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Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson

A book review by Joe Gschwendtner

Apple Inc. has more than $100 billion cash in the bank, $40 billion more than in 2011. The cash hoard exceeds the market value of all but 52 U.S. publicly traded corporations. If Apple is the house that Steve Jobs built, what indeed do we know of him? “Steve Jobs” is the definitive work. Authorized by Jobs to write his biography, Isaacson takes us deep into the life of this conflicted titan.

Jobs was a perfectionist with a binary value system. No middle ground existed, so both passion and intolerance ruled his life. His was a flawed sensitivity and he often cried publicly. Yet, he could brutally criticize employees in front of others. Early abandonment by his Wisconsin mother and Syrian graduate-student father is said to have affected him deeply. Yet, he fathered a daughter before marriage and ignored her for years. To his own family, he could be quite detached.

Stepparents Clara and Paul Jobs provided a loving environment. While dad tinkered with cars, Steve chose electronics. He and buddy Steve Wozniak were gifted kids who drove teachers nuts. During high school in 1971, they built the “Blue Box”, replicating AT &T tones that routed telephone calls through switching centers and made free long distance calls at company expense. In 1972, he graduated.

For three years, Jobs pursued his own countercultural journey of drugs and eastern spirituality. Returning Zen-like from India in 1975, he reconnected with Wozniak through work at Atari. Both joined the Homebrew Computer Club, a petri dish of electronic hackers, academics, and techies.

It was in this heady, anything-goes intellectual environment that two scruffy wiz-kids midwifed the first personal computer in a Los Altos, California garage.

Jobs successes thereafter often spanned whole industries. Relationships were made and severed along the way, Wozniak included. There were fits and starts and product line stumbles (LISA and Next Computer). A separation from his own company made him even stronger.

Under full sail, Jobs was a visionary merging creativity with technology, revolutionizing the computer, media, music, animation, publishing and communications industries. His sleek Apple designs leapfrogged markets, delivering products consumers did not yet know they needed.

Jobs’ motto was “Think Different.” Indeed he did. His was a dynamic genius operating within a “reality distortion field.” Though many Apple concepts were impossible when first presented, Jobs’ iron will made them happen.



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