“Finding The Next Steve Jobs”

Filed under: Books

“Finding The Next Steve Jobs: How to Find, Keep, and Nurture Talent”
Author: Nolan Bushnell and Gene Stone
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Ohter info: 256 pages; also available in ebook format

Before starting Apple, in the Seventies, a young Steve Jobs worked at Atari. His big ego and lack of hygiene almost cost him the job, but Atari founder Nolan Bushnell, worked around his quirks and strived not to lose Jobs as an employee, having seen something special in him. During the following decades Bushnell kept in touch with Jobs, in a relationship based on mutual respect.

Bushnell isn’t just “the first and only boss Steve Jobs ever had” but a market pioneer, an engineer and entrepreneur who started more than twenty companies and is widely accepted as one of the founding fathers of the video game industry.

In 2013, assisted by Gene Stone, he wrote “Finding The Next Steve Jobs: How to Find, Keep, and Nurture Talent”, published in the USA by Simon & Schuster.

findingthenextstevejobs

The book is about finding and stimulating creativity and innovation in business by making unusual or plain unorthodox choices, such as those that propelled Jobs and Bushnell’s enteprises to success.

As Bushnell warns the reader

“it isn’t enough to find the next Steve Jobses and hire them; you have to create a situation in which they can flourish, and then your company can, too.”

Also:

“Steve Jobs knew that Atari was the kind of place that would allow him to flourish, no matter how arrogant he seemed. That trait made me wonder whether perhaps everyone has creative potential, but only the arrogant are self-confident enough to press their creative ideas on others. Steve believed he was always right, and was willing to push harder and longer than other people who might have had equally good ideas but who caved under pressure.”

Nolan Bushnell Campus Party Brasil

“Finding The Next Steve Jobs” is structured in 52 chapters, each of which is based on a pong, a name and concept which is a homage to the famous Atari videogame, a ping-pong simulator.

Bushnell’s pongs are tidbits, pieces of loose advice which he “sends“ to the reader. They are not rules, because he (and Jobs) don’t believe that creativity can thrive in the presence of strict rules.
Each pong offers a volley of reasonable advices, based on interesting and funny anecdotes from Jobs and Bushnell’s career.

Bushnell (and Stone) are great storytellers and are able to communicate the value of having a staff of wildly creative people whose ideas can guarantee that a company will prosper when other fail.

“Finding The Next Steve Jobs” is not only a source of inspiration for ambitious entepreneurs and company leaders but also a window into the world of  technological startups, in particular those of the late Seventies and early Eighties. Although it is not a biography or history book, it’s a stimulating and suggested read for anyone who wants to understand the climate which gave us Apple and its iconoclastic culture.

Nota: the book cover is © Simon & Schuster, while the (edited) picture of Nolan Bushnell is by Campus Party Brasil and has been released under a Creative Commons BY-SA 2.0 license.

Wednesday 25 March 2015, 12:00 pm
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Mister Macintosh

Mister MacintoshIn the Eighties a stylized little man with an overcoat and hat was etched on some early Macintosh motherboards and also appeared on some rare merchandising items.

Known as “Mr. Macintosh” or “Macintosh Man”, the character was concocted by Steve Jobs who in 1982 became of the opinion that the upcoming “computer for the rest of us” needed a mascot.

When Mac developer Andy Hertzfeld enquired about Mister Macintosh, Jobs told him he was

“a mysterious little man who lives inside each Macintosh. He pops up every once in a while, when you least expect it, and then winks at you and disappears again.”

Jobs also added that the appearance should

“be so quick that you won’t be sure if you saw him or not. We’ll plant references in the manuals to the legend of Mr. Macintosh, and no one will know if he’s real or not.”

folon_mrmacThe idea was eventually abandoned but Mr. Macintosh lived on, at least for a while, both in hardware and in software.

Jobs had already commissioned a little drawing to belgian artist Folon, who drew a mysterious character in a “Macintosh” overcoat and hat. This drawing was used on some early hardware boards and promotional material.

Andy Hertzfeld couldn’t fit an image in the very small ROM of the Mac, but he modifified the system software that showed the menus of the Mac. In this way a developer could eventually make Mr. Macintosh appear on screen by calling a special memory location called… MrMacHook.
Hertzfeld doesn’t know if anybody ever actually implemented Mr. Macintosh or used the “MrMacHook” location for something worthwhile.

The image of Mr. Macintosh/Macintosh man is from bitsavers.vt100.net, while the pin is taken from folklore.org

Friday 13 March 2015, 5:53 pm
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The first fonts of the Macintosh

Filed under: People,Software

During the summer of 1983, after spending more than six months creating symbols and icons for Macintosh files and menus, designer Susan Kare‘s attention turned to an issue she very much cared about: fonts.

Apple Macintosh Commercial - Susan Kare

At the time, on most personal computers, each letter was allotted the same space regardless of its shape. Thanks to its bitmap high resolution display (and Steve Jobs’ obsession with calligraphy) the Macintosh was capable of rendering proportional fonts, “leaving behind the tyranny of monospace alphabets with their narrow m’s and wide i’s” as Kare recalls.

The tireless engineer Bill Atkinson had already given two fonts to the Macintosh, a calligraphic one and a placeholder one, the latter converted from Xerox’s Smalltalk systems that inspired Apple.

xeroxfonts-byte081981pag120

Free from the requirement of making digital versions of print, scalable or already existing fonts, Kare focused on optimizing screen readability creating new bitmap fonts in specific sizes, controlling every single pixel as she was wont to do. (more…)

Tuesday 24 February 2015, 2:30 pm
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Marvel Villains and Apple Technology

Filed under: Did you know that...

In issue 18 of Marvel‘s comicbook Secret Avengers the writer, Warren Ellis, makes a bit of fun of mobile computing and Apple software.

Secret Avengers 18 - pag 01 dett

The story, wonderfully illustrated by David Aja and Raul Allen, tells about a secret mission by a trio of heroes: supersoldier Steve Rogers, agent Sharon Carter and martial artist Shang-Chi. Among their enemies is a “damaged” copy of supervillain Arnim Zola, able to transmit his consciousness into grotesque robotic bodies. (more…)

Friday 13 February 2015, 2:15 pm
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The PPC 603e: from Macs to outer space

Performa 5200The second generation of PowerPC processors made its debut in april 1995 with the launch of the all-in-one Power Macintosh 5200 LC (also known under the Performa moniker). The computer sported a brand new PPC 603 chip with a 75 MHz clock frequency, an 8 KB first level cache and a 37,5 MHz bus.

The 5200 – together with the more powerful 6200, launched in May 1995 – was one of the few Macintosh models powered by the PowerPC 603 in its original version. In fact, it became soon evident that the reduced cache in the processor didn’t get along with the Mac’s operative system at all. The Mac OS at the time was mostly made up of code for 68000 processors, and it was being emulated. With not enough cache, the performance was abysmal earning a bad reputation to the first Macs with the 603 processor.

The problem was solved creating a variant of the processor, the PPC 603e. It had a larger, 16 KB cache (just like the PPC 601 had) and it was made to run faster, speeding it up from the original 120 MHz to 200 and later even to 300 MHzs. Such features made possible a much longer and broader use of the processor, including in laptops.

At the Macworld Expo in Boston in August 1995 Apple presented, among other things, the PowerBook 5300 and the PowerBook Duo 2300, two computers with opposing philosophies and target audiences, but sharing an almost identical core hardware. (more…)

Thursday 29 January 2015, 2:00 pm
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