Current reading: Steve Jobs

I am not a Mac user, nor am I a particular fan of any other Apple products. In fact, the only Apple device I have is a iPod shuffle I bought about four years ago. I am among the group who are not willing to pay for an extra 50% for something that Windows can do just fine. But I like Steve Jobs very much. His 2005 Stanford commencement speech is the reason.

Currently on Chapter 9. The first eight chapters tell the story before Apple went public in 1980. If one only looks at his childhood, it is hard to believe this is the story of a man who created Apple. Oftentimes I was appalled at what he said and what he did to other people, especially given that he considers himself as “a humanities person”. As the book puts it, “he was not a model boss, or human being, tidily packed for emulation”. However, no one can deny his contribution. Consider Pixar, the most successful animation studio, is only a side project in his life. (Just like Einstein, who won a Nobel prize for explaining the photoelectric effect,  which is also only a side project of his life.) The book lists six industries that Jobs have transformed: “personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computers, and digital publishing”.

History can be told from different perspectives. From a purely engineering perspective, Jobs did not invent the apple computer (Wozniak did); he did not invent graphical user interface or mouse (PARC did); nor did he invent tablet computer or smart phone. But why does Apple prevail while others trail? In his Stanford commencement address, he emphasized the importance of intuition, which is a theme that is repeated in the book. I am particularly fascinated by his personal devotion to Zen Buddhism and the emphasis he put on intuition beyond logical reasoning. I believe his intuition gave him the vision that others do not have. While others only see fancy gadgets, he see their transforming technology to change people’s lives. Intuition enables him to “think differently”.

So far, my favorite quote of Jobs is his pitch to hire Bill Atkinson: “Think about surfing on the front edge of a wave. It’s really exhilarating. Now think about dog-paddling at the tail end of that wave. It wouldn’t be anywhere near as much fun. Come down here and make a dent in the universe.”

Published by

Wendong Wang

A chemist who blogs

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