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About Walter Isaacson
Walter Isaacson is a Professor of History at Tulane. He is also an advisory partner at Perella Weinberg, a financial services firm based in New York City. Walter is the past CEO of the Aspen Institute, where he is now a Distinguished Fellow. Finally, he has been the chairman of CNN and the editor of TIME magazine.
Isaacson is well-known for his biographical accounts of influential people’s lives. For example, he has written successful biographies on Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, Kissinger, and DaVinci.
Steve Jobs: The Biography is an unfiltered account of former Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ life. Isaacson was able to engage in more than forty interviews with Steve Jobs taking place over two years. He also interviewed more than a hundred people who knew Jobs well. For example, family members, friends, colleagues, and competitors. This biography invites readers into the life and personality of Steve Jobs. Steve was an intense man with a rollercoaster life, but he did not want any control over this biography. He put nothing off-limits and chose not to read the biography before it was published. So, this biography offers a uniquely genuine portrayal of who Steve Jobs was and what he achieved.
StoryShot #1: Childhood, Abandoned and Chosen
Steve Jobs was the biological son of John Jandali and Joanne Schieble. Schieble’s family disapproved of her relationship with Jandali as he was a Muslim. So, the two were forced to put Steve up for adoption. Subsequently, he was adopted by Paul and Clara Jobs.
Paul was an engine technician who turned to car mechanics. He was the first person to introduce Steve to engineering and design. Steve was initially unsure of how he felt about having two sets of parents.
When Steve was young, his family moved to Palo Alto, California. This area included the famous “Silicon Valley.” He was brought up during the technological boom within the technological epicenter.
Steve was often bored in school and found himself in trouble for things like pranks. His parents realized that he was only playing up because he was bored. He was too intelligent for the work he was being given. The only time Paul was ever mad at Steve was when he found out he had experimented with LSD and Marijuana.
High school was also when Steve found his appreciation for things other than electronics, like music and arts.
StoryShot #2: Odd couple: The Two Steves
Steve Wozniak was five years older than Steve Jobs. That saidHowever, their minds were very alike. They first met in a mutual friend’s garage and worked together on technological projects. For example, their first project together was called “Blue Box.” This project used frequencies to allow people to make long-distance calls for free. When they began selling it, someone stole one right from them at gunpoint.
StoryShot #3: The Dropout
Jobs’ ‘different’ personality seemed to develop significantly during late high school. Jobs tried everything from strange diets to various drugs.
Jobs then attended Reed College. Here, despite the ‘Hippie’ reputation, he did not enjoy college. Jobs met Robert Friedland while at college. Jobs initially adopted Friedland’s quirks but . However, he eventually dismissed Robert as a gold-digger. Jobs dropped out of Reed after only a year but was allowed to take courses he enjoyed as he wished.
StoryShot #4: Atari and India: Zen and the Art of Game Design
A year and a half after dropping out of Reed, Jobs returned to Silicon Valley. He promptly walked into Atari’s head office and said he would not leave until he had a job. Steve was offered a job. That said, most of his coworkers were quickly alienated by his personality.
Temporarily, Jobs left Atari to go to India. In India, he pursued his interest in eastern culture. Atari’s head challenged Jobs to create a one-player version of Pong when he returned and offered a bonus for using little computer chips. He enlisted Wozniak to help him, and they finished the game in four days.
StoryShot #5: The Apple I
While the computer revolution was being born in Silicon Valley, Wozniak saw a microprocessor for the first time. This gave him the idea for the modern computer: Keyboard, screen, and computer in one. Wozniak wanted to give the design away for free. However, Jobs found a way to make money off of it. Jobs had been walking back from an apple orchard on that day and decided the name “Apple” stuck. Thus, Apple Computers was founded.
Jobs and Wozniak labored hard to produce over a hundred computers in one month, which they sold to friends and a local computer dealer. Apple was profitable within just thirty days.
StoryShot #6: The Apple II: Dawn of a New Age
Jobs quickly realized the Apple computer lacked something other larger companies had: presentation and money. He used his Atari connections to find a retired 33-year old millionaire, Mike Markkula. Mike had the connections to get Apple running. Markkula even hired a publicist for Apple. When the Apple II was released, the success was astounding.
Eventually, Markkula hired Mike Scott as President of the company, mainly to manage Jobs. The two clashed on many points, but the Apple II sold over six million units.
StoryShot #7: Chrisann and Lisa
Jobs had been dating Chrisann Brennan on and off for five years, and they had their first child in 1978. The child was a girl and was named Lisa. Jobs dismissed that the child was his throughout the pregnancy. He later expressed regret over the way he handled the situation.
StoryShot #8: Xerox and Lisa: Graphical User Interfaces
Jobs moved onto other projects after the Apple II but was unsatisfied with the Apple III and the Lisa computers.
Xerox was said to be the major technological innovator at the time. Jobs struck a deal with them that provided Apple with access to some of Xerox’s technologies, like the Graphical User Interface (GUI). The GUI allowed users to view text and graphics simultaneously.
Jobs applied this new technology to the Lisa, as well as the modern computer mouse.
Despite this innovation, the management at Apple demoted Jobs by the summer of 1980. He was no longer in control of large projects due to his quirky behavior.
