Steve Jobs is Shocking in his Biography

I’ve got the mp3’s of the Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson and i’ve been listening on my daily commute for the past few weeks. So far, i’m 25% through the book and loving it. Here’s what i like about the book so far.

  • Describing the social, music, and industry scene of Silicon Valley in the late 60’s and early 70’s is fascinating. The confluence of hippies, technology and drugs must have been amazing.
  • The hobbyist movement around electrical engineering. What people thought of computers and how the PC emerged from microprocessors and silicon. It’s so hard now, in a world where there’s a computer on every shelf, to imagine how people didn’t logically think of the PC.
  • Steve Jobs vs. Woz. It was an interesting partnership and highlights how you need different people with different talents to get a business off the ground.
The main plot of the book is around Steve Jobs and his rise as the leader of Apple. I’ve been pretty shocked about what i’ve read so far. I’m shocked by his demeanor and his behavior. The book does a good job of showing his passion, and his attention to detail. But i’m amazed about the amount of abuse he dished out to his colleagues. The book describes how each engineer, although degraded and demeaned regularly by Jobs, holds up that period as one of the most memorable is his life. The book attributes this to Jobs. I disagree. These guys were at the perfect moment of time where technology was making this type of a product possible- and were designing a product that didn’t yet exist. The market was poised to explode and did. What Jobs did was bring the right list of specifications but did it for a product that the world was clamoring for.

So far this book has increased my respect for Jobs ability to intuitively know what people want but i’ve also amazing how bad he was as a manager, friend and as a person. He seemed so erratic and awful.

I’ve yet to read about his exile, his days at Pixar and Next days, or his Apple comeback. i’m sure he gained perspective and some humility but man, in those early days of Apple he seems brutal.