Tuesday, March 13, 2012

reading steve jobs

reading the Steve Jobs bio


as all of my facebook buddies know, i'm reading walter isaacson's steve jobs bio. as a disciple of the religion of apple, i figured i should get to know my god a little better. as i was chatting away with cyndy about it on facebook, i looked down and noticed this rather a fitting scene on my desk - iMac, keyboard, the bio with steve's serious face on the cover, sabin's iPhone, an iPod touch and a 160GB iPod, and a postcard from google - so i took a quick instagram photo of it with my own iPhone.

i was a little bit worried about reading this book, because i kinda already knew that steve jobs was a bit of a volatile person and well, an asshole. i didn't want to ruin my love of the products created by his company by knowing more about it. i think it's why i let the book sit here while i read 4 cadfael mysteries - i was putting it off. happily, it doesn't seem to have put me off my beloved apple products. tho' i am slightly put off isaacson's dry, lifeless, chronological prose, the subject alone is compelling enough to keep me reading.

i think what i'm most struck by (and perhaps envious of) is the milieu in which the ideas steve had arose. he was truly in the right place at the right time. of course, he also had the right brain and what looks like the right sort of mental illness, but the fact that he was adopted by a family who lived in silicon valley just as it was becoming silicon valley and that he grew up there in that environment, surrounded by other computer-interested nerdy people and with access to mind-expanding drugs - it has resulted in the devices on my desk today. and they have changed the world. the confluence of circumstances and people is breathtaking. what if his mother hadn't given him up for adoption and had dragged him off to wisconsin? would there be an  today? or would silicon valley be in madison?

i'm also struck at how CEOs in the computer industry rise and fall - it's a volatile world and fortunes are made and lost overnight and companies change CEOs like we change shoes with the seasons. it's interesting that jobs, tho' fabulously wealthy, didn't go in for the giant house compound like bill gates or the yachts like paul allen and larry ellison. he didn't end up a philanthropist either, but my feeling is that he felt that was as much an ostentatious display of wealth as a yacht would have been. and oddly, it seems that he wasn't really in it for the money as much as he was for the thrill of designing the perfect, world-changing product. and he definitely did that.

he might have been a real jerk, but he had admirable drive, focus and dedication as well as vision and a solid sense of design and the details. and he created truly fantastic products that seriously bring me joy on a daily basis. it will be interesting to see if he left behind a company that is strong enough to continue on the revolutionary path without him.

3 comments:

--maria said...

I think you just summed up that book quite wonderfully.

Bill said...

and Leonardo, Picasso, Van Gogh, Edison, Ford, de Mille, Ulysses Grant, etc. etc. etc. were also regarded as assholes.

Says something about initiative, creativity, drive and force of will.

Helen said...

Funnily enough I'm reading a different biography on Steve Jobs by Karen Blumenthal at the moment and I didn't want it to cloud my judgement either. I saw him as this perfect visionary, so it's interesting to read about his life. Hope you enjoy it!