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Insanely Great: The Life and Times of Macintosh, the Computer that Changed Everything Paperback – June 1, 2000
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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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Top Customer Reviews
No in-depth discussion about System 7, too little insight into events like Taligent and Pink. Major events in Apple's history that don't really get covered well.
I'd definitely recommend this book if you're not already familiar with some of the early events in Apple's early history, but if you're already familiar you'll probably find yourself skimming.
My only issue with the book was, is that the chapters are quite long and can become a bit boring in the end, as the material is quite deep and technical. Nevertheless, still highly recommended.
Here's a more in-depth review.
Steven Levy writes like all Rolling Stone writers wrote in the 70's and 80's. He uses a lot of "hip" verbiage (Apple-noids, Apple-nauts, "Wireheads") that seems a little silly when one is over 20 years old.
This book tries to find a balance between telling the history computer graphical user interfaces, a history of Apple, giving technical specifications behind the machines, and profiling the people who were involved in their creation.
There's also a chapter (a full chapter) where Levy discusses how he feels when his computer is broken. I'm serious.
As you can tell, in my opinion the result is kind of an unfocused mess.
An inordinate amount of space is given talking about the history of the computer GUI. It seemed like I was already 20% of the way through the book before I even got to Apple. That would be fine if this were a history of the GUI, but I can imagine most people who pick up a book with a big Mac on the cover don't want to do a deep dive into the life and times of Vannevar Bush.
Levy, chosen by his employer at the time to write about the first Macintosh, has a lot of first hand experience with the launch of the product and the people involved in its initial release. This is the strong part of this book. It covers the ups and downs of the original Mac team quite well.
After that, however, the book falls apart. Speaking anecdotally and making broad personal judgements about the various engineers and executives steered Macintosh forward, it hits a few highlights, throws in specifications of a handful of the machines, and then moves on. Then we get the chapter where Levy feels frustrated that his computer doesn't work.
The final part of the book is an "update" from 1998 that briefly discusses Job's return to Apple and the launch of the iMac (the "i" stands for Internet!) and the iBook. Other than wireless connectivity in the iBook, none of the other technical specifications are given. Then, as what I can only see as a ploy to trick people into thinking this book has been updated lately, Levy tacks on his obituary of Steve Jobs at the end.
Summary: I bought this book, looking at its copyright date, thinking it would be a complete history of the Macintosh computer, from the 128k to the 68k machines to the G3, G4, G5, and intel machines. This is not that book.