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Book Critique

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Despite the great technologies of the modern era, people still have the stereotypes of yesterday. People have the access to any information nowadays, but they continue believing gossips which they hear. It seems somewhat ironic that even the founder of the modern computer, Steve Wozniak, has to deal with the stereotypes and false information about him. No wonder that he has decided to break them all, and he did so by presenting his book, iWoz: From Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer, Co-Founded Apple, and Had Fun Doing It. This is his autobiography, which is written in collaboration with journalist Gina Smith. The book was published in 2006 and has sold more than a million copies since then. Obviously, things have changed since the book was written, and people have very different thoughts on Apple, Wozniak, and computers comparing to 2006. Nevertheless, this book does not try to form people’s minds. It has a great mission – to break the stereotypes and to show what programming is all about. iWoz does not teach the reader how to make money, it does not say “Stay hungry, stay foolish”; and it does not even  reveal the secrets of Apple. This is not a “success book” (the book with pieces of advice from a genius how to become one). After all, one does not buy iWoz for that. This is the book that tells about love – a very passionate one – to computer engineering, and it is perfect for people who share the same type of love. It is also a great stereotype-breaker, a sort of a modest confession of an honest man about his life and work.

It was mentioned before that Wozniak wrote his book to break the myths about himself and Apple. He explains it in the last chapter: “At this point in my life — I’m 55 as I write this — I think it’s time to set the record straight. So much of the information out there about me is wrong. I’ve come to hate books about Apple and its history so much because of that” (Wozniak & Smith, 2006). For example, in the autobiography, Wozniak denies that he and Jobs invented Apple II and states he did it all by himself. He also denies leaving Apple, as he is officially employed there.

This book has direct relationship to anybody who is involved in designing the computers, especially to young people who are taking their first steps in programming and engineering. It tells the readers not only what they should do in the computer field, but also how they should do it. Wozniak is an inspiring person who recommends doing everything with passion and faith. The book is also a good example for the beginners how to be the best professional possible. iWoz is perfect for those in computer field, because it combines both technological and human side of engineering .

Reading this book is easy and interesting despite its rather poor writing style. iWoz shows the readers the true personality of a man behind Apple, and this personality is fun to explore. What makes this book a pleasure to read is its humor as well as author’s interesting approach to life. Wozniak “paints” a picture of the time when it all started, the era that was not about the money and fame but about passion and hard-working. This book differs from other biographies or autobiographies, because the main point here is a person, not a computer, and a dream, not a success. It is very motivating and educating, as it gives plenty of ideas on which to reflect. Another positive aspect of the book is seeing the real Wozniak: a shy guy who modestly speaks of his achievements but pranks, jokes, and laughs at the same time. Some quotations are really priceless, like the ones when Wozniak describes his approach to engineering: “Whenever I solve a problem on an electronic device I am building… And that’s what drives me to keep doing it, even though you get frustrated, angry, depressed, and tired doing the same thing over and over. Because at some point comes the Eureka moment – You solve it!” (Wozniak & Smith, 2006). Wozniak’s thoughts of an ideal company are also interesting; thanks to his experience, he has built his own ideal company, which is like a family. He writes: “I never agreed with the normal thinking, where a company is more competition driven, and the poorest, youngest or most recently hired workers are always the first to go”. (Wozniak & Smith, 2006). This is a very good quotation, and it encourages young people not to be afraid and continue working hard despite the pressure.

The book allows the reader to see the world through Wozniak’s eyes: his dreams, his goals, his interests. It is fascinating to read about Wozniak’s passions and his obsessive attention to the tiniest details. Wozniak’s attitude to computers is of a father, and it is something that he emphasizes throughout the book.

The book explicitly tells the whole story of Wozniak’s life. It is not a fragment that tells about some parts of his extraordinary experience but a full-length picture of the author’s life. It is Wozniak speaking of his life, his ideas and thoughts, ups and downs. Owing to the fact that it is Wozniak’s world, he decides about what he should speak. His decisions might not always satisfy the reader, who may want to know the dark secrets of Apple. Instead of writing about that, Wozniak focuses on his “real life” – the happy childhood of a talented boy who loved electronics. The author speaks about his father, who was his greatest inspiration and who taught him to love things that he does. He also speaks of his mother, from whom he inherited his sense of humor. Wozniak talks about his life as a child; how he has always loved electronics and won numerous science fairs and how he became shyer and communicated mostly with electronics lovers like himself. Adding to that great support from his family makes it clear why Wozniak has decided to become an engineer. This is how his youth began.

