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Apple’s Core

by Otto Selles
Mixed Media

In 1984 I experienced my first “Apple moment.” As I opened the boxes holding my brand-new Apple MacIntosh computer, I was wowed. I had never seen such fancy packaging for an electronic device before. And the actual computer was so unlike the clunky machines of the day. The edges were rounded, the cables fit in so easily, and the screen seemed inviting. Who could have designed a product so slick?

The Mac reflected the fruit of Steve Jobs’s gift for brilliant product design and marketing. Over the years, I experienced similar Apple moments as I got to flip the click wheel or brush a finger across the screen of the newest i-device. The design was always so sleek, practical, and playful.

As an Apple fan, I had read many articles on Steve Jobs and knew about his difficult character. I had no idea, however, how extremely difficult a person he was until I started Walter Isaacson’s best-selling biography Steve Jobs (Simon & Schuster).

Surprisingly, for someone who may have been the ultimate “control freak,” Jobs gave Isaacson complete freedom to tell all—and the resulting portrait isn’t always pretty.

Jobs was arrogant, self-involved, and cruel to his family, friends, and coworkers. At Apple he regularly flew into fits of rage and criticized his employees mercilessly. Jobs would attribute an employee’s idea to himself or show a complete disregard for rules and reality, creating impossible deadlines for Apple engineers and designers. Isaacson summarizes: “At times, great creativity occurred. But people around him could pay a price.”

Still, for Isaacson, Jobs was a genius who “could absorb information, sniff the winds, and sense what lay ahead” and “thus became the greatest business executive of our era.”

As I finished the biography, I couldn’t help but regret that such greatness came at such a cost, to those around Jobs and to Jobs himself. Why is it that creativity often rhymes with tyranny? Could a kind and considerate business person, with equal creative gifts, have done as much as Jobs? Our society and business culture doesn’t seem to have a place for a selfless genius.

With those questions on my mind, I went to bed, turned on my iPod to listen to a podcast, and considered a bittersweet Apple moment.

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