Review: The Apple Revolution
By Luke Dormehl. Grade: A+
In the beginning (of the Information Age) was the void. And the void was digital. But lo, there came upon the land, the shadow of Steven Jobs (and Stephen Wozniak). And Steven (Stephen) said, ‘Let there be Apple.’ And there was Apple. And Steven (Stephen) beheld Apple. And it was good. And Apple begat Macintosh. And it was good. And soon upon the land there began to appear, The Cult of Macintosh. For they had tasted of Apple. And it was good.
Russell W. Belk and Gulnur Tumbat,
After reading Walter Isaacson’s excellent – if a little hagiographic – authorized biography of Steve Jobs, I wasn’t interested in exploring another book along the same lines. But beware! The Apple Revolution by Luke Dormehl tells the same story, but follows a different path altogether. It takes a hard look at how a business empire such as Apple, known through the world for it’s unsurpassed innovation and creativity (yes, we know, Samsung tried), could emerge from the bearded-and-sandals-loving hippies of the 1970s California.
This is the story of how the sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll generation changed the world for ever. Meet the Crazy Ones who created Silicon Valley – the hippies who started the Homebrew Computer Club; the young ad executive who first sketched out Apple’s iconic logo; the engineers who met lying down in a cardboard geodesic dome at Stanford University. From Steve Wozniak, who built the first breakthrough Apple computers, to Jony Ive, the young Brit who imagined the iPod – the designers and programmers, the geeks, creatives and dreamers, they are all here.
Steve Jobs is an interesting person to read about. He is brilliant, charismatic, incredibly photogenic, and the dressing on top: highly cranky. He is a legend, the college dropout who became a supercool billionnaire and single-handedly led a digital revolution that transformed billions of lives across hundreds of nations. And the technology writer and filmmaker makes full use of that. Luke Dormehl gives a broader take on that legendary man’s life by including his time at Reed College, at Atari, NeXt and Pixar, topics that have never been looked at from that angle before. The author argues that the 60s counterculture – which took in anti-war protests, the civil rights movement and the sexual revolution – was a formative experience for Apple’s bearded and barefoot founders, Steves Jobs and Wozniak, and paved the way for the digital revolution we’re enjoying today.
The writing is smooth, and rich with anecdotes that even the most devoted fans would not have heard. However, it does drag on at times, with the author discussing people and topics that have little connection to the big picture for pages and pages (the author of Apple Writer Paul Lutus gets as much as footage as two Apple CEOs).
Some may argue that Apple is cashing upon it’s “snob factor” marketing strategy: we make amazing products because you are amazing and you wouldn’t have chosen us otherwise. Some may also argue exactly what Apple is countering today? It is the counterculture. Towards the end, even the author admits that “today it’s difficult to think of Apple as a countercultural entity”.
To sum up, this is a story about how a garage business started by two long haired college dropouts rose to become the tech giant that Apple, Inc. is today. The author also narrates in an engaging and often hilarious manner the story of the rise of the all-conquering Apple ideology; the revolution it came from, the one it helped start and the one it left behind.