Steve Jobs

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I am a massive Apple fan, I’ll admit it, dating back right from when I was a sixth former at school. I remember my previous contact with computers had been very blah, basically just BBC Micros, which I found confusing with their text prompts and their totally unattractive appearance and then suddenly you got to the sixth form and wow! You got to use the room just set aside for sixth formers, full of Apples, the old brightly coloured ones that looked like something from a scifi show, I was in love. Then of course I leave school to go onto university and I couldn’t afford a Mac of my own (and the university didn’t have it’s own Apple rooms), so I made do with first an old second hand Atari, followed by an IBM machine, then after that a series of laptops which were generally bought on the cheap (because that’s all I could afford) which increasingly frustrated me as they’d always only last a year or two before something horrible went wrong with them. When it came to my last PC laptop, which died a very slow and irritating death, I had enough and bought a small MacBook Pro, something I had been lusting after since those days in sixth form and I’ve had it over a year now and I’ve been impressed with its reliableness compared to all those other laptops I’ve owned. Apple give a discount to educational institutions don’t they? Wise move, get ’em hooked early! I see it now with my kids, although both kids are hardened PC users pretty much from birth, Girl Lacer really appreciates that in the junior side of the school they get to use the Apple room, instead of the classroom PC laptops that the infants use, that sound pretty unreliable. Boy Lacer (who makes the move to Juniors next year) told me recently that when he walks past the Apple room on the way to assembly, he often tries to jump up to look through the window at the Macs, excited about what he’s going to be let loose on soon.

I also have an iPhone and an original iPad which almost feels delightfully vintage now. So with my holy trinity of tech gadgets I was fascinated to read about one of the key men behind them and the company he created. I’m not a big biography fan, in fact I’m trying to recall if I’ve read any other biographies, I don’t remember any but the Steve Jobs biography seemed a bit different, more a history of the technology revolution (specially when read bearing in mind the book about Google I read last year or was it the year before?), as the book covers the founding of Apple to Steve Jobs resignation, as well as the development of Pixar when he was in control. And Steve Jobs himself was a fascinating man, his life story almost reads like that of a character in a novel. He must have been amazing and at the same time highly unpleasant to work for and it sounded like he wasn’t the easiest person to be in a family with either. Everyone is of course unique but his unique qualities; a cross between salesman, technologist, artist, designer enabled him to create companies that were at the crossroads between technology and the arts.

I realise I’m a bit behind the times in reading this book, as ‘everyone’s’ read it already but if you haven’t and work in business, technology OR the arts, you can gain something from this book. In business there’s great sections on how Jobs’ built the teams around him. Ok there’s quite a bit in the book about how NOT to behave to but his insistence on creating teams of ‘A players’ and of hiring people who’d argue back with him, meant he created a company of strong willed creatives. I liked the bits describing how some of his employees would help each other switch out of Jobs’ ‘reality distortion field’, as they often had meetings with him where he’d persuade them to do something and of course they’d be able to do it and it’d be the greatest thing ever and then they’d get out of the meeting, out of his distortion field and go “oh my god, what have we just agreed to?”, so at least he was, in a way encouraging his teams to back each other up! And in design, which applies just as much to electronic consumer projects as it would do in designing say a new range of cushions, Jobs’ wanted simplicity and beauty and would go through countless revisions, sometimes going back to the drawing board at the last minute before releasing his product.

Like I said earlier, this book felt like a history, not a biography and I appreciated the insight behind the scenes of products I use everyday. Coupled with the Google book I read, another ‘history’ behind products I use everyday, I feel like I have a better understanding of what I’m using. Jobs’ featured in the Google book I read just as the Google guys featured in the Jobs’ book and of course Bill Gates featured in both. I almost feel like I should go and read a book about Microsoft or a Gates biography now, to complete the threesome, although I suspect I’d be a little bored! But these are all people I’m sure will be remembered in 100 years, just like we remember Ford and Edison today.

***** (out of 5)

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