Steve Jobs by Walter Issacson

Steve Jobs by Walter Issacson

I have become an Apple person. The more I use their products the more I like them. I have known for awhile that Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, working in a garage conceived the idea for a personal computer and built the prototype of the first Apple computer. However, I knew very little more about them and how they made Apple what it is today. When Steve Jobs recently died in his fifties, I felt a personal sadness. They guy who was responsible for so much of my everyday efficiency and pleasure in communicating and trying to do creative things had died. So when I learned that that Jobs had asked the well know biographer Walter Issacson to not only write his story but to pull no punches, interview anyone and have final edit on the book, I decided I was going to read it.

The book met my expectations in every way. Not only did it trace the evolution of Apple, it’s products and it’s philosophy but it traced the evolution of Steve Jobs. In the end I would agree with the author that Jobs has to be rated as some kind of a genius along with Thomas Edison and Henry Ford because it was his single-mindedness that brought about so many drastic changes in so many people’s lives. But his personality was something else. The same qualities that led him to persist until he received the results that he wanted let him to treat so many important people in his life with insensitivity and at times downright meanness. As a psychiatrist I avoid trying to make a psychiatric diagnosis of someone I haven’t seen personally in some depth. Despite the report in this book of many personal conversations with him and interviews with many people who knew quite well, I don’t think I could make a diagnosis even if I were inclined to do so. Somewhere in the book someone speculated that he was on the autism spectrum and an old girl friend who was involved with the mental health profession was sure that he fit the criteria for narcissistic personality. There is no doubt that he was a unique person who interacted and befriended many people. He established what seemed to be a good marriage and loving children and even kept in contact with a child born out of wedlock and a sister, with whom he wasn’t brought up with, once they found each other. He clearly identified with the father who raised him up and interestingly enough by coincidence he met his biological father who ran a restaurant that he would frequent but never realized he was that person when he interacted with him.

Just as much as Steve Jobs revolutionized our way of life in regard to how we communicate and handle information and pictures through his development of the Apple computer, he did just as much to the way we listen to music. The music industry was becoming disorganized and quite problematic as people began to move from buying CDs to downloading music on line. Initially it was through Napster and music sharing which was unreliable and essentially illegal pirating of the music since the artists and the recording companies did not receive any proceeds for their products. In several strokes of his genius Jobe led the development of the ipod which allowed you to listen to your music on the run ( of course the SONY Walkman had started that ), shuffle the music and most important download just about any song by just about any artist for usually .99 cents. In order to bring this about Jobs had to convince the major recording companies and their contracted artists to agree to sell their music through the istore and allow Apple to have part of the proceeds. Since the organization of the ipod was done on the Apple computer, this sold more Apple computers. Even when Apple licensed some of their software to the PC people so they could buy through the itunes, the istore Apple reaped in more profits. Then there was the story how Jobs changed animation movies through his establishment of Pixar and all his interactions with the Disney people.

Issacson, in discussing the music revolution led by Apple and Jobs, chose to gain and share a good insight into his subject as he asked him an iconic question, “What is on your ipod?” Jobs’ discussion of the music that he loved in the 70s (some of which originated in the 60s) as well as tracing his attraction and attachment to more modern popular music is revealing of the man and his passions. I found particularly interesting was his analysis of two recordings of the same song by a few artists done at the beginning and at the end of their careers. The evolution of his taste and attraction to two different interpretations by the same artists reflected his own growth, maturity and outlook on life. I also loved the question put to Jobs as to if he could only preserve the original master recordings from his vault of only one artist or group who would it be? It came down to the Rolling Stones, the Beatles or Bob Dylan. You will have to read the book to find out who and why?

In preparing an advertising campaign for Apple products , Jobs worked very closely with his media people to establish and create a specific tone. The following is one example which I thought might very well be Jobs defining himself and can also be a tribute to him :

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits , the rebels, the troublemaker, the round pegs in the square holes, the ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules, And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world are the ones who do.

I found reading the book made me appreciate my everyday Apple experience whether it is appreciating the architecture of my local Apple store or my everyday interaction with my MAC, iphone or anticipating the new products down the line. They all started with one guy and some buddies in a garage. How about that?

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