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4.1 out of 5 stars16
4.1 out of 5 stars
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I bought this in 1996 from the Computer Literacy bookstore in Sunnyvale, and enjoyed reading its account of the development of the Mac: the inspiration, the mistakes, the personalities, the politics, the technical breakthroughs and the way in which it "changed everything". Recently, I pulled it off the shelf and read it again: this time around, it appears as more of a historical document, with some fascinating suggestions and guesses for future developments.

It's interesting to see how some of these have come (almost) true - for example, on p285, there's a description of a plan for a hand-held device whose "display might turn into a metaphoric music store. By touching the pictures of various shelves, one could browse through a stack of compact disks. Touching one CD icon might fill the screen with the label image. Touching again might trigger a wireless call to the record company - and the response would be a brief snippet of one of the songs on the CD." It all sounds like a pretty accurate prediction of iTunes and other on-line music stores, but it's worth noting that this plan wasn't (at the time) Apple's - instead, it came from General Magic, a company partially formed by disaffected Apple engineers to "help create the spiritual successor to Macintosh". The other way this plan deviates from the on-line music stores that we've become familiar with is the way it ends: with the CD of your choice being physically shipped to your house. The use of the internet as a carrier for music seems to have been just beyond the radar at the time. Although this isn't perhaps surprising, it's remarkable how (even for a book written in 1994, at the dawn of the World Wide Web) there's no mention of the internet at all. Ironically enough, it was their reliance on a proprietary network (and the neglect of the Web) that was to be amongst the reasons for General Magic's demise not long after this book appeared.

This is still an interesting read. Levy's a good writer (I enjoyed his Hackers and Artificial Life a long while ago), and rereading this book has made me interested in his book on the iPod, which I hope to get around to any day now.
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on 29 April 1997
What I find most satisfying about Levy's style is that he resisted the urge to indulge in hero worship. It's really difficult when dealing with the sort of people he's talking about.After all, this is the computer that's always been "better", stands to reason the people behind it would be interesting. So it's a real relief for me that Levy didn't focus on any one of the people involved (it wouldn't have been easy anyway since the Macintosh project involved so many people who left their mark). The book is quite entertaining, and attains just the right level of concentration required to mimic the frenzied work that went into the mac. When you come out of 'insanely great' you get the feeling that you know a lot of these people, and that you understand what they did. This is only true because Levy speaks of their faults as well as their amazing abilities. The book isn't a blow by blow account of the development of the mac. I got the sense that numerous little details had been kept out of my view so that the bigger picture could present itself. This was probably a good decision to make, since the book could have gone on endlessly. If you want to know how the germ of an interface that felt like home was born, how it took a group of people who believed it would change the world to make it a reality, to get some idea of what went on while the great texts of the Macintosh religion were being discovered and written, and if you want to hear some of the greatest corporate/computer metaphors you'd ever encounter, you need this book. Maybe, just maybe you'll come out of this with a real understanding of why 'real artists ship' and what it means to make a dent in the universe. If you've ever used a Mac and wondered why it felt so good, you should read Levy's book.
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on 17 April 1999
I found this book greatly enjoyable. I didn't really like the last third of it, which seems to drag along and is written at a very slow pace but the first two thirds were very enjoyable. Written in a dynamic tone it goes through very quickly and that could be the only real caveat I can find in it. It lasts 4 hours at the most. All in all I'd recommend it as a good story and a means to find out about how Apple came to be. I'd recommend it specially for people who also bought "The Mac Bathroom Reader" by Owen Linzmayer, for which this book could be a great introduction. If I had to change anything I'd update it (since it covers only until 1994 or so and misses some great moves Apple has pulled recently) and I'd update the look of it, since it looks very "passe".
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on 20 June 1998
This is a very good book with a good history of the mac and what its creation was all about. Pity that the author ruins the book by continously talking about how great he is and how everyone at apple thought he was brilliant.
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on 24 September 1998
A wonderful book providing information on how Macintosh was born. While this book does not go into a full historical review of personal computers nor does it explain how Apple started, it does complete its titled premise: addressing what makes Macintosh insanely great and how it made a dent in the universe.
While following the birth and childhood of Macintosh, this book accounts when and why things went wrong. The good news is that Macintosh is simply a young adult with quite a bit of growing up still to do.
With the shipping of iMac, it's time again to look up this book and insist that Levy begin a sequel.
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on 15 May 1997
The fact that someone sat down and wrote this book is simply amazing. The history of the Macintosh is one that frought with misunderstanding and misconception due to distortion of facts. Since I am a professional and have worked on Macs since they first shipped, I wanted to be clear on a few of the tales that have been told. "Insanely Great" did that. It cleared the fog surrounding the truth about Macintosh and the people that brought it to life. And it is true..."Real Artists SHIP!". Thanks Steve for a wonderful book.Yours in Macintosh,Mike Murdock, OwnerMMACS
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on 29 January 2015
Since I was 'there at the time' I must have missed it. Just the same I think the whole book must be authentic as Levy also wrote Hackers and Crypto, and both check out. The will only be one SJ….. ever. Few companies or business can afford to humour a loony until he coughs up the next Insanley Great Written at a pace, the technical details also check out. For those born after 1970, you missed the best parts.
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on 24 July 1998
Once again Steven Levy hits tops with this book. A complete background on the characters and events that lead to the introduction of the Apple Macintosh. The book is a little on the short side and there are some areas that I feel Steven could have covered in more depth. It's not as good as Hackers but still a worthy purchase.
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on 5 March 2014
A well known story interestingly written. A few technical inaccuracies and could do with a proof read. Fascinating transcript of the Steve Jobs interview in this edition almost worth the entry fee on its own!
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on 26 February 2014
Great account of the principals that formed the original Macintosh and still inform it today. Good companion to the Steve Jobs official bio.
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