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Steve Jobs

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message 1: by Boomer (new)

Boomer Who knew that Steve Jobs, the subject of Walter Isaacson’s new No. 1 bestseller, once personally installed a Macintosh in the young Jennifer Egan’s bedroom?One of the weird things about quantum mechanics is that an electron can be in two places at the same time, which obviously makes it a difficult subject to understand. Steve Jobs can be equally hard to pin down. One moment he seems like a hero and the next he’s a zero. Reading the former Time managing editor, Walter Isaacson’s journalistic, anecdote-filled biography of Jobs can keep you oscillating between the two positions, until finally an apple falls on your head and you get it — that Jobs was possibly in both places at the same time.Jobs himself thought in binary terms, according to Isaacson — ideas were either ‘great’ or ‘crap’ and never in between; sometimes they could be ‘crap’ one day and ‘great’ the next day, when he would claim to have thought it up himself.People too were either totally amazing or complete “shitheads”. Perhaps fittingly, therefore, perceptions about Jobs too have tended to be extreme over the years: was he a passionate revolutionary or a self-centred asshole, a true innovator or a cheap idea stealer, a real producer of new things or just a glib marketer?

To the credit of Isaacson, as well as Jobs for letting him do it, he does not shy away from even the most personal or damaging of stories about the ex-CEO of Apple whom he interviewed 40 times in a period of two years after accepting his invitation to write the biography. Nor did he take everything Jobs told him at face value, interviewing hundreds of people who knew Jobs or worked with him to get their versions of the stories.

Whose idea was it?
Jobs claimed for instance that it was a Microsoft engineer’s bragging at a party — about a tablet PC Microsoft was developing — that provoked him to come up with the iPad. He told
Isaacson, “This dinner was like the tenth time he talked to me about it, and I was so sick of it that I came home and said, ‘Fuck this, let’s show him what a tablet can really be.’” The next day, as he recalled it, he gathered his team and told them he wanted a touch-screen tablet PC with no keyboard or stylus.

Apple’s head of design, Jony Ive, one of Jobs’ blue-eyed boys, had a different recollection. He told Isaacson that his design team had begun experimenting with a touch-screen input without any prompting from Jobs. In fact, Ive did not want to show it to Jobs prematurely because he might say “this is shit” and snuff the idea. “I realised that if he pissed on this, it would be so sad, because I knew it was so important.” When he was ready, he set up a private demo for Jobs, who was less likely to make a snap judgement when there was no audience, and luckily Jobs loved it.

Like a good journalist, Isaacson ‘shows’ us what Jobs was really like through a series of such tales which make the 630-page bio a good, easy read. The quasi-journalistic approach also serves to put a veneer of objectivity over the discourse, but you soon realise whose side the writer is on.

‘Reality distortion field’
In story after story it’s clear that Jobs had few scruples, lying or cheating or being manipulative whenever it suited him. But his acolytes had a euphemistic term for such behaviour — they said Jobs had a ‘reality distortion field’, that in his own mind he was almost convinced somebody else’s idea was really his, or that something really happened in the embellished way he would put it later. Isaacson is so willing to rationalise away every inconvenient truth about Jobs that you begin to wonder if he got infected with the reality distortion field too.

This is especially apparent in the accounts of Jobs’ personality, his ill-treatment of co-workers, the cheating of his co-founder Steve Wozniak, and his troubled relationships. Isaacson tries to draw some pop psychology interpretations from the fact that Steve was given up for adoption by his then unmarried biological parents,and then pretty much did as he liked growing up with his over-indulgent adoptive parents. He also attributes to him a Nietzschean belief that the ordinary rules of life did not apply to such a super-being as himself.

Folk singer Joan Baez, with whom Jobs had a romance for a few years, sums it up differently. “He was both romantic and afraid to be romantic,” she said. Tina Redse, with whom he had an on-and-off relationship for the longest time before getting married, felt he had a Narcissistic Personality Disorder. “The capacity for empathy was lacking.” And yet, Jobs fell in love with Laurene Powell, a graduate student at Stanford Business School, and she was with him more than two decades later when he died. More zeroes and ones.

Gets better with age
The real explanation may actually be quite simple — like most people Jobs got better at handling both his life and his work as he got older. This becomes clearer in the story of his work which forms the bulk of the book. This is where Isaacson comes into his own with his journalistic sense for detail and analysis as he presents a short history of personal technology.

message 2: by L. (new) - rated it 4 stars

L. Gibbs Okay, that about sums it up. I just finished reading this book and found it many things: disturbing, enlightening, entrancing, motivating, etc. But you said all I was thinking.

Buflea Very good review … it is exactly how I felt reading the book – I loved and despised him at the same time. I respect what he brought to the humanity just because I know the end result of it … but I’m sure I couldn’t have worked with him or in his environment … this makes me a B Player and I’m fine with this – I think humanity is full of B Players, respectable and happy as much as the A Players are. And I also think that a B Player can become an A one. All of us need a chance to shine, and Jobs was not taking this option into consideration.

message 4: by Barbara (new) - added it

Barbara Ebel Nice review. While reading the book, I not only got a look at a strange yet creative man, but appreciated the author's difficult task at penning so many aspects of Jobs's life. Way to go, Isaacson.

Carolyn Boomer wrote: "Who knew that Steve Jobs, the subject of Walter Isaacson’s new No. 1 bestseller, once personally installed a Macintosh in the young Jennifer Egan’s bedroom?One of the weird things about quantum mec..."

Great review!

message 6: by Rahul (new)

Rahul Mulik This was a first english book in my life that I read cover to cover. Very inspiring personality Steve is. He manifests true value of intuitions.

But, what I personally feel is that this biography do skips many crucial details related to various deals Steve managed in his business. Such as one he negotiated with music companies for iTunes...

However, I am greatly inspired by Steve, and have learned a lot. Great book with wide ranging life stories weaved together seamlessly.

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