Walter Isaacson discusses Apple and Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs biographer Walter Isaacson delivered a lecture at the Royal Institution in London on Wednesday evening

By Karen Haslam, Macworld U.K. |  Business, Apple, Steve Jobs

The on-off button story is pertinent, as all who have finished reading the book will know, as Jobs used the analogy when describing what might happen after he died. "We were talking about spirituality and god and the sense that life is a journey, a spiritual journey. So I said: 'Do you believe in an afterlife, do you believe that there's a god?' and he said: 'I'd love to believe that there is more to this world than what you can see. That there's sort of a spirit that's larger than me and that when you die your spirit actually lives on and that your accumulated experiential wisdom survives'. But then he said: 'There are days when I'm depressed and I think maybe it's just like an on and off switch, you know, click, and you're gone.' And then he gave me that little smile he had and said: 'Maybe that's why I didn't like to put an on/off switch on products'."

Likeable Jobs?

The second half of the lecture was a discussion between Isaacson and Roger Highfield of the Science Museum Group. Highfield quizzed Isaacson about Jobs personality and specific elements of the biography. Highfield began by highlighting that the biography creates the picture of Jobs as a bully, getting his girlfriend pregnant and denying the child is his, parking in handicapped spaces, he screams at people. Isaacson cut in to point out that this description sounds just like Einstein, "Who also had an illegitimate child that he didn't take responsibility for, and was not great to subordinates".

Highfield then questioned why Isaacson said he "liked" Jobs. "Like is the most namby-pamby word. It doesn't even begin to explain the emotion you feel".

"He could be totally charming when he wanted to be, but he was not relaxed. He was the most intense, most emotional person, and I think that I found myself emotionally awed by him. Emotionally inspired by him. But if I could use a hundred adjectives the word 'like' is so namby-pamby..."

Isaacson described how the members of the original Mac team met after Jobs died and as the evening drew to a close they discussed whether they 'liked' Jobs. In each case they said: "No, But..." with a variety of reasons why they admired him. Isaacson said he felt the same about 'liking' Jobs: "No, but I wouldn't have given up for the moment the chance to be in his presence".

Granting freedom and being a control freek

Discussing Jobs' decision to grant Isaacson complete freedom to write the biography, unchecked, despite being such a "control freak" (as Isaacson put it), Isaacson explained: "He said: 'Nobody in history will care about this book if it looks like I commissioned it, read it and approved it. When people say I was a jerk or whatever, we'll it'll just say I was brutally honest. I want you to write a book that's honest. And I tried to."


Originally published on Macworld U.K. |  Click here to read the original story.
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