Nobody who is vaguely interested in technology can have failed to note the passing—on October 5th—of Apple CEO Steve Jobs. There have been many moving and insightful tributes in the press and across the WWW. It is not my intention here to add to that great outpouring: I never knew the guy and I’m not sure I have anything interesting or original to add to the story of Apple Computer. But I’ve got to say something: I’ve been using Macs as my main information-processing tools since 1991, and in any one year I may spend hundreds of hours sat in front of one. The quality of that interaction is something I both depend upon and enjoy. I owe the man… Nothing more than a few thoughts:
Firstly, we should surely recognize the tragedy of a man who has died so prematurely. Steve Jobs was almost exactly the same age as I am – in fact he was born about ten weeks before me – and I don’t feel old at all. With our rich diets and the supporting framework of modern medicine our life expectancies are stretching into the 90s. Dying in your mid-50s may have been a “good innings” in the Middle Ages, but it certainly isn’t nowadays.
Secondly, amongst the reams of text generated since his death Steve Jobs has been called many, many things, not least amongst them “visionary”, “genius”, “revolutionary”, “pioneer”, etc. All of which may or may not be be true: it’s very difficult to tell. The quality of the discourse in our current media ecology is such that hyperbole and lurid exaggeration are the norm: everyone’s shouting, everything’s turned up to 11. An overpaid pimply teenager who plays football for a living is a “hero”, the talent-shy showroom dummy who wins a hideously reactionary TV reality show is lauded as a “superstar”. The language we use is wearing dangerously thin.
What I can be sure of though—because I’m sitting here using one, directly experiencing it—is that the products that Apple design and produce are the best that money can buy. The man responsible for this is Steve Jobs. His long-term commitment to producing objects to the very highest standard means that for those of us who care about such things—those of us in other words who recognize that the tools we use directly impact upon the quality of work we ourselves produce—have somewhere to go. Apple Computer may be Big Business, but it is a business that has the quality of its products at the very core of its strategy. Apple products, on the whole, are so much better than everyone else’s it’s actually pretty embarrassing. A world without Apple would be a cheap and tawdry place indeed.
Thirdly, and following on from the above, it is gratifying that the whole Mac versus PC debate is finally dead and buried. Whether you view it technologically, conceptually, or financially Apple has blown the competition out of the water. The man responsible for this is Steve Jobs.
[As a footnote to this, an observation of mine: the Mac versus PC debate was always a lop-sided argument. Although I don’t have any actually data to back this up, it seems pretty obvious that everyone who uses a Mac can also use a PC pretty well. The reverse is not true. Even many so-called “IT specialists”—particularly those working in the corporate and public-sectors—have never used a Mac in their life. On other words, most people on the PC side of the fence, even the techies, haven’t got a clue what they’re talking about, and most of their views on Macs are simply mulch regurgitated from the media.]
Goodbye Steve Jobs. You leave the world a better place. I don’t think we realize how much we’re going to miss you.