Sign Of the Times


Steve Jobs: The man who thought different

By: Karen Blumenthal

Author Bio: Karen Blumenthal is a financial journalist and a prestigious author. She attended Duke University and has an MBA in Southern Methodist University. She was a suburban reporter at Dallas Morning News until she retired and went on to write several books.

The Byte of Apple

By: Dylan Nguyen

Steve Jobs left the world pouring his whole life into the company of Apple, “All I ask that today, you do the best work of your entire life.”1 In Karen Blumenthal’s Steve Jobs: The Man Who Thought Different, published in 2012, she explains the creation of Apple and Steve Job’s life. Blumenthal describes the aspiration of Steve Jobs as he pursues to create a “dent in the universe” by leading the computer revolution.

Steve Jobs was born and adopted in 1955 by the Jobs family. He grew up with two huge influences that affected his meticulous work, Paul and Clara Jobs. His father, Paul Jobs, created a deep impression on Steve through his “careful craftsmanship and commitment to the finest details.”2 He introduced him to the world of engineering and design. His mother, Clara Jobs, supported her son by giving him a huge interest in reading, which led him to perform exceptionally well in school. The Jobs family moved to Palo Alto, near the technology upstart in Silicon Valley. Although he was exceptional in his academics, he often found himself bored and pulling pranks on other students. With his high results in his academics, he was able to test high enough to skip multiple grades, although his parents only let him skip one. Attending middle school was tougher physically and mentally. He often got bullied for being the wiry kid and a year younger, “Seventh grade brought a much rougher crowd of classmates”3, which forced the Jobs family to move to a home in Los Altos. The new community and school had huge improvements as Jobs found a group of friends that shared his interests. He attended Homestead High School where he would meet his best friend, Steve Wozniak. Wozniak preceded Jobs by five years, but the two quickly became friends due to their interest of computers and Bob Dylan. Near the end of his high school career, Jobs ventured in unusual hobbies and interests such as experimenting with LSD and strange diets with his first girlfriend, Chrisann Brennan. After high school, Jobs attended a liberal arts school, Reed College. In college, Jobs acquired bizarre diets and pursued the goal of reaching enlightenment. After a year and a half, Jobs returned home in Silicon Valley, uncertain of his future. Looking hopelessly for a job, He wandered into Atari’s main office and refused to leave until he had a job. After chatting with Al Alcorn, the chief engineer, he was given a job due to his charm and energy. Subsequently several months he was given a special task by company founder Nolan Bushnell to design a particular game in less than four days. As this seemed to be an impossible deadline, he called his friend Wozniak, for assistance on the design and promised to split the payment of $700 with him. Bushnell was so intrigued with the game that he added a bonus of $5,000. Wozniak and Jobs became a great partnership that would soon move on to create unbelievable technology that would lead the computer revolution.

As the technology revolution was taking off in Silicon Valley, Woz and Jobs had their own plans for a technology upstart. Through his job at Hewlett, Wozniak made significant achievements on developing a computer and intended to share his ideas with the Homebrew computer club. But, Jobs encouraged him to stop sharing his ideas and proposed a plan to sell circuit boards to the members so they could plug in their own software. They named their partnership Apple after Jobs came back from an apple farm. They made their logo an apple with a bite taken out of it to represent the computer byte, a source of digital information to store memory. As their company started to lose money, they tried to “drum up their sales by entering a new computer store called Byte Shop and began to pitch their idea to the owner.”4 The owner stated that he needed computers and that he would buy fifty computers for $500 each. Woz and Jobs labored for a month to create a dozen computers, selling to the local computer shop, which made Apple profitable again. As the company grew, sales started flying and they were soon recognized by the press. Using Job’s connections at Atari, he got into contact with Markkula and then hired Mike Scott as the president. Woz started on a new computer design, the Apple II, which would sell six million units. As Job’s off and on girlfriend joined the workforce of Apple, she became pregnant and declared that Job’s was the father. At the time, Jobs completely denied it and ignored the baby completely. As the Apple II’s success carried the sales of Apple, Jobs moved onto new products such as Project Lisa. The project was an inexpensive computer with a sleek design which was named after Jobs’ daughter. As he took over the project, he added new software by stealing Xerox’s GUI. Although the project was going increasingly well, the senior management was growing wary of Jobs because of his intense and angry personality and demoted him to a lower position in which he did not control any projects. After Mike Scott was laid off due to his managerial issues, Jobs was able to pursue a new project, the Macintosh project. His meticulous work and need for perfection shown through the Macintosh as he stressed every single minor detail and insists that the Macintosh should be a piece of art. With Mike Scott gone, Jobs felt too immature to run Apple which led him to hire Sculley, the marketing genius behind Pepsi. Sculley made an advertisement for the Macintosh which aired at the 1984 Super Bowl. The product flew off the shelves in a frenzy but, after a month, the sales began to fall. The limitations that Jobs had imposed discouraged new buyers. As the Macintosh and Lisa projects failed, Jobs would be replaced. He was thirty years old, a millionaire, and a failure at the company he co-founded.

