By Walter Isaacson
This is a hard review to write. There has been some discussion about if this is a good authorized biography. People seem to forget it will be the only authorized biography. I had an advanced copy but simply could not write a review three months ago. It is now January, the time of year when people went to San Francisco and saw Steve Jobs unveil new products. That will never happen again.
It is a warts and all biography. After reading it I wonder if Apple would hire anyone else who was this flawed. Would they hire someone with a history substance abuse? Someone with a severe eating disorder? Someone who smelled? Someone who would not acknowledge his own children? Someone who was upsetting to co-workers? Someone who parked in handicapped parking spaces? They would if they saw the most flawed people are the ones who work hardest to achieve perfection.
I’ve read a lot of science fiction and I could not help but wonder about how his life might have turned out differently. The possible permutations have an remarkable pattern. His biological father’s family was from Syria and his biological mother was a midwestern farm girl. Conversely, his adoptive father was a midwestern farm boy and his mother’s family was from Armenia.
What if his bio mother and father had kept the baby? What if they had stayed in Syria? Would he have been a demonstrator criticizing the government as you know he would? Would he have died last October in the streets of Homs?
What if his bio parents had stayed in America? Would he have grown up as the son of restaurant owner in Silicon Valley? Would he have gone into technology anyway?
Okay, here is a really wild one. What if Steve Wozniak’s parents had adopted Steve Jobs in 1955?
What if he had been killed in that robbery in the early 1970s while selling a black box? Is it interesting that he started and ended his career selling phone equipment? Was Jobs taking advantage of AT&T both times?
What if he had become a cult leader at that commune in Oregon instead of moving back to Silicon Valley? As you might have seen in the TV show Portlandia, there are some kooky cults south of Portland, although they probably operate out of office buildings today.
What if he had stayed at HP and persuaded them to build PCs in the 1970s? What if he had remained at Apple after 1985? What if he had not returned in 1997? What if he had died in 2004 instead of 2011?
We can speculate about what might have been if only to sharpen our skills to imagine what might yet happen. Individuals make a difference in history like pebbles in a stream. Together we change the course of time.
In the end, the question is how people are remembered. On the week Steve Jobs died, I was walking down University Avenue in Palo Alto. I was across the street from the Apple store. I stood in front of a Borders bookstore which had closed because it could not compete with Apple’s technology. Many years before that, the bookstore had been a movie theater, which was another medium that Apple had rendered obsolete. Did his technology destroy the media but not the messages?
Next to me was an Australian media mogul who was looking at all the colored Post-It notes of people mourning Steve Jobs. I wondered aloud, “Do you think your buildings will be covered in notes from well wishers when you die?” The post-modern Citizen Kane bowed his head, knowing that all things, good or bad, come to an end.
Here are some of the people that appear in this book.
Copyright 2012 DJ Cline All rights reserved.