Tag Archives: iPhone

Steve Jobs Redux

My obsession with Steve Jobs continues.  Spoiler alert:  if you plan on reading the just-published Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson and want to be surprised, stop reading now.

Just so you know, Jobs approached the Pulitzer Prize-winning Isaacson to write his biography.  Isaacson agreed to do so in 2009 when it seemed clear that Jobs would be checking out sooner rather than later. In just under two years, the author interviewed a sickly and often distracted Jobs more than 40 times as well as “more than a hundred friends, relatives, competitors, adversaries, and colleagues.”  Isaacson weaves excerpts of these interviews into a 571-page compelling and riveting read.

My conclusion:  Steve Jobs was a dick.

I had heard rumors to this effect but I did not want to believe it because I love Apple and its products.  I “early adopted” the MacIntoshes when everyone else was buying IBM.  I later invested in an iMac, after Jobs returned to Apple to revive and restore its creative direction.  I adore the iPod’s instant accessibility to my favorite tunes and the iPad’s myriad features and convenience, and I am wedded to my iPhone.

But Jobs does not come across as a nice guy in this book.  In fact, I would say he suffered from a serious personality disorder, which included but was by no means limited to jealously, insecurity, rage, conceit, compulsive lying and distorted thinking.

For example, Jobs routinely dismissed his workers’ ideas as “shit.”  Jobs lived in a black and white world, but mostly black.  Very little lived up to his exacting standards of perfection.  Jobs sought to wean out the “B” and “C” players, which he believed justified his brutal management style, so that only “A” players were left to fulfill Jobs’ visions and design “insanely great products.”

If you dared to question Steve Jobs, he either respected you or dismissed you depending on how badly he needed you.  In other words, if you had a skill Steve Jobs wanted, he turned his renowned and somewhat notorious charisma on you like a laser beam and left no computer chip unturned until you yielded to his demands.   More often, when an employee produced something Jobs liked, he typically waited a few weeks and took credit for the employee’s ideas and work.

Throughout the book, Isaacson refers to Job’s “reality distortion field” where Jobs would spin his own version of reality.  I call this compulsive lying.  All his colleagues, friends and family seemed to know about this major character flaw and many let it go for the sake of working with Jobs and creating those “insanely great products.”   Talk about compromising your standards.

Even more interesting, Jobs did not have any deep technological or engineering skills.  He just knew what he wanted and found incredibly talented people who he constantly berated until they created and designed his ideas or theirs, for which he took full credit.

Jobs’ bizarre personality manifested itself on several other fronts.  For example, he lived as a vegetarian for most of his life (nothing wrong with that), but would adopt weird diets where he would only eat one kind of food (like an apple) for weeks at a time.   Early in Jobs’ life, he believed that his superior diet absolved him from bathing.  A few venture capitalists and corporate heads literally turned up their noses at Jobs, but the young, gifted and smelly entrepreneur prevailed in spite of the olfactory prejudice he endured.

I don’t know how Jobs ever found a girlfriend although it appears he had a few including the famous folk singer, Joan Baez.  In 1991, Jobs married one of the “smartest and most grounded people” his biographer Isaacson had ever met, Laurene Powell.   Jobs and Powell had three children who Jobs ignored a lot of the time except for occasional family trips where he would still be prone to “withdrawing” from them.  He had already established this pattern of family neglect with his first child, Lisa, who was born out of a relationship with a previous girlfriend.

About half way through the book, Steve Jobs returns to Apple after a 12-year period of forced exile.  He plays coy for a while, then seizes power and begins imagining the products (the iMac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad) and changing the industries (technology, computers, music, design, animation and retail) that would become his life’s legacy.

Issacson focuses on these accomplishments and gives them their proper due and then some.  After spending half the book trashing Jobs’ personality, the author deftly brings the reader around to an understanding that it had to be this way, that Steve Jobs’ madness also drove his genius.  To work with Steve Jobs and benefit from his legendary intensity, focus, and imagination, one also had to endure cruel insults, long hours, bad hygiene, weird diets, endless lies, crying jags (yes, Jobs cried often), and a colossal ego.

I’m just glad that I read about it and didn’t have to live it.  I still love my iPhone though.  So much for taking the moral high ground.

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Obsessive Compulsive iPhone Disorder

Steve JobsBill Gates.  Mark Zuckerberg.  Who among these three men has infiltrated my life the most?   Over the last six months, I might have given the edge to Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook.

I came to Facebook late and felt apprehensive about joining the party.  I went out and bought “Facebook for Dummies” and read it cover to cover before I made my first friend.  About one hour and 10 friends later, I was hooked.   I love viewing my FB friends’ photos and getting updates on their lives.

I also feel passionate about current events and history and have discovered that I can lock in Facebook feeds from all my favorite news organizations and blogs.  I have never been so thoroughly informed and such a pain in the ass.  I suffer from a compulsive “need to know.”

For example, today my hairdresser told me that Julia Childs attended Branson High School in Ross, CA.  I had read Julia Child’s biography, “My Life in France,” and while it mentioned her Pasadena roots, I didn’t recall her memory of Branson.  Right in the middle of my hair color application, I grabbed my iPhone and googled Child’s life and learned that yes, Julia Childs had boarded at Branson, which I also discovered had been the alma mater of Olympic skier Jonny Moseley.   Phew!

Enjoying my iPhone

This brings me to my iPhone and Steve Jobs.  I feel badly about Steve Jobs.  He just announced that he can no longer fulfill his duties as CEO of Apple due to his protracted battle with cancer and in effect, has turned the tech world and the rest of us who loiter in the Apple store at the Mall, upside down.  Apple stock fell 5.1 percent yesterday after Jobs’ resignation.   My new iPhone 4 looked less shiny today.

Technology has permeated every corner of my life and I blame Steve Jobs for this.  I’ve owned iMacs and iPods and now the iPad, but nothing has consumed me quite like my iPhone.  It has everything:  a phone, of course, and all of my contacts, daily calendar, messaging, music, podcasts, games that my daughter plays, directions, camera, calorie counter, Facebook, videos, the Internet.  About the only thing you can’t do with an iPhone is have sex, but no doubt someone will prove me wrong on that account too.

Steve Jobs is both genius and devil, an extraordinary inventor who dreams of things we never knew we needed so badly.  But Jobs’ visions come with a downside.  While it appears to facilitate social interaction, the iPhone often does just the opposite.

Many pundits have expounded on this topic, but I don’t need to read their columns to know this.  My children told me the other night during the Giants’ baseball game when the team was losing and I started playing with my iPhone.  My daughter, whose texting bill would horrify the most patient parent, admonished ME for checking out from one of the Giants’ many false starts.  Is there an iGiant application to get the team hitting again?  With Steve Jobs gone, we’ll never know.


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