Monday, October 10, 2011

"This just in. Steve Jobs is still dead"

Anyone who has paid attention to my scribblings must have figured out by now that I don't buy into the Great Man theory of history - unless, of course, we are talking about psychopaths. I would probably agree that the world would be very different without the likes of Mao, Stalin, Hitler, Lenin, Napoleon, Alexander, etc. etc.

But without the likes of Edison? Gates? Steve Jobs? Here's a counterfactual for you. Let's say Steve Jobs is killed in an auto accident in 1979. In the year 2010, do we have the iPod, the iPad, the iMac, Pixar films, iTunes?

Answer? Yes. They all just wouldn't be called that. They all probably would not be as sharp and slick looking either.

Because, yes, you guessed it. I'm being contrary about the notion that Steve Jobs was the Edison of our times. I'm not alone. Some are offended by this opinion. I have no idea why.

I do recognize that Steve Jobs had a sense of style and slick design.

Now, I have to be introspective enough to ask "Is this an envious post?" Only in the sense that Herman Cain calls the Occupy Wall Street protestors envious. In other words, no, and fuck you for suggesting that you fat ugly old asshole. (Herman, not you, dear reader).

But I do object to this uncritical hyperbole around Jobs the man. This undue reverence and worship doesn't do anyone any favors. Not Jobs, not you and me, and certainly not history.

Let's get the facts right. Jobs did not invent the mouse. Jobs did not invent the GUI interface. Jobs did not invent the laptop computer with a screen interface. Jobs did not invent the personal data assistant that you could call people on. Want to see amazing first-order innovations? Go to Israel. Go to Finland. Don't go to Cupertino.

And private investors did not put in the initial seed monies to make these things happen. All that blue sky shit would never, ever have been funded by timid private investors.

The Defense Department funded it all. That's right, the US military is responsible. DARPA, mostly.

Credit where credit is due. Let's be honest about it.

Apple has been very good at integrating existing technology. If you wish to credit Jobs for recognizing these various innovations as potentially fruitful, I've no problem with that. But don't go making him into something he was not. Making shit up is more than half the problems we have around here.

(Oh, and whoo! my 300th blather as of today. Sticks tongue out at you).


  1. 300 eh??...have enjoyed the majority of them...

    Jobs was a taskmaster who insisted that people produce ideas and ways to improve projects...he did his part...

  2. Thanks, Judy! The majority, eh? Funny.

  3. Great post. The rending of garments over his death was ludicrous. Reminded me of the year long wail over the death of Princess Di.

  4. HI Zina, and thanks. I guess I really get bent out shape when people ain't honest. That's probably why I go apeshit over politics. And, yes, I 'm still wondering what the BFD was over Princess Di. Drink up Chuck and Di. There you go.

  5. Well said! Neither Jobs nor Apple invented any of those things, not the GUI+mouse (Xerox in the 70s), not the OS, based on BSD unix (descended from commercial unix at AT&T), not the touchscreen, or smartphone. Jobs and Apple put a new face on these things and sold them, with their sales talents and a lot of luck. It's a fantasy that the Mac is more secure. Maybe it's more usable but it is rigid and clunky and slow.

  6. Welcome unbiasedeye,

    I constantly laugh at how (especially the arty type) th econsumers have still bought into the hype that Apple products are just so much cooler/higher quality than the competition. This is repeatedly and demonstrably not the case, both for Apple vs everyone and the Market choosing the best product.

    We live in the age of shoddy. Time to admit. (and I hope that Moore's law bottoms out soon, so that software engineers finally have to write good code, rather than rely on more and faster hardware).

    (Decided to follow you on wordpress also BTW).