Thursday, December 27, 2012

Thoughts on Steve Jobs

I've been engrossed in the Steve Jobs biography for the past few months. My friend K encouraged me to start listening to "books on CD" during my often lengthy rides to and from work, so I took out the Jobs bio from the library, and the rest is history. It's 20 discs long. I've had to renew it twice, and I'm still not finished with it.

So I've been thinking a lot about Steve Jobs as I've worked my way through this long, long book: what he did right, what he did wrong, what he was like, how he imagined all these new innovations. I wanted to share some of my thoughts about Jobs here.

I think - based on what I heard in his biography - that Steve Jobs was probably a huge (pardon my French) a-hole, and I probably would have hated working with him. He was self-centered, and unaware of how his words and actions affected others around him. He was oddly childlike, not realizing that his bodily odor offended people, acting very emotional and even bursting out crying at inappropriate times.

On the other hand, he was clearly brilliant, and he understood what people wanted and needed before they even realized what they wanted and needed. He trusted his intuition, realizing that if he liked it, others would like it. In a way, he could see the future.

He was a perfectionist. He had a vision of how products should be, and he wouldn't stop changing them until they were perfect. This drove the people he worked with crazy. But in the end, the products were amazing.

He pushed people to do what they didn't believe they could do. I'm sure this was terribly frustrating at the time. Some called this his "reality distortion field." But people often exceeded their own expectations and capabilities under him.

I realized recently that you can see Steve Jobs on YouTube giving some of his famous MacWorld talks and introducing new products that are described in the biography. Watching these really brings the book to life. For example: you can see Jobs introducing the Macintosh in 1984 1998 introducing the iMac 2001  introducing the iPod introducing the iPhone in 2007

and here the iPad in 2010

and here iCloud in 2011

It's kind of amazing to think that I've been alive through this entire digital revolution, from the introduction of personal computers through the digital music revolution (from records to cassette tapes to 8-tracks to CDs and now to MP3s), from rotary phones to push button phones to wireless home phones to cell phones, not to mention the Internet and all that it brings with it. I remember the first PCs becoming available my senior year of college  I remember sending my first emails, and I remember browsing the web when it was just words, no images. I remember agonizing whether I should get a cell phone. And now...

It's all rather amazing, if you look at the arc of it. Or as Jobs would say, "insanely great."