In learning more about Johannes Gutenberg and his creation of the printing press, the similarities with Steve Jobs and the first Macintosh are remarkable.
Both men took a serious stance on high-quality typeface (fonts, essentially), at a place in history when it seemingly didn’t matter. Both men created something spectacular and history-changing, yet were focused on details like precise serifs and line heights when more basic lettering seemingly would have been just fine.
It went beyond just typefaces, though. Both men were obsessed with the smallest details of their work. Gutenberg invented new types of ink and pressing equipment, while Jobs created a user interface incredibly simpler than anything that had come before. Jobs continued this throughout his career, doing things like famously throwing an iPod prototype into a fish tank to show it could be made a fraction smaller.
Power to the people
The inventions of both men were in large part to help give a voice to people that otherwise wouldn’t. In the 1400’s, the church had the loudest voice of all, and Gutenberg helped to level that field. In the late 1900’s, Jobs helped usher in the computer revolution, eventually leading to everything we see today.
Failure wasn’t failure
In the end, both men were so obsessed with the perfection of their creation that it led to financial ruin. Jobs recovered, but Gutenberg never did.
But to them, it wasn’t really failure. I’m sure they would have preferred to have been more financially healthy after the creation of their machines, but it was the machines themselves that set them in leagues of their own.
Gutenberg is still everywhere
Amazingly enough, we still see evidence of Gutenberg today. One of the first blogging platforms was Movable Type, which is the style of machine that Gutenberg created. Of course, you also have WordPress, which itself is a nod back in time, and the latest version of their editor is simply known as “Gutenberg“.
To dig deeper into the history of the printing press, Stephen Fry’s look into Gutenberg’s past is one of the best videos I’ve ever seen on the subject, and I encourage you to watch it at some point.