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Book Summary: Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

My Personal Summary

This book is a biography of Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple.

Jobs was always interested in technology even as a child, but his real skill was in sales, marketing, and getting a ton of highly talented people to work harder than they though was possible on revolutionary products.

Although he had a reputation for being arrogant and difficult to work with most of the time, it’s hard to deny that Jobs will go down in history as one of the most famous founders and technologists to have ever lived, whose products literally changed the course of history and were used by billions of people worldwide.

Book Notes

  • Jobs was born in 1955 and immediately put up for adoption. Paul and Clara Jobs adopted him and named him Steve.
  • Jobs was raised in Mountain View, in the heart of the future Silicon Valley.
  • In 4th grade he tested at a 10th grade level of proficiency.
  • In high school he began to learn about electronics and how different parts worked for machines. He also started smoking pot and dropping acid regularly.
  • In high school a mutual friend introduced Jobs to Steve Wozniak, who was a few years older and was also into electronics.
  • Jobs went to Reed college in Portland but dropped out because he didn’t like the required courses he had to take and felt bad about spending his hard-working parents money on tuition he didn’t find valuable. He decided to keep living on campus for 18 months and audit courses he found interesting though. One of those was a calligraphy course that later influenced the typefaces used on the Macs.
  • He said using LSD in college helped reinforce what was important in life – creating great things instead of making money.
  • After 18 months he moved back in with his parents and started working at Atari as a technician.
  • He traveled to India for 7 months to attempt to find enlightenment. When he returned to the U.S. he continued to practice zen and meditation seriously.
  • In 1975, Wozniak built the first keyboard that could make letters appear on a computer screen.
  • Wozniak would be the main brains and circuit board designer while Jobs would become the salesman and mastermind behind selling the circuit boards that Wozniak designed.
  • Wozniak and Jobs decided to start Apple in 1976, a name that Jobs came up with while on one of his famous fruit diets. It also put them ahead of Atari in the phonebooks. They decided to each own 50% of the company.
  • They sold their first 50 circuit boards (called the Apple l) to a local electronics store. Jobs had his friend Daniel Kottke put the boards together in Jobs’ parents garage and he hired his friend Elizabeth Holmes to do their bookkeeping.
  • In 1977 Mike Markkula invested $250k and joined to help with marketing and distribution because he had previous experience at Intel. Together, him, Jobs and Wozniak each owned 1/3 of Apple.
  • In 1977 Wozniak designed the Apple ll, which was more sleek and well packaged and would be sold to businesses and consumers alike for the next 16 years.
  • “Woz designed a great machine, but it would be sitting in hobby shops today were it not for Steve Jobs.”
  • Jobs wasn’t much of an engineer himself; rather, he knew how to recruit people, negotiate, and get shit done.
  • Jobs often walked around barefoot and thought that eating only fruits & veggies meant he wouldn’t have body odor so he would rarely shower.
  • At age 23 Jobs got his off/on girlfriend pregnant but wanted nothing to do with the child.
  • In 1980, just under four years after it started, Apple went public and became valued at $1.8 billion, making 300 employees at the company millionaires overnight.
  • When they went public, Jobs gave zero shares to his friend Daniel Kottke who had been a technician since the inception of Apple. This showed just how cold he could be.
  • Apple employees said that Jobs had a “reality distortion field” in which he made people get things done 10x faster than they ever thought possible.
  • Jobs was obsessed with design and he wanted the Mac computer to be packaged and presented as a piece of art, not just hardware.
  • In 1984 Apple brought on John Scully to be president, who was president of Pepsi at the time.
  • Jobs was basically an asshole and constantly told people that their work sucked. Of course, he was able to get people to do tremendous things and build amazing products, so his intensity lead to good results.
  • In 1985 Jobs was basically removed from the company by president John Scully and the rest of the board.
  • He decided to start a new computer company called NeXT that specifically made computers for universities and colleges.
  • Jobs bought 70% ownership of Pixar, which was just a computer graphics company at the time.
  • Jobs got married at age 36 in 1991 and went on to have 3 kids with his wife.
  • Jobs helped Pixar team up with Disney to produce the first Toy Story movie, which turned out to be a massive success.
  • Apple acquired NeXT in 1996.
  • Jobs came back to Apple in 1997 and took over as CEO. He was as CEO at Apple and Pixar at the same time and worked 14 hour days and said his health problems started then due to overworking himself.
  • In 1998 Apple released the iMac, the fastest selling personal computer ever.
  • In 2001 Apple started opening stores. They were minimalistic and sleek, designed mostly by Jobs himself. He made them use some fancy type of sandstone flooring from Florence and was obsessive about the design, even the colors of the bathroom signs.
  • In the early 2000’s Apple released the iPod, iPod mini, iPod shuffle, and iTunes which gave launched them into the music industry.
  • In 2003 Jobs was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He refused to have surgery to remove the tumor for a year because he wanted to try alternative forms of healing through foods, but this actually gave the cancer time to spread. He also refused to eat meat, which meant he didn’t get enough protein after his surgeries and had trouble recovering and gaining energy.
  • An important lesson that Mike Markkula taught Jobs was that you could impute value onto your product by using marketing tactics like dramatic presentations, fancy stores, elegant design of products, etc.
  • Apple launched the iPad in 2010 and it became the most successful product launch in history.

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