At the holidays, I received the Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson. And while the story was familiar — I already knew much of Jobs’ history from other books and profiles — I still found it pretty fascinating. Let’s face it: if Jobs were our boss, we would have strangled him. If Jobs were our principal, we might have revolved against him. His temperament and lack of emotional connections, and drive to create his vision or else, made his companies at least very interesting to watch. But I would have hated to work under him.
The bio does a nice job of peeling the outer layer off Jobs, though, and allows us to understanding him a bit more through the very personal interviews that Jobs granted Isaacson. For me, I was most fascinated by his intense desire for design, and how that need for intuitive design elements shaped all of the products he would be putting into the market — from the devices that hold music to the stores that sell machines, and even in the layout of the Pixar offices. Design considerations also went into the insides of devices — things most people would never see. So much of what we see is so ugly, but not Apple products.
Isaacson nicely explores this area of Jobs’ life, and how that need for perfect design affected his dealings with other people. (And it is also so intriguing the parts where we see Jobs and Bill Gates interacting, and how different their approaches were to technology – particularly around design: Gates could not understand the fuss and Jobs could not comprehend how one could not fuss over it. That dichotomy could be a whole book in itself. I’d love to see a bio on Gates that goes as deep as Isaacson goes here, but somehow, I doubt that will ever happen. He’s not that kind of person, as far as I can tell.).
Two weeks ago, I got a comic book biography of Jobs. Needless to say, Steve Jobs: Co-founder of Apple by Bluewater Productions was a lot thinner. But the comic book bio touched on some important moments of Jobs’ life, and accomplishments, and does not quite skirt his explosive personality, but doesn’t dwell on it much, either. Reading the comic book version after Isaacson’s version was like watching a highlights real. I suppose if you have students interested in Steve Jobs, and the biography is just too much, the comic book version might be worth putting into their hands. You can tell, though, that the publisher rushed to get it onto the market to ride the wave of interest following Jobs’ death and Isaacson’s book. I found a few proofreading errors, and the writing is weak at times.
Both of these books give a view of Jobs as someone who has made a mark on modern life, and you can’t argue against that.
Peace (in the bio),