book: steve jobs

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson (affiliate link).

This is one of those books that I had every intention of reading when it was released, but was too busy to read at the time. When I had the chance to borrow it, I jumped, and spent most of my train trips for a week (and a sleepless night) reading it. This was a good way to consume the book, I think – full immersion, as much as is possible with my current schedule.

Back at uni, I did a “historical computing” assignment on the S-100 bus, part of the technology of the early 1980s, and a key part my first computer (the one I had access to when I was about five years old). I was a big fan of computer culture even back then, though it wasn’t until the late 1980’s that I had a chance to play with a Macintosh.

Even though I didn’t own any Apple computer until I started earning money for myself, Apple computers were a big part of my computer experience – a UNSW program when I was at primary school gave us a chance to learn Appleworks on the Apple IIe (I remember they had an Apple II GS in a room somewhere – it was much faster than the regular Apple II computer series, which made Frogger completely unplayable).

All this reminiscing is to help explain what I liked about the book – it was a chance to go back to that period of time, and see what was happening in the part of the world where so much computer development was taking place. 

The book is certainly not without its flaws – have a listen to the hypercritical podcast episodes 42 and 43 for a very detailed breakdown of why Isaacson was “the wrong guy” for the job of biographer – he lacks technical knowledge, and has not done a great deal of cross-checking ideas. In particular, I was wondering how Jobs justified his division of work/life balance, seeming to spend little time with his family: there wasn’t much of an attempt made to explain this.

If you have a passing interest in Steve Jobs, this is a good book to work through in search of answers. If you’re looking for something more substantial in terms of how Jobs achieved what he did, there’s still a lot of mystery remaining, but this may well be the book that gets closest to answering anything.

time is short

steve and apple Steve Jobs – 1955-2011 (Apple computer, Pixar, Mac, iPod, iPhone, iPad)

A few quotes, and a summary of the things I’ve been reading around the web.

“What’s really great is to be open when [the work] is not great. My best contribution is not settling for anything but really good stuff, in all the details. That’s my job — to make sure everything is great.”

“No one wants to die, even people who want to go to Heaven don’t want to die to get there,” he told the Stanford graduates. “And yet, death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because death is very likely the single best invention of life. It’s life’s change agent; it clears out the old to make way for the new … Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”

From Wired Magazine’s profile of Steve Jobs.

Other reactions: Scott Rhodie, Ryan Tate (some swearing), Josh Harris, A post on Steve Jobs’ worldview, Nathan Bingham, Nathan Campbell, a screen capture on the Daily Telegraph going too far with their headline by dave miers, the Westborough Baptists announcing their plans to picket Steve’s funeral (from an iPhone).

Many people are referencing this video: Transcript of Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford commencement speech (6M views at time of posting).

And this ad, voiced by Steve, about the people who changed the world.

Update: lots more videos on this blog post.

It was an odd feeling today, watching the news of Steve Jobs’ death break on TweetDeck on my MacBook Air, not really wanting to shout it out to other people in the office, not really wanting to watch twitter as it was immediately overrun by pithy quotes, the inevitable black jokes. Has it really been ten years since the iPod first launched? What have I been doing with my life (married, one and a half masters degrees, a mortgage, having two kids, four or five different jobs)?

I’m hoping to take away from today a sense of making the most of the time that is given. Time is short, and it’s too easy to be wrapped up in the urgent while neglecting the important. I’m spending a lot of time learning about theology, and precious little time talking to people (and listening to them) about their take on Jesus. Am I working on the things that are the best use of my time? Am I even managing to spend enough time reflecting on my life so I know how to answer that question?

new iPhone Ads – with an ad in the middle.

This article – Apple Joins AT&T/Verizon Spat With New iPhone Ads – talks about Apple explicitly promoting the benefits of the AT&T network to handle voice calls and data at the same time. It’s not particularly noteworthy, except for the really odd experience of watching the video that’s embedded on the page.

The video is two Apple ads back-to-back, but a few seconds in, there’s an interruption: another video – an ad that the site is (presumably) receiving revenue for – plays in the middle of watching the video, which itself is an ad.

This has to be the most intrusive attempt at video advertising I’ve seen yet!

links on the current apple user experience

While I was driving recently, I needed the passenger to make a phone call. I had looked up the number, all that was needed was for the call to be placed. I handed over the iPhone, and the question was “how do I call?”.

I was able to describe it easily enough, but the experience made me think it was time to share a few of these links on the weaknesses of Apple’s approach to design.

Here are a few pages I’ve read recently. This all pre-dates Snow Leopard, iTunes 9 and the new iPhone OS 3.1, and is more about the sense of how the face of mobile phone technology has changed since the launch of the iPhone. Have a look at each, and see what your thoughts are on the Apple interface.

  • Frustrations with iTunes
  • the iPhone is not easy to use
  • Before Apple introduced the iPhone
  • I found the second post the most insightful: here’s where the idea came from, according to the author:

    At the 2009 IA Summit, Karl Fast articulated the value proposition of user experience design with sparkling clarity. "Engineers make things," he said, "we make people love them." And then he held up an iPhone as an example.

    The kind of user interface design that people are starting to expect is not something that is trivially easy to use, but rather something that delights them. The post goes on to talk about the move from an intuitive design to something that is fun to explore – the approach is more one of game design than of traditional interface design.

    What are your thoughts on the iPhone (especially if you have one) – is it easy to use, or is it fun to use? And which is better?