Without Apple, Jobs still wanted to pursue his vision and his passion. He decided to start another company called NeXT. At this new company, Jobs would make many mistakes that he would learn from later on. He overspent on a dedicated factory that only produced NeXT computers, and his insistence on a perfectly cubical design made the computer casing extremely expensive. Although the NeXT computers had unbeatable software, the pricing was incredibly high. With the flop of Jobs’ new company, he then acquired a 70% stake in Lucasfilm’s animation which he renamed Pixar. After Pixar was awarded the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film, Jobs was convinced to focus on Pixar to make great animation. Jobs met his future wife, Laurene Powell, at the Stanford Business School. The two hit it off well and got married in 1991, they moved into a house in Palo Alto. Jobs’ daughter Lisa moved in with them and Jobs and Powell would also raise three more children. Jobs also found his biological parents and sister. With his whole family intact, “he would develop a meaningful and lasting bond with most of them.”5 Amelio, the new leader of Apple, needed fresh ideas and eventually chose to acquire NeXT. With Jobs return to Apple, he enlisted a new marketing team and made a partnership with Microsoft. In 1997, Apple lost $1.04 billion due to their lack of advertising and creativity and their products, but after Jobs’ first full year as Apple’s CEO in 1998, Apple recorded a profit of $309 million. Jobs hired Jony Ive who designed exceptional and innovative products and packaging. The first product designed by the two was the iMac, a desktop computer that had 800,000 sales in one year. After producing exceptional results for Apple, Jobs was gifted a jet and 20 million stock options. After realizing his hatred of someone else selling his products resulted in a loss of innovation, Jobs decided that Apple needed control of the retail process as well. He opened the first Apple Store in New York City becoming the highest grossing store of New York. Jobs decided that portable music players would become the next best Apple product. He teamed up with SoundJam to create the iPod. Consumers would soon make the iPod so successful that it would change the music industry. To make the iPod more irresistible, Jobs partnered with several executives of music companies to create the iTunes store. iTunes was a huge success, which made iPod half of Apple’s revenues, and the iTunes store sold more than 70 million songs. Jobs revealed that his iPod playlist consisted of Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Joni Mitchell, and Yo Yo Ma. Ma was such a huge inspiration that when Jobs was diagnosed with cancer, he made the cellist promise to play at his funeral. Disney and Pixar had struck another deal: Disney would acquire Pixar, but Pixar’s senior management would acquire the top positions at Disney’s animation division. With Jobs’ incredible success after his return to Apple, he would soon face the challenge of death.

Jobs first learned of his cancer in 2003. He unfortunately approached the problem of his cancer the same way he approached a design problem. He refused surgery for nine months, trying to settle the tumor through vegan diets, meditation, and acupuncture. As the tumor grew, Jobs grudgingly agreed to invasive surgery to remove the tumor. The experience reminded Jobs of his mortality, which led Jobs to accept an invitation to give a commencement speech at Stanford in 2005. Although he was diagnosed with cancer, it did not stop him from making new products. Jobs produced the iPhone which included two revolutionary technologies, multi-touch and an incredibly strong glass called Gorilla Glass. After working on the iPhone project, Jobs moved onto a tablet computer that would be later known as the iPad, The iPad sold 15 million units in nine months. Jobs was also able to increase his iPad sales by launching it to the education and textbook market, advertising it as “the future of education.”6 After his success with his sales in his new products, Jobs moved onto new battles and challenges. Jobs faced Google as he was irritated that they had copied Apple’s software to create Android. Jobs stated that he would, “spend [his] last dying breath if [he needs] to, and [he] will spend every penny of Apple’s $40 billion in the bank to right this wrong. I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product.”7 Jobs struggled with his cancer and decided to resign from Apple in August of 2011. He was able to construct a smooth transition with the new CEO, Tim Cook. Jobs lead the technology revolution for 30 years through his intensity and creativity.

