I received Steve Jobs’ biography as a present last Christmas. I was never a fan of him or of Apple, and always found it annoying that he was praised as a great inventor and visionary. When he died, I was one of those saying “Hey, you know who also died? Dennis Ritchie, and he deserves way more recognition than Jobs.”
I expected the book to be another pile of adoration and I probably wouldn’t have even opened it if it wasn’t for a podcast that happened to pop up on my playlist a few weeks earlier. It was an interview with Walter Isaacson, the author of the biography, about his work on the book, and what it was like to work with Jobs when he was writing it.
In the interview, Isaacson told that Jobs asked him to write the biography a number of times, and he finally agreed under the condition that Jobs would not try to take control over it and would allow him to write a true story of his life. If this was true, I thought, then this could actually be a trustworthy biography and not another tribute to the greatest inventor of our times. So when the book got into my hands, I thought I might just as well read it and find out if Isaacson managed to keep it that way.
Well, he very much did. While it’s clear that Isaacson shows considerable respect to Jobs and all the things he managed to achieve, he also reveals his failures and weaknesses, and does not portray him as a superhero kind of figure. Jobs could be a real jerk to those around him, especially to the people that he worked with, and the biography does not pass over that.
The book also describes a good part of the history of home computers and technology in general. The first chapters, which cover the late seventies and early eighties, were almost a nostalgic read for me, since they brought back so many of my own memories from that time (well, the latter part of it, I’m not that old), when I was a little kid fascinated with those magical 8-bit machines.
But regardless of whether you get a kick out of early 80s computers or not, I recommend the biography, as if nothing else, it’s an excellently written, interesting, and sometimes even inspiring story. I truly enjoyed the read, and learned my lesson not to judge a book by how overrated and overpriced the products are that were created by its subject.