Thursday, October 6, 2011

Steve jobs

I've come out from under my rock—not to inveigh against the chicaneries, cowardice and general stupidity of government (there just isn't enough time in one lifetime for that), but to talk about an extraordinary person.
Today Steve Jobs died. I'd expected that this was coming, a driven person such as he does not willingly relinquish his command of the second richest company in the world—behind Exxon.
And tho it was expected, and tho I never met the man, I found myself sorrowful, sobbing a little even, at his passing. I am sure I would not have been supporting myself since 1995 without Macintosh computers. I certainly would not have had as much fun using a computer, not had as much fun anticipating and watching his keynote addresses waiting to see what new miracle of technology  has sprung from his brain, like Athena from the forehead of Zeus.

    When  I first started working as a graphic artist for Star Press back in '95, Apple was on the ropes. Yes they had a good computer—I was using a 6100 powerPC  which was a great machine that I enjoyed using. It had a hundred megabytes of memory! But the company was fading. Then Apple bought Next, and got Jobs back into the fold.
Boy did he change things. That funky, spacey iMac came out, first in that Bondi blue color, then in a bunch of other colors. The colors were nice but the all-in-one space age chassis was revolutionary. "You mean I don't have to have a beige computer that looks like a box?"
    There was no looking back after that. In 1999 I bought my first computer, a blue-and-white tower affectionately referred to among aficionados as a "smurf". It had 6 gigabytes of memory!! In the meantime the towers, the laptops and the desktops changed and became more popular. Hey, Apple's share of the market went from 5% to oh, at least 8%. Or thereabouts.
    Then came the iPod, and iTunes. Jobs managed to convince the music industry dinosaurs that selling music at 99¢ a track could be profitable. Boy was it ever. And it changed the way music is presented and sold forever. People i know who don't like Macintosh computers are listening to music on Apple iPods.
    IMacs, iPods, iPhones, iPads—in the last twelve years Steve Jobs has changed the way you and I listen, watch, and communicate with each other in an irrevocable way. This may be good, it may be ill, but there it is.
    And a lot of this Jobs didn't actually put his hands on physically making. Steve Wozniac actually made the first prototype Apple computer—but Steve jobs recognized the value and was able to sell it. And everything that Apple has produced since Steve Jobs came back in 1996 has had to pass his aesthetic and practical judgement. He knew what people wanted before they did.
    Some might say he knew what he could convince people they wanted before they knew they wanted it. Whatever, it worked. Apple products are imitated all over the world in an effort to acquire some of their magic.
    Inevitably, as the hagiographies and opposing debunkings come out over the next few days, you'll hear that Jobs had an illegitimate child who he refused to acknowledge for years before finally accepting her. You'll hear about his management style, which sometimes veered into terrifying territory. And these things are true, and pertinent to those involved, but they don't diminish the effect he has had on the world. Everyone has faults, and I am not excusing his by saying that. Gandhi was rumored to have strange relations (tho not necessarily sexual) with the women who visited him, Martin Luther King is said to have had extra-marital affairs, and many other famous people who have made a positive contribution to the world and human life have had incidences or proclivities which are to us regrettable, maybe even criminal.
    But that's humanity.  People who do good things are not always good themselves. And their contributions to humanity should not be diminished by their personal peccadilloes. Turn it around—if you knew that Heinrich Himmler rescued abandoned puppies and found homes for them, would you think he was less of a criminal?
    In the case of Steve Jobs, I think we have to look at what he has brought to our lives, and think about that. Admiring what he has done for computers, music, phones and communication in general doesn't mean endorsing his personal faults.
    Me, I'm too busy thinking about how I could have been better, to worry about how Steve Jobs could have been better. I only know that he profoundly changed my life, and has changed the lives of many others, whether they know it or not. I regret his passing at the early age of 56, and wonder what else he could have come up with. I can't imagine it, but then, I'm not Steve Jobs.
Rest in peace, Mr. Jobs, and may God help your loved ones to find solace in what you have brought to their lives.