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Sunday, May 12, 2019

Steve Jobs

I've never cared for Apple products, so I never really had much of an interest in Steve Jobs.  I always saw him as a very arrogant leader of a company that I didn't really care about.  I had no idea how arrogant he really was.  His biography by Walter Isaacson is my latest non-fiction book, which tells the fascinating story of an emotionally stunted but brilliant individual.  I enjoyed it and learned a lot that I didn't know.

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I had heard before that developers viewed Steve Jobs as a poser.  He wasn't really a coder.  He certainly understood the technology, but he much more involved in envisioning that the product should be like (in pretty much every particular) and pushing his team to bring it into existence.  While he made some missteps, there's really no denying that, on the whole, he created beautiful products that moved technology forward, sometimes in ways that nobody else even imagined.  I had no idea he was involved with some of the things he did.  He was basically responsible for turning Pixar into a company that made films.

Jobs could apparently be one of the most or least charming people you've ever met.  He was known for being able to convince people of anything.  His magnetic performances were able to build a cult-like following among his customers.  For many of his employees, though, he was a nightmare.  If would scream and throw tantrums and year people down.  They were either perfect or worthless in his eyes.  While he had amazing insight into what the public would want in a product, he showed up to a meeting with the CEO of Atari to ask for an investment he desperately needed unkempt, unshowered, and barefoot.

Many of the decisions Jobs made turned out beautifully.  But he would also make decisions that no sane person could support.  He made his company spend massive amounts of money just to change aesthetics at their production facilities.  Even at largely automated facilities where basically no employees would see the change, let alone customers.  He once moved into a fairly new building and had the elevators moved to make the lobby feel more dramatic.

Steve Jobs was a brilliant businessman who greatly moved technology in his time.  He was also a hypocrite and a bully.  I think the book goes a little too easy on him at times (no mention of Apple's blatant antitrust violations to make e-books cost more or him stranding millions of users with a maps app that didn't work because he was having a tantrum about Google), but it seems pretty fair overall.  I recommend it, particularly if you're interested in technology.

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