Monday, October 29, 2012

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

I knew the people in our book club would have plenty to say about Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. It is a much longer book than we normally read, but it was democratically chosen, and I think almost everyone finished the book. Of course, you would not have had to read the book at all to join in the conversation. Everyone was familiar with Jobs and Apple. We even had Apple devices in the room.

One of the discussion points was whether Isaacson's book was really a biography of Jobs or a history of Apple with a heavy emphasis on Jobs. A few wished that there had been much less about the technology and more about Jobs and his relationships. Others thought that Apple was the most important part of Jobs and the mix was right. One of the younger members who remembers her parents getting an Apple II remarked that the book was a history of her times. Not being one of the youngest, I could say that it is a sort of history of technology concurrent to my professional times. From my position as a librarian, I saw the introductions of many of the computers and devices mentioned.

I was fascinated by Silicon Valley culture undercurrent in the book. All of the key players at Apple, Microsoft, Google, Hewlett Packard, Sun Microsystems, Adobe, etc. all seemed to know each other and even dined out with spouses. (When dining with Jobs, you had to make allowances for his radical diet.) At the same time, they were fiercely competing with each other to win acclaim and sales for their products. The need for industry standards and software that bridged platforms required a certain civility that the competitors kept at most times. Civility still allows for much foul language.

Job's Pixar years seem to be a sort of sweet side story. They make me more inclined to like Jobs who is a very difficult person to like through much of the book. We all agreed that he was a poor parent and wonder how his children will develop as adults. No one wanted him as a boss.

At 571 pages of text, Steve Jobs is a book that requires some committment from a book club, but the effort may be rewarded.

Isaacson, Walter. Steve Jobs. Simon & Schuster, 2011. 630p. ISBN 9781451648539.

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