StoryShot #9: Going Public: A Man of Wealth and Fame
Apple went from being worth $5,309 in 1977 to $1.79 billion by the end of 1980. After Apple’s stock market launch, Jobs was worth $256 million at the age of twenty-five. Despite this wealth, Jobs didn’t show much interest in material things other than fine sports cars and German knives.
Jobs excluded even some of the earliest employees from the stock market launch to retain his stocks. Wozniak eventually gave away many of his stocks to these people.
StoryShot #10: The Mac is Born
Jeff Raskin originally headed the Macintosh project. However, Jobs eventually won a power struggle by assuming full control over the project. He strengthened his power at the Apple head office when Mike Scott was removed as president after a round of lay-offs.
StoryShot #11: The Reality Distortion Field
Jobs had a way of motivating people to do extraordinary things that his employees called the “reality distortion field.” Jobs could convince people anything was possible by willfully distorting reality.
Jobs also only saw the world in black in white. People were either “enlightened” or an “asshole.” Also, many employees complained of Jobs stealing their ideas. Later, Apple started giving out an award to the employee who most bravely stood up to Jobs each year. Jobs’ coworkers realized that at the heart of Jobs’ quirkiness was an absolute commitment to perfection.
StoryShot #12: The Design: Real Artists Simplify
Jobs’ perfectionism was exemplified by the Macintosh project. He wanted everything to be beautiful — packaging, interface, screens, and even the computer’s inside itself. This drove engineers crazy.
Jobs wanted artists and engineers to feel the same. He had the name of every engineer and artist that worked on the Macintosh engraved on the inside of the computer.
StoryShot #13: Building the Mac
Jobs competed everywhere, including within his own company. He competed against the product Lisa to ship the Mac first. Lisa eventually flopped, leaving only the Macintosh as the backbone of the company.
Later in the year, Jobs was led to believe that he was named the man of the year by Time Magazine. However, they instead named his Macintosh “Machine of the Year.”
StoryShot #14: Enter Sculley
Jobs believed that he was still too immature to run Apple himself, so he recruited John Sculley. Sculley was a former Pepsi marketing director who was responsible for the Pepsi Challenge campaign. Sculley was initially reluctant, but Jobs won him over.
The Macintosh was designed to cost $1,995. However, Sculley insisted on including the marketing costs for a big launch. This pushed the cost to $2,495. Jobs later blamed this decision as the primary reason Microsoft won control of the personal computer market.
StoryShot #15: The Launch
Even as Apple was growing, IBM was slowly starting to win the lion’s share of the PC market. Apple’s response was the launch of the Macintosh in 1984. The Macintosh launch would set the blueprint for Jobs’ future product launches.
First, Jobs hired Ridley Scott and spent $750,000 on the famous “1984” television commercial. This was the first broadcast at the Superbowl that year. He then began giving interviews with magazines. This publicity had a significant impact on the Macintosh’s success.
StoryShot #16: Gates and Jobs
Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were both born in 1955. While Jobs grew up like a hippie in California, Gates was the son of a prominent Seattle attorney and attended a private school.
Gates was soft-spoken and almost shy. He had a sense of business and strategy that eluded the more artistic style of Jobs. They first started working together when Microsoft was writing some software for the Macintosh. Despite this, their relationship soon soured when Microsoft produced Windows, which mirrored the Mac operating system.
Gates argued that both the Macintosh and Windows systems were rip-offs of a Xerox technology. Jobs never forgave Gates for this perceived betrayal.
StoryShot #17: Icarus
While the Macintosh created a lot of buzz initially, sales eventually slowed as people realized some of the machine’s limitations. Also, Jobs’ personality began to clash even further within the company. He eventually decided to leave Apple after toying with the idea of running AppleLabs.
StoryShot #18: NeXT
Jobs started “NeXT” with his own money and hired some of his favorite engineers from Apple. This cooled relations with his first company.
NeXT was designed to respond to the needs of educational institutions for computing power. During his time with NeXT, Jobs made some of the biggest mistakes of his career. He learned from these mistakes.
StoryShot #19: Pixar
Jobs acquired a 70% stake in Lucasfilm’s animation division for $10 million and renamed it Pixar. This name was based on the division’s most important piece of hardware. Eventually, Jobs realized he should focus primarily on the animation of Pixar. The reason for this change in focus was that one of the shorts they produced was named the best of the year.
StoryShot #20: A Regular Guy
Jobs waited until after his adoptive mother died in 1986 to seek out his biological mother. He eventually reconnected with both Joanne Simpson and his sister Mona. In an ironic twist, Jobs had often dined at his father’s Mediterranean restaurant in San Jose, without even realizing it.
His daughter was very much like him in that she was temperamental. Subsequently, they sometimes did not speak for months.
StoryShot #21: Family Man
Jobs met his future wife, Laurene Powell when he was giving a talk at Stanford Business School. This is where Laurene was a student.
Laurene got pregnant during their first vacation together in Hawaii. They got married in a small ceremony in 1991 and moved into a modest house in Palo Alto.
Jobs’ daughter Lisa moved in with them when she was in eighth grade, and she lived there until she went to college at Harvard. Jobs also had three more children with Laurene.
Some readers may find that the author has glorified Jobs’ accomplishments at the expense of his shortcomings.
We rate this book 4.5/5.
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