Wozniak describes his life in college, changing schools, and a start of a career as an engineer. It was then that Wozniak has met Steve Jobs for the first time. Wozniak speaks about his experience as an employee of HP, his work on Apple I and Apple II, his relationships with Jobs, and his independent projects. The reader may be disappointed, because Wozniak does not tell much about Jobs and Apple. The author consciously avoids speaking about the conflicts which he had with Jobs and makes it look like there were none in the first place. However, it does quite the opposite, because it seems like the relationship between the two is rather strained. Somewhat superficial is the treatment of Wozniak’s personal life. The journalist, Gina Smith, obviously did not want to push Wozniak too much, and she avoided asking him tough questions. It is the reason why that book sometimes lacks deeper insights of Wozniak’s life and makes Wozniak distant from the reader. Even so, Wozniak does try to be honest, and he says things in which he genuinely believes. From this point of view, one can see a man who loves to work but also loves to laugh, and who will do things that he loves no matter what happens.

Although the book tries to focus on every part of Wozniak’s life equally, the greatest emphasis is on his experience and work on Apple I and Apple II. It was like a dream, explains Wozniak, and making that dream come true was the single force that drove him forward. Wozniak’s passion for inventing is fascinating, and it makes the things about which he speaks seem like they are alive. However, Wozniak’s work on Apple I and Apple II should not be mistaken with his work for Apple: he is rather reluctant to write about it, focusing on his inventions, not on the company or managing it.

The reason for emphasizing this part of Wozniak’s life is quite obvious, and it can be taken even from the book title, iWoz. It is an allusion to “iProducts”, so it is clear that the readers will be looking for information of that type. Obviously, it was a way to attract the readers due to the increasing popularity of anything that is connected to Apple. Nevertheless, one must do Wozniak justice: it was not only a marketing strategy, because he really loves speaking about Apple and his experience with it.

Interesting thing is that Wozniak pays almost as much attention to pranks as he does to inventing Apple. It softens the book and makes it closer to an ordinary reader who knows very little of IT-technologies.

Wozniak’s life itself is great tale of a great person. He is a very special man to read about, because he is a role model for many engineers and programmers. Wozniak repeatedly speaks about following one’s dreams, but his life is already a dream for many. It is comforting to realize that this great inventor is an ordinary man with flaws and quirks, who worked hard to obtain everything that he has now. Even the style of the book – somewhat childish and too simplified – shows that this man has strong and weak sides but is not afraid to expose them.

iWoz is also great when it comes to speaking about careers. Wozniak emphasizes the need to do what one loves, since the passion toward something is more important than the money one makes. He says: “If you don't enjoy working on stuff for yourself--with your own money and your own resources, after work if you have to--then you definitely shouldn't be doing it!” (Wozniak & Smith, 2006). It reflects the problem that young people face today – whether they want to make money or to do things they are best at. It would be perfect to combine both ways, but it is not always possible to do so. To those who are still undecided, Wozniak says: “If you love what you do and are willing to do what it really takes, it's within your reach. And it'll be worth every minute you spend alone at night, thinking and thinking about what it is you want to design or build. It'll be worth it, I promise.” (Wozniak & Smith, 2006). It is quite inspiring, especially to college and university students who will have to make big steps in their lives very quickly.

Wozniak’s book does not have any hidden motives, and if it does, than they are hidden too well. The only hidden motive would be possible if Wozniak had spoken more about Jobs. Nevertheless, he did nothing to discredit Jobs and, in fact, made it clear that he does not hold any grudges. Wozniak did not use his book to overshadow Jobs despite the fact that he actually could have done it. Thus, it is clear that he just wants to tell the truth and break the stereotypes.

However, the truth behind the stereotypes is not the only new information that the reader can find. It is also Wozniak talking about his youth, his relationships, and his ideas. One has much information about him nowadays, but it is very dry, with facts and numbers. iWoz presents more human side of the story, and exploring the real Wozniak is the biggest discovery of this book.

