Thursday, December 3, 2015

Steve Jobs: Insanely Great by Jessie Hartland

The illustration of a Hollerith machine reminded me of the IBM machine in our high school in the 80s. We were given a stack of punch cards that we had to code. We used it in math class for numeric computation. I'd punch the cards, run them through the machine and Blammo! it never worked for me. I really hated that machine. I took a DOS class in the 90s and it reminded me of the punch card days. One detail off and the whole thing-a-ma-jig would not work. Ugh! This book is a walk down nightmare machine lane. My brother bought one of the first Macintosh personal computers that went public in 1984 when Steve Jobs was still in his twenties. I thought that computer was the best thing since chocolate ice cream and my brother graciously let me use it whenever I wanted. Jobs was innovative, creative, and demanding and this book captures his quirks marvelously. The only strange bit is that it is geared toward young kids but mentions Jobs smoking pot and using LSD. Not sure why the editors put that in the book but be aware that it is there.

The style of the book is quite different with illustrations and hand-written font. One of the things Jobs loved was calligraphy and he was proud of the fonts option in his software program Macwrite. I remember that program. I'd put several disks in to boot the program because there was no hard drive and oftentimes the computer froze, but I'd give my left hip any day for a computer over my much-hated typewriter.

The book spans Jobs life and covers his personal life, career path, and idiosyncrasies. This is a more positive take on his contributions and does not explore his difficult personality as adult versions do. He was controversial and the book shows that but it focuses more on the technology, innovations, and Job's inventive mind.

One part of the book shows how Jobs and Bill Gates took Xerox PARC's ideas of graphical user interface and created an easy-to-use product for the public to consume. Jobs is accusing Gates in one illustration of stealing his ideas and Gates in turn accuses him of stealing Xerox's idea. Dewey did the same thing when he invented the library system. So did Edison when he invented the light bulb. Many of the great inventors just perfect or make better existing ideas. It is clear that Jobs attention to detail, design background, and perfectionism were what made him good at creating quality products.

The Kindle format made it hard to read all the two-page spreads but it was doable. I'm sure it wouldn't have been acceptable to Jobs if he had designed the eReader. Just kidding. The repeated line that Job's used, "Insanely great!" adds to the evidence of his innovative spirit. The layout and design of this book reminds me of Marissa Moss's illustrations. It is not quite a graphic novel, but it departs from narrative text with all the illustrations.

I've been reading conversations on this blog called, Heavy Medal, and they were discussing fatal flaws in books and how it can prevent winning a Newbery award. The controversy was around one paragraph in "The Hired Girl." This Steve Jobs book would be another one that seems to go in the same category. Why did the editors add the drug reference when it doesn't contribute to the focus of the story? When society has problems with underage drinking and drugs, why would you make it look like it is okay to do that? The blog discussions have made me think about fatal flaws and how my biases come into play. While I find the drug reference not appropriate, some of you will think no big deal. Decide for yourself.

5 Smileys

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