Review: Apple Confidential 2.0 (book)
Trial: Excerpts (first two pages of each chapter)
Journalist Owen Linzmayer, who wrote Apple Confidential: The Real Story of Apple Computer, Inc., in 1999, has delivered a second edition: Apple Confidential 2.0: The Definitive History of the World’s Most Colorful Company. With more pictures and over 60 pages of new info, bringing you up to date on iLife, iPod, Pixar, and those famous Switcher commercials (tales of people switching from a PC to a Mac), Apple Confidential 2.0 provides more juicy tidbits on Apple’s even juicier history.
Layout and Organization
The 304 pages of Apple Confidential 2.0 are accompanied by an index as well as a bibliography of other books on the computer industry. The book is divided into 25 chapters, with each chapter providing a self-contained part of Apple’s history: the computers, the highs, the lows, the people involved. Woz’s Wanderings, What Jobs Did NeXT, The Clone Quandary, and The Making of Macintosh are just a few of the chapter titles. The chapters are not numbered (they weren’t in the first edition, either), which may or may not have been done on purpose. As Linzmayer says in his introduction: “Because it does not follow a strict chronological format, Apple Confidential need not be read in its entirety from front to back.” No need for numbers with this kind of suggestion.
The chapters are relatively short (about five to 10 pages each) and encompass one half of the page lengthwise. There is usually a schematic time line at the end of each chapter, too, and the book is full of classic photos (the original Apple logo design, Apple ads, the Apple III, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak with long hair!). Quotations from Apple’s employees and Mac journalists (cited from various other books and magazines) and the odd riddle take up the other half of the page. This layout provides lots of white space and gives the impression of an approachable and fun book, as opposed to a fusty, word-heavy history text.
Observations and Opinions
The quotes Linzmayer uses provide the reader with extra info that she can read if time warrants. They add to the experience, and, not to mention, give an idea of the character of some of the key players (“I had given Steve [Jobs] greater power than he had ever had and I had created a monster.” John Sculley Odyssey, p.240). These quotes are like sidebars, giving the book a magazine feel. Sometimes I’d read them; other times I’d just skip them.
Because you don’t have to read the book straight through, you can read a bit, leave it for a few weeks, and then pick it up again and not have to worry “where you were” or “what happened before this chapter.” And with this more relaxed approach, you’re not plowing through an historical narrative, which can get bogged down with places and dates.
First and foremost, Linzmayer is an excellent writer. He uses a very conversational, casual style. I found the book to be an easy read, but don’t misunderstand; Linzmayer is thorough. He packs in a lot of information without overloading your system.
Another strength is the number of pictures throughout the book. I like to see whom I’m reading about. Yes, I can see what Steve Jobs looks like if I watch the keynote at Macworld Expo, but I want to see him in his early days, with long hair! Plus, it only makes sense that if you’re reading about the history of a computer company, you’d want to see pictures of the machines themselves. All the description in the world isn’t going to paint a mental picture in my head of the Lisa or the Apple III; let’s see a photo.
Finally, unlike the first edition, Apple Confidential 2.0 cross-references the other chapters in the book. For example, when there is a reference to the “1984” commercial that aired during the Super Bowl in January of ’84, the title of the chapter (“The Greatest Commercial That Almost Never Aired”) follows in brackets so you can skip to that chapter for more info. I didn’t do this, but it provides the reader with information on where to find out about that particular point.
Perhaps because the book is not meant to be read from front to back, I think Linzmayer sometimes assumes that readers know a little bit about Apple’s history. Some of the chapter titles are obscure (From Diesel to Doctor; The Strangest Bedfellow of All; From Xerox, with Love) and readers may not know what the chapter is referring to at first glance. I’d suggest that someone with little or no Apple history may prefer to read a more linear book (Insanely Great by Steven Levy, for example) before jumping into Apple Confidential.
There’s nothing like juicy tidbits of info to add to the history of Apple Computer. Linzmayer has done just that in the second edition. His easy-to-read style will keep you turning the pages. This is a great supplement for anyone who is familiar with Apple’s history. And you don’t have to read it in chapter order!
Also in This Series
- Review: Apple Confidential 2.0 (book) · June 2004
- Review: Apple Confidential (book): The Real Story of Apple Computer, Inc. · August 1999