book review – ‘iWoz: From Computer Geek to Cult Icon’

Book title: iWoz: From Computer Geek to Cult Icon

Author: Steve Wozniak

ISBN: 0393061434

I really wanted to like this book. Woz is a geek icon, after all, and the early stories of his life and inventions are the stuff of legend. They had to be better coming straight from the horse's mouth, right?

The stories themselves are interesting: redesigning commercial devices on paper to reduce the number of chips, why colour was so important to him, knocking together Breakout in a few sleepless days, making the Apple I. And there's all of Woz's pranks over the years.

But the problem is, Woz just doesn't have the gift of storytelling. All through the book, I felt like I was simply reading a transcription of stories that he's been telling in person every time he speaks for the past 20 years. (Reading the afterword, I'm pretty sure that I'm right on this regard.) Okay, so they were scrubbed for um and ah, but that's about it. It gives the book a conversational tone that makes me feel like he's skipping over all the really interesting stuff.

With the loving touch of a good editor, this could have been a much better book. As it stands now, it's simply disappointing. It was immensely repetitive, with one particularly egregious case being a story repeated four pages later. There wasn't nearly enough about the early days of Apple, nor about Woz's departure from the company. The tone of the book was entirely too self-congratulatory, with hardly a page going by where Woz didn't say how clever he is. It trails off post-Apple.

If you're interested in the history of computing, and specifically Woz's contribution to it, there are many other places to start that will give you a much better picture. Read this book only after you've read those.

Related links:

Amazon's page about this book

Woz's website

Comments (12)

  1. DUDE!


    I bow down to you and your brobdinagian balls in finally doing this. I couldn’t even get through a chapter of it, for the exact same reason.

    If only more people would point out that being smart and/or famous does not make you a good writer. Editors may suck, but they’re your best friend when you want to publish.

    I SO owe you a beer.

  2. says:

    Then off to Mecca* I go: Nadyne Rocks. That is all. *their main distribution warehouse/outlet store is less than 5 miles from my house Technorati Tags: Books…

  3. I got through it only by sheer force of will.  Which is to say, on last week’s visit to Redmond, it was the only book I read.

    But this has been posted for 24 hours and I haven’t had any death threats yet, so maybe my blog readers are more laid-back than yours.

  4. Asam Bashir says:

    I don’t think it is for Woz to go into details that some would like, see it for what it is, it’s a good inspiring tale of a geek kid that was into science and engineering and found an application for it. It a good story for kids and he provides a good role model, both as inventor and a passionate educator.

  5. Asam, the fact that Woz is not a good writer lives above and beyond the details of the book. If the book is awful to read, then who’s going to benefit from it?

  6. Asam Bashir says:

    Well, lets not confuse people who haven’t read it, it’s ghost written by Gina Smith, so lets blame her and the publisher for lack of style. The Woz spoke, and she wrote down – Woz was probably having too much fun or playing with some gadget to actually bother with any writing himself.

    That’s the way Woz is, he’s a big kid with a bigger heart, we love you Woz and don’t listen to these evil minions, it’s probably that horrid double glazing salesman Steve (orang-utan man)  Balmer forcing them to dis you coz you spilt beans about how Internet Explorer was built to crash Mac OS 9..

  7. No, it’s not ghostwritten.  By definition, a ghostwriter is someone who’s paid to do the actual writing but not take the credit for it.  Gina’s name is on the cover, so she’s not a ghostwriter, but rather a co-author.

    Regardless of who wrote it, it doesn’t change that the writing, style, and editing is bad.  Woz’s name is on it, and I would have hoped that he would want a quality product if it has his name on it.  He was so picky about quality in the early days, but this book doesn’t meet any sort of quality standards (other than the quality standard that says that it’s been put through a spellcheck).  

  8. Dude, stop including me in your conspiracy theories. If I was in on the conspiracy, I’d be getting paid. I mean, I’m cheap, but i’m not FREE.

    The sign is "Name my price" not "Promise me you’ll call me in the morning". Yeesh.

    Besides, Nadyne’s right. It’s painful to read, and if Woz indeed couldn’t be bothered to actually demand it not read like a stream of ADD-consciousness, then why bother doing it? Just contribute to

  9. Chris says:

    I’m reading it now. Your assessment is spot on. I find it’s like reading a really long, self-congratulatory blog. That’s OK, I honestly don’t think Woz is about ego, but it’s still annoying. That description of how the floppy drive was developed is pretty bad. Then there’s the big Apple III gloss over. Yes, we know it was bad Woz. But weren’t you a top engineer at Apple? Why didn’t you help fix it? Maybe you couldn’t, but you don’t explain why you were so neutered at that point (prior to the plane crash).

  10. Arthur Langereis says:

    There is also an interview with Woz in the book "Founders at Work" by Jessica Livingston. (found it via Joel on Software). The book contains a series of interviews with founders of various IT companies and are largely unedited. The interview with Woz stands out like a sore thumb.

    She asks a question and he goes off on a rant each and every time about something else entirely. The overall story was sort of interesting, actually, but it’s mostly just Woz talking about how wonderful he was.

    Now, I’m sure he is very talented, but the "interview" is boring as hell. It’s like going to visit your crazy uncle. He doesn’t listen to anyone and just rants about the good old days, but you can’t help but like him because he means well.

    I haven’t read iWoz, but from your post and the comments I understand it’s a book-long version of the interview. Avoid at all costs.

  11. a well-written and well-researched book about the early days of Apple

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