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Insanely Great: The Life and Times of Macintosh, the Computer that Changed Everything Paperback


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Insanely Great: The Life and Times of Macintosh, the Computer that Changed Everything + Revolution in The Valley: The Insanely Great Story of How the Mac Was Made + Apple Confidential 2.0: The Definitive History of the World's Most Colorful Company
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (June 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140291776
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140291773
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #735,937 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Back in the early 1980s, word spread about an inviting little personal computer that used something called a mouse and smiled at you when you turned it on. Steven Levy relates his first encounter with the pre-released Mac and goes on to chronicle the machine that Apple developers hoped would "make a dent in the universe." A wonderful story told by a terrific writer (Levy was the longtime writer of the popular "Iconoclast" column in MacWorld; he's now a columnist with Newsweek, the birth and first ten years of the Macintosh is a great read. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

This sensible and entertaining book outlines "how technology, serendipity, passion, and magic combined to create . . . the most important consumer product in the last half of the twentieth century: the Macintosh computer." Levy ( Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution ) describes the travails that beset Apple, the company run by Steven Jobs that created the Mac--"dippy new-age culture," a "mission from God" mentality and a Silicon Valley image. "What's the difference between Apple and Boy Scouts?" he queries, reviving a long-running joke. Answer: "The Boy Scouts have adult supervision." And Levy's view of Jobs himself seems reasonable: "a con man," and "a slick marketer" whose impulsive management style and overbearing ego "drove people crazy." As the author recounts, in 1985 Apple's directors forced Jobs out; he left Apple while creating a new comuter company, Next. "It made no dent in the universe," Levy reports. John Sculley replaced Jobs, but he too was relieved of his position as CEO in 1993, when Apple's directors judged him "too much a visionary." This solid work adroitly covers the information age.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Reading about Steve Jobs, one enters his reality distortion field.
Robert L Herman
The Macintosh, and the entire graphical user interface concept, was truly "insanely great," as Steven Levy quotes Steve Jobs, former chairman of Apple Computers.
Glen Engel Cox
This book is a great read for anybody who enjoys the history of how computers became what they are, as well as all Mac users.
Daniel Kiss

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By C.Molanphy <catherine@cleverdesign.com> on June 28, 1999
Format: Paperback
1) This book clears up a myth about the Xerox PARC (Palo Alto Research Center) debacle: In the TLC documentary "Revenge of the Nerds" and in the recently-aired TNT original movie "Pirates of Silicon Valley", it is implied that the Xerox researchers were anxious to have their GUI receive exposure in the world of personal computers and were frustrated by the Xerox executives' lack of interest. Levy contradicts this: according to his account the PARC people were "true" scientists, a lot more interested in theory than application and somewhat disdainful of unleashing their ideas on the masses (a notable exception, according to Levy, being Larry Tesler who later joined Apple.) He portrays PARC as something of an ivory tower of computer science academics who were unconcerned with any public reception of their ideas, rather than as a nascent software developer that was swindled of its "props" by the indifference of Xerox and the acquisitiveness of the Macintosh team. As I have not read any of the other books about Apple and the famed PARC heist, I don't know whether Levy's assertions have been confirmed by any other writers.
2) Another issue which is related to the above is the popular belief that the developers of the Mac OS owed everything to the work of the PARC people. Levy challenges this, siting several specific instances in which the Mac developers (notably Bill Atkinson and his "QuickDraw") completely invented solutions to problems in the interface that had been poorly or not at all dealth with by PARC.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Glen Engel Cox on September 4, 2002
Format: Paperback
I bought my first computer, a Macintosh, in 1984. I had wanted a computer for years, watching friends with envy at their Commodore 64s, Radio Shack Color Computers, and wonderful Apple IIs. When the Macintosh was introduced in 1984, I had to have it. It was the computer built "for the rest of us." Never mind that I could have had everything I needed in a computer--word processing program, a few games--for $$$, as soon as I sat down in front of the Macintosh, my life changed. The Macintosh, and the entire graphical user interface concept, was truly "insanely great," as Steven Levy quotes Steve Jobs, former chairman of Apple Computers. In his new book, Insanely Great: The Life and Times of Macintosh, the Computer That Changed Everything, Levy reveals how and why the Macintosh had such an impact on the world.
Although the Macintosh debuted in 1984, the seeds of its design had been planted as early as 1945. In a post-war statement, Vannevar Bush, then the director of the U.S. Office of Scientific Research and Development, wrote an essay in which he contended that the next step of technology should be the way we collect and process information. Having seen the early use of computers in the war, Bush realized the awesome potential of high-speed information management, but also knew that progress would have to be made in the interface if ever information management could be useful. Levy follows the chain that links Bush to Alan Kay, who proposed the Dynabook, a forerunner of today's PDA technology, to the developers at Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center who developed the first graphical user interface (GUI). Nearby, a small team of dedicated programmers were working on the low-cost hardware that became teamed with the new GUI concept that became the Macintosh.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By ferlop on July 5, 2003
Format: Paperback
Once upon a time, a guy named Steve had a vision: to take IBM's place in the computer industry. Not by copying IBM's ideas as Michael Dell did. No. By innovating...
Steve Jobs, a charismatic and driven individual, who wears the same outfit so he doesn't have to waste his time deciding what to wear, and who once was exiled from his own company, came back. Although many critics always thought of Jobs as an opportunistic individual, more than creative and visionary, and labeled him as a "One Hit Wonder" was able to make a "Come Back." This book tells the story of the first Mac, the one that only a few people knew about, and then, it takes you through a journey of one of the greatest companies ever founded: Apple, Inc. The story that almost wasn't told. After years of mismanagements and senior executives not understanding what Apple Computers was all about, Steve Jobs returned not just to save the company, but also to redirect where the company was headed. As many people said, "Apple was off track," and it was, it really was. However, Jobs' return not only brought blood back to Apple, but also put them on the black ink once again.
Before picking up this book, ensure that you have enough time to read it all at once. You won't be able o put it down. If you are a Mac fan, or if you are just interested in knowing a bit more of what Apple has gone through, this book is for you.
Enjoy it!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Joseph Pellerin on June 20, 2006
Format: Paperback
Let me preface this review with the fact that I love Steven Levy. Well, his books anyhow. That said, this review is necessarily tainted by my experience with some of his other work. The curse of the author who pens a masterpiece (i.e. "Hackers" by Levy) is that everything that came before, and after, will be compared against said masterpiece. The case of "Insanely Great" is no different.

While I found this book to be an enjoyable read (I've read and re-read it more than once), and containing some decent detail about the origins of the original Macintosh, I also found it to be somewhat half-hearted in its presentation. Relative to "Hackers", of course.

I really got the sense that Levy was just plowing through the history, rather than lovingly exploring the details. While it's clear from the book that Levy truly loves the Mac, it's less clear that he loved the story of how it came to be. The writing lacked the obvious fascination and passion that he presents in "Hackers", and the breadth of research and intricate technical detail that he shows in "Artificial Life" and "Crytpo". In "Insanely Great", he just seems to be going through the motions of telling the story.

The most passionate and moving bits of writing in the book are when he is describing his love and respect for the machine. He clearly recognizes and conveys the absolute technical epiphany that Macintosh represented to the computer industry (heck, to the world). These bits are closely followed by some great (and well thought out) rants about the weaknesses of the machine - and the metaphorical medium it has spread across the world.

Finally, the book almost accidentally documents Levy's interesting relationship with Steve Jobs.
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