“Revolution In The Valley”

Filed under: Books

“Revolution In The Valley: The Insanely Great Story of How the Mac Was Made”
Authors: Andy Hertzfeld & VVAA
Publisher: O’Reilly
Other info: 320 pages of text with pictures; also available in ebook form

“Revolution In The Valley” is the most authoritative text on the origins of the Macintosh: it is fundamental reading, and also a funny one. This can sound as excessive praise but the fact that Andy Hertzfeld and the other authors were all Apple employees and part of the original Mac development team, is the first clue that this is probably a must-read book if you are an Apple historian, fan or long-time user.

The textual contents of the book have been originally published online, since 2003, on the Folklore.org website. The project started with Hertzfeld’s recollections, written in mid-90s, about working at Apple on the Macintosh project, and was later expanded.

Unlike other journalistic works about Apple, folklore.org and its printed version, “Revolution In The Valley”, are basically an attempt at choral storytelling, penned firsthand by many of the people who created the hardware and software of “computer for the rest of us”.

Alongside Hertzfeld (who wrote the bulk of the material) you will also discover contributions by (among others) Steve Capps, Donn Denman, Bruce Horn, Bill Atkinson, Susan Kare, Daniel Kottke and Caroline Rose, all adding to a mesmerizing and vivid patchwork of tales and tidbits about groundbreaking hardware decisions, managerial dead-ends, personality clashes, crazy jokes, cool hacks, eureka moments and days and nights of heavy work under impossible deadlines by a group of insanely talented people.

Among my favorite stories are two that offer a mix of behind-the-scenes insight and humor: “I Still Remember Regions”, where after a serious accident Bill Atkinson’s strives to assure Steve Jobs that he still remembers a key programming solution he devised, and “Quick, Hide In This Closet!”, a group effort to go behind Jobs’ back and make sure a new (and better) technology will work with the Macintosh.

The book, of course, has a conventional table of contents and lacks the hypertextual nature of the website (which is very handy) and leaves to the reader the task of putting the whole picture together after reading the many stories. On the other hand “Revolution In The Valley” is a beautifully designed object and also offers some extra content, most of all an expanded iconographic component. In its pages, alongside the texts, you will find sketches, pixel-art, ads, screenshots, Susan Kare’s internal flyers done with MacPaint, nice full-resolution pictures of the authors and some rare and eye-opening images such as a series of Polaroids chronicling the evolution of the graphical interface of the Lisa.

Wednesday 20 November 2019, 12:30 pm
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“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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A chat with Jay Elliot

Filed under: Books,People

Jay Elliot has been part of Apple during its first incredible growth, in the early Eighties. He met Steve Jobs in a restaurant and was offered a job, where he became a Senior Vice President
The rest, as they say, is history, and Elliot has chronicled those years and his thoughts about Steve Jobs and Product Marketing in “The Steve Jobs Way”, a book he cowrote with William L. Simon.

Jay Elliot in BolognaI had the chance to speak a bit with him during his promotional tour for the italian edition, which was published by Hoepli.

Stories of Apple: How long were you at Apple?
Jay Elliot: I was at Apple from 1980 to 1986. Late part of 1980 to the late part of 1986.

(more…)

Thursday 08 December 2011, 3:00 pm
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