Karen Blumenthal goes to the core of the complicated and legendary man. The author displays Jobs’ life through his adoption years to the commencement speech before his death. Blumenthal used Steve Jobs’ complicated biography to explain her thought process on the necessities of a great company. Through her work, she discusses that, “creativity and innovation were necessary factors to keep Apple the leader of the computer revolution.”8 She discusses the importance of these factors through her journalistic format. She writes this book to explain the importance of Steve Jobs and how he progressed technology.

Karen Blumenthal is a prestigious author that has received numerous awards such as the Pulitzer Prize. As a nonfiction author, Blumenthal primarily aims to write about the consumer’s and investor’s point of view. The factors that has influenced her point of view on how Steve Jobs has shaped the technology revolution would be based on her education and interviews with Jobs. Her education revolved around her love for technology d and business. Through these two passions, her point of view on Steve Jobs changed miraculously as he inspired her to lead her life with innovation and creativity. As she planned to write a biography on Steve Jobs, she scheduled numerous interviews, realizing that Jobs’ death was nearing. Jobs explained his whole life through only his point of view. With the interviews being held in only his perspective, Blumenthal would also gain new perspective on the Steve Jobs. These two factors lead to her book being biased to Jobs’ remaining the technological leader for thirty years and how his anger and intensity was a good foundation for Apple. The time period that Karen Blumenthal wrote this book was set in the early 2000s. The general attitudes of this book included heartfelt stories to differ from the great setbacks and sadness of “9/11 and the public revealment of Jobs’ cancer.”9 This book was written to capture the cheerful essence of Steve Jobs.

Booklist Reviews constructed a book review for Steve Jobs: The Man who thought Different. The reviewer, Ilene Cooper, stated that the book, in terms of biographies of Steve Jobs was a close second to Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs. She stated that Blumenthal did a great job using the interviews to give a full portray of Jobs, however, with Jobs being the only source of his life, it consisted some “bias around his well-documented flaws.”10

Overall, the book did a fantastic job portraying the technology legend Steve Jobs. Blumenthal was able to liven the biography through her interesting quotes of Jobs and small fact and articles giving background of each chapter. Blumenthal constructed the book through Jobs’ commencement speech that stated his three stories and used the stories to hook in the audience. She also includes interesting black and white pictures that go well with Jobs’ creativity and simplicity in his products. Blumenthal was also able to create an incredible ending stemming from Jobs’ memory of his favorite slogan from a publication that was popular when he was in highschool, reading “Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish.”11 Overall Blumenthal, did an amazing job constructing her book in an interesting and almost-journalistic format, which consisted of insinuating details that led up to the climax of each chapter.

The book was able to reflect the social and economic changes of America against the rise of fears about terrorism through its upbeat nature, it inspired people to move on and lead the world of innovation no matter the circumstances. This book was also able to address the social changes of digital technology as it was about the technology leader, Steve Jobs and his company Apple, they were able to create new, simplistic, and innovative products that would inspire many other companies to also lead with innovation. He was able to impact the economic changes of digital technology through billions of sales which made a huge dent in the economy of America.

This book has been an all time favorite of the tech savvy audience that has shown the main factors of great people and companies, innovation and creativity. Blumenthal was able to portray Steve Jobs in a unique way that would carry his legend to the end of time. Steve Jobs has taught us that leading your life with innovation and the motto he lived by, “Think Different”, would be an inspiration for everyone. Steve Jobs was always his own man doing things his own way, “Your time is limited so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”12

[1] Blumenthal, Karen. Steve Jobs: The man who thought Different.
[2] London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2012. 89
[3] Blumenthal, Karen. 9
[4] Blumenthal, Karen. 14
[5] Blumenthal, Karen. 62
[6] Blumenthal, Karen. 212
[7] Blumenthal, Karen. 233
[8] Blumenthal, Karen. 259
[9] Blumenthal, Karen, 143
[10] Blumenthal, Karen. 233
[11] Ilene Cooper. Review(Steve Jobs: The man who thought Different). [12] Booklist Reviews. 2012
[13] Blumenthal, Karen. 267
[14] Blumenthal, Karen. 63