consumers wanting more. I don't see multiple books about Intel, but there
Jan 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bio-s-companies
The tale of the original Macintosh is very interesting. This book, as it was written 10 years since the Macintosh entered the marketplace, covers a lot of details that have been skipped in more recent versions of Apple history. Therefore it is an interesting addition to the collection. Levy gives us insight in the struggles and the amazing accomplishments of the team, like overlapping windows. The audiobook version also covers an interview with Bill Atkinson and Joanna Hoffman on being part of ...more
Oct 18, 2009 rated it liked it
This book is provides a great overview of all the personalities, quirkiness, ideas, difficulties, and ultimately, as the title suggests, genius behind the development of the Macintosh computer. The narrative can be slow a bit at times but it's a fun read and one I would definitely recommend for anyone interested in business and/or computers. The divide between the engineers and those focused on the business side in the computer industry is certainly highlighted throughout the book but is by no ...more
Joe White
Mar 10, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Written in 94, the book might appear to be dated to some, but serves as an excellent perspective on the history of technological device development and the history of Apple. Even by 94, it assumed that windowed environments had become the standard operating interface for users and in the last chapter presaged devices such as the Iphone and Kinect.
(It wasn't until 95, and Windows 95, that the majority of business machines were running a windowed interface. DOS held on for a long-long time in the
Roberto Rigolin F Lopes
Levy goes about reporting his experiences covering the Mac developments sometimes mixing Apple history with his own. Things also get specific while describing key design decisions and killing apps like PageMaker. But the fun here comes from the great pirate within Jobs daring to design something insanely great; a hell of fun of course.
Hans Gerwitz
Not Levy at his best. It's an enjoyable story despite the sloppy writing. Especially at the beginning when he tries to explain things, it's not that he oversimplifies, it's that he misunderstands his own subject. There are even errors that any editor should have caught, regardless of knowledge.
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Steven Levy is editor at large at Wired, and author of eight books, including the new Facebook: the Inside Story, the definitive history of that controversial company. His previous works include the legendary computer history Hackers, Artificial Life, the Unicorn 's Secret, In the Plex (the story of Google, chose as Amazon and Audible's best business book of 2011), and Crypto, which won the ...more

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