Beyond the Turtleneck Sweater

Matt Kapell ‘15
EE Contributor

Since the 1970s, one lone company has been setting standards in the personal technology age by defying the impossible and revolutionizing the world with its stunning innovations. Apple, now regarded as one of the most valuable companies in the world, is responsible for the numerous products such as iphones and ipads which now consume the lives of millions worldwide. The real question however, is how did this tech-giant come up from nothing, and shock the world in surpassing market bullies: IBM, Microsoft, and HP. The answer to all this is one man, Steve Jobs, the genius who nurtured the company from his Cupertino garage into the global giant it is today.

Steve Jobs, written by acclaimed author Walter Isaacson, documents the journey of Steve Jobs from birth, to “King of Silicon Valley” (CNBC), and all the controversy that ensues in between. Isaacson, who was previously known for his role in executive positions at both CNN and Time, as well as his popular biographies of Benjamin Franklin and Albert Einstein, was meticulously chosen by Jobs to examine his life. Following its release, Isaacson’s composition went on to garner many accolades, one being its spot on the New York Times Best Seller list. Following inspiration from the novel, Jobs’ life was later transformed into a major motion picture starring Ashton Kutcher. The film received moderate success, and it was often criticized for being “overly sentimentalizing” (Justin Lowe, The Hollywood Reporter) and “Never really [digging] deep enough into the brilliant and often enigmatic title character” (Bruce Bennett, Spectrum). With that said, Steve Jobs would appeal to a whole range of readers; its dynamic and in depth depiction of the genius behind the turtleneck sweater demonstrates unique facets of Job’s life, most never even knew about.

Throughout the entire novel, Isaacson does a great job piecing together a variety of perspectives from those that have experienced Jobs’ unique character. Along with the more than forty interviews with Jobs, the author conducted interviews with over one hundred “friends, family members, competitors, colleagues, and adversaries.” By pulling from so many different sources readers are able to see beyond the idolized Steve Jobs, and into the intense truths that exist beneath his crafted public image. While many only know this man for his technological innovations that forever changed the world, Jobs is by no means perfect. Behind all the public admiration, Jobs refused to be part of his daughter Lisa’s life, constantly stole the ideas of others without giving credit, as well as sporadically berating everyone he regards as “incompetent” or “unimaginitive.” With that said, Isaacson balances the book well like a yin-yang symbol, equally showing both the dark and bright sides of Job’s life.

Personally, going into the book I had the upmost respect for Jobs and all that he has accomplished in bringing a company from rags to riches. The story of his life truly opened up my eyes to what a terrible person Steve Jobs was, and while no one, not even Isaacson actually understands what fueled this monster, it is astounding to perceive him for who he truly was. With millions worldwide in possession of the awe inspiring products Jobs and his “crew of Silicon Valley pirates” fabricated, it seems logical that consumers would wish to explore the source of this innovation. Senior Justin Lynch remarks “I use my Iphone every day, and idolized Jobs for all that he accomplished, but reading this biography shocked me in revealing how demonic this man actually was.”

Steven Paul Jobs, born in San Francisco California, raised by his adoptive parents Paul and Clara Jobs in nearby Mountain View California, experienced the typical American childhood of a middle class family. Jobs truly loved his adoptive parents, yet he expressed emotions of neglect after being abandoned by his biological ones “Paul and Clara are 100% my parents. And Joanna and Abdulfatah—are only a sperm and an egg bank. It’s not rude, it is the truth.“ (128) Jobs initially sparked his career of innovation by teaming with genius Steve Wozniak to invent the notorious arcade game “Pong” for Atari. Following the impressive relationship this duo formed, Wozniak introduced Jobs to what would become the keystone to Apple’s creation in 1976, the Apple I. Slowly Apple began to shock the world with its groundbreaking approach to consumer technology until in 1985, when Jobs was “fired” from the company he created. While his emotions flared during his time of leave, Jobs later reflected on the time, claiming “getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me”(321). This led Jobs to explore new ventures including the foundation of a rival company Next, as well as purchasing Pixar, which under Jobs’s influence went on to produce iconic films such as “Toy Story” and “Finding Nemo.” Eventually, on the edge of bankruptcy, the struggling Apple requested the return of its founder, Steve Jobs. It was within this next decade where Jobs really left his mark on the world, while also saving Apple from extinction. During this period of time Jobs changed history with the release of products like the Ipod, Iphone, and Ipad. While this is the cut and dry of what Jobs accomplished, this book takes readers on the bumpy journey that defined Steve Jobs.

Ultimately, Steve Jobs was legendary for the innovations he brought to multiple different industries. His reach and inspiration went well beyond just his residency at Apple. In respect to his career Jobs vocalized that “Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful… that’s what matters to me”(272). Yet this drive to create “wonderful” products often alienated him from the world, as his short fuse would explode following the simplest of sparks. Nevertheless, this complex and mystifying character proves to be intriguing as readers examine one of the greatest innovators of the century. Cancer eventually got the best of this legend, however prior to his death, Jobs offered “Life is brief, and then you die, you know? And we’ve all chosen to do this with our lives. So it better be damn good. It better be worth it.”(482). Evidently, what Jobs chose can be seen as “Damn good” and the legacy he left behind will be honored for generations.

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