Steve Jobs: the genius rebel who saw the world – computers included – differently from the rest of us.
(Page 4 of 4)
Jobs waited a crucial nine months before submitting to surgery to remove tumors, but, by the time he did so, the cancer had spread.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
The pain of bouts with cancer during the final years of Jobs' life was exacerbated by a lifelong penchant for extreme diets and fasting. From his teens on, Jobs would eat one or two foods for weeks on end and then abruptly give them up in favor of another fad diet. He believed vegetarianism prevented body odor and made bathing mostly unnecessary, a belief colleagues knew to be wrong based on extensive first-hand evidence to the contrary.
Few things excited Jobs as much as his work. In 1991, he married and, despite frequent absences, forged a successful family life, a credit to his patient but strong wife, Laurene Powell.
Some of the juiciest tidbits can be found in Isaacson’s accounts of the Jobs-Gates rivalry, a competition summed up as a battle between open and closed tech strategies.
Microsoft made software for multiple computers and platforms, from personal computers to Macs. Functional was fine for Gates. This philosophy disgusted Jobs, who once said Microsoft lacked aesthetic sensibilities (“they just have no taste”) and disparaged Gates as “basically unimaginative.”
Gates offered a backhanded compliment of his own. Jobs, he said, “really never knew much about technology, but he had an amazing instinct for what works.”
Jobs, defying his Zen beliefs, sought complete control in a closed system that revolved around Apple keeping tight grips on the hardware and software of its products, a seamless combination that guaranteed consistency – and greater sales. (Apple makes it impossible for buyers to even look inside its products, sealing them with custom made screws and parts to ensure inscrutability.) Creating the iTunes store for online music purchases and making it compatible only with the iPod ensured huge sales for both while also reinforcing the notion of the Mac as the hub for all of these digital wonders. More recently, another Jobs notion, the iCloud, has again tied multiple Apple products together.
To be sure, Jobs didn’t invent many of these products, or invent them alone, anyway. (His name is on hundreds of patents with others from Apple.) He did nurture them with constant critiques and revisions and he used sheer willpower to deliver better and better products people never knew they needed. In characteristic fashion, he scoffed at the idea of asking consumers what they wanted. As he put it after the Mac debuted in 1984, “Did Alexander Graham Bell do any market research before he invented the telephone?”
Jobs can be summed up in his own advertising slogan: Think different. He did, and Isaacson is to be commended for explaining the genius of Jobs in fascinating fashion, launching a discussion that could reach infinity and beyond.
Erik Spanberg regularly reviews books for the Monitor.