After almost five weeks of solid reading a total of four books have been finished this year. The latest book I have managed to read was by far the longest yet but one of the most interesting and dare I say it, influential books that I have read for a very long time. It was of course Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson.
The book was released late last year and only a few months after Jobs passed away. I got it for Christmas but promised that I would not read it until my pile of books that I had accumulated had been read. Thus the reason I read through the others very quickly. The main body of it is almost six hundred pages long is split up into decent sized chapters. Each night I was averaging about forty pages and I was taking my time with it. I wanted to soak it all up and take it all in as best that I could. To say that Steve Jobs and Apple have an influence on me is a certainty. I am writing this on my MacBook Pro with an iPhone within arms reach and they just work. Well.
One of the things that Isaacson was told by Jobs when he began writing the biography was not to hold back. Jobs didn’t want to book to seem as though it was an in-house production that showed himself as a saint. He knew he had done things which he was not proud of over his life but he didn’t want them to be hidden away. He wanted his children to know exactly what he was like when he was younger. This approach gives a distinct yet strange approach to the book. Most biographies try to always paint a good picture of the person’s life. This one to an extent takes you to extremes very quickly. In a way it simulates the very distinctive mood swings that Jobs was said to have had. An emotional roller coaster is perhaps too much of a cliché to use here.
It doesn’t always focus on Jobs. There are other people who the magnifying glass aims on and the relationships they had with Jobs. Other moguls of Silicon Valley throughout the eighties right up until the present day when the ‘evils’ of yesterday, Microsoft and IBM, made way in the ever-changing technological landscape for the likes of Google and RIM. You are taken on the same clichéd emotional ride with people such as Bill Gates and Eric Schmidt (Microsoft and Google).
Some of the highlights of the book for me personally were those involving Pixar, NeXT and Job’s return to Apple in the late nineties. The return also led to the parts in the book about Jonathan Ive. Now renowned for his work at Apple, his designs have become almost iconic (I almost wrote iConic there…) in the same way that his influences of Braun are just as distinct from the sixties and seventies. The book gave a very interesting highlight into the process that went on inside the very secretive design studios at the Apple headquarters in Cupertino. As a design student, I would love to have a look at the design studio of a number of places but that one ranks very highly on my personal list.
Overall I am going to say that it was an extremely good read. It was certainly worth the wait to read it and worth the time spend reading it. I wouldn’t have thought there was anything significant missing although I would have like a focus or more insights into the latter stages of Apple. How Jobs worked with Ive to produce some of the products with Ive’s design ability and Job’s sense of taste and style. But that is a minor gripe. There were, at times, points where I got extremely engrossed in the book. It is unashamedly a place that I would like to immerse myself. Learn things, get experience, enjoy myself. However, if that is to ever going to happen, it will be a long way off and who knows what could happen between then and now…