A number of books covering the history of Apple Computer have been released, but none have satisfied me. They were either too dry, or were self-serving autobiographies I found difficult to believe (one particular ex-Pepsi employee stands out in this category). However, a recent title is a refreshing change: Owen W. Linzmayer’s Apple Confidential 2.0: The Definitive History of the World’s Most Colorful Company. This cleverly written, well laid-out history of Apple Computer contains plenty of nuggets that all Apple aficionados will appreciate.
I am, however, at a slight disadvantage with this review. I haven’t read the first edition of Apple Confidential, so I can’t tell you how much this book has changed. According to the publisher, No Starch Press, the book contains 60 new pages "including greatly revised chapters." It has to be said that the table of contents is almost identical.
I love the layout. Wide margins give Linzmayer the opportunity to place additional material such as anecdotes and quotes (many referenced from other histories of Apple) and the text is scattered with numerous small photos. Overall, it looks and reads a little like a good quality magazine. It is well written and highly readable, and lends itself to dipping in and out of the story almost anywhere. Once I’d finished the book, I found myself re-reading various short sections for the next fortnight.
For example, I liked the chapter that gave me the list of all the people whose signatures appeared inside the case of the original Macintosh 128K, their job descriptions at the time, and where they are now. I appreciated the various timelines, such as one listing the various Macintosh models and another for the various version of the Mac OS. The inclusion of chapters covering NeXT and Pixar is marvelous – after all, Mac OS X was built from NeXTstep, and Pixar is the company that made Steve Jobs a billionaire. Linzmayer also focuses well on the people at Apple, not just the events. This focus and the large number of quotes and related information in the margins adds to the book’s light feel and readability.
Despite the wealth of material, I felt that the book seems slightly rushed towards the end. I’d like to see more space given to recent history, even though most of the recent information is much better known than the old. Still, with this update it seems that Linzmayer’s book strives to be an ongoing chronicler of Apple; what better time to set down the details than the present?
Apple Confidential 2.0 is a highly readable account of the people and events that surround arguably the most exciting computer company in the world. I’d recommend it to anyone who would like to understand where their Macintosh comes from. The book is 304 pages and costs $20 retail.
[Tony Williams is a Macintosh IT Manager and has previously been a programmer, journalist, and magazine editor. You can read more of his reviews at Tony’s Book Spot.]