As it was mentioned before, some parts of the book were consciously omitted. First, it is the author’s personal life. Of course, one cannot blame Wozniak’s desire to keep his privacy, but his “confessions” seem unconvincing and not deep enough. He does speak about personal matters but avoids tough situations. On the other hand, it may not be Wozniak’s fault; it could be the journalist consciously omitting some themes and questions. In iWoz, Wozniak is too shy to reveal his true emotions, and it is journalist’s job to make him talk. Whether he did not want to speak or was not even asked to do so – this is something one does not know. However, because of that, some parts of the book are left unfinished.

Despite that, iWoz is a pleasure to read throughout every page of it. He did it thanks to an interesting storyline; it wasn’t a dull story of a quiet genius who did this and that but a vivid picture of a man having fun doing what he loves. The fun parts go smoothly with the stories of inventing, and thanks to that, terminology does not seem excessive. The book itself holds a reader intrigued due to its author, its name, and the story behind that all. Some may be disappointed if they expected too much secrecy, but despite this, iWoz itself holds the reader’s interest until the end. Since the storyline is set in chronological order, ending with the most recent years, it leaves a strong impression that it should be continued until today. After all, the reader observes Wozniak’s growth from a dreamer into a man, who made his dreams real, and that is something that cannot be forgotten.

Interestingly, my favorite scene is not about engineering at all but about Wozniak launching country music festival. It turned into rock one, with some country music in it. Although it attracted many people, it was a commercial failure, and Wozniak lost a big sum of money. Despite that, he organized another one next year, which also turned out to be a failure. However, it was not the money that was the reason why Wozniak organized the festivals. He just really wanted to do it and he did the same thing he always does: he put his heart into it and did his best. This is the reason why I liked this scene so much - it teaches not to lose hope and do things that one believes in. Wozniak can really teach people the rule of perseverance, but he can also be an example of a person with right priorities, since he does not put money on the first place.

Wozniak presents his point of view with the quotation in the end of the book. He says: “If you're that rare engineer who's an inventor and also an artist, I'm going to give you some advice that might be hard to take. That advice is: work alone”. This is something that he applied to himself as well as his recommendation to young idealists and free thinkers.

What would make this book even better is the change of its style. Wozniak is not the best storyteller, and he admits that in the book. Sometimes he sounds too childish, and his prose needs some editing. It seems like Gina Smith decided to keep Wozniak’s style in every word of the book, but that was rather bad decision. The writing style sometimes lacks deep emotions and coherence; on the other hand, it couldn’t be clearer than it is. The storyline is well-developed, and it gives the full account of the Wozniak’s life. It is not very original, though, because it uses simple language to describe simple things; but readers tolerate it thanks to Wozniak’s extraordinary persona.

Concluding all written above, this book is a great read; it is a fascinating story of a fascinating man who teaches to love, work, and believe. It breaks the stereotypes, and is also a pleasure to read. The greatest thing about it is that it does not end as the success guide but opens a world of a real person who struggled to receive what he wanted. The book affected me strongly, because it showed that behind every success, there is a great mind of an inventor. He may be mistreated and misunderstood sometimes. He may lose and be laughed at. However, he never quits and never stops believing. Wozniak does not say it clearly, but he warns about betrayal and recommends inventors not to worry too much about what others might think. His words has changed my ideas of relying on somebody and made me realize that as long I put my soul into something, I will be able to achieve anything. It also explained to me how Wozniak’s mastermind works and showed the way in which he was thinking.

iWoz is the book that I would strongly recommend not only to my friends but to enemies too, since it is the story of a Person, not flawless and definitely not perfect. It is the person who tries to be the best he can be. That is something worth reading. Wozniak says that he has never lied in his life, and he considers lying even worse than doing something bad. In my opinion, that is a great thought that should be remembered. I would recommend this book not only to computer engineers and people who are connected to IT-technologies but also to those who want to read a fun story of a fun man. Wozniak, after all, is a fun man, and he keeps showing it throughout the book.

Reading this book has given me plenty of ideas on which to reflect. Wozniak says: “One step at a time”. It is something that I am going to do. In fact, that is something that everybody should do: not to look back but simply do one’s best. Moreover, the book has a great idea of a reason for everything that people do. Wozniak says: “I figure happiness is the most important thing in life – just how much you laugh. The guy whose head kind of floats, he is so happy. That’s who I am, who I want to be and have always wanted to be” (Wozniak & Smith, 2006). Happiness is the key to everything people do; and whatever tasks people perform, whatever job people have, they should work daily to be happy. That should come with passion, perseverance, hard work, and a great sense of humor. It is exactly that “something” that iWoz is filled with.

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