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Steve Jobs is Dead

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I was off the grid for a bit and am very much saddened to read this news. I came to be a Jobs fan via the NeXT computer, which was one of his best creations. My client O’Connor was a beta site and I needed to get a new computer. I couldn’t keep my eyes off the sleek NeXTs and got one as soon as it was out of beta, against the advice of the chief of technology. I wound up meeting some top tier technologists via being an oddball mere mortal NeXT owner (for instance, Michael Hawley, who had worked at NeXT arranged for me to get a student discount on my purchase, drove my machine down from MIT, and provided tech support for a few years) and used my machine very happily for over 10 years.

Some of my collegues worked with Jobs directly. Not surprisingly, they held him in the highest regard.

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63 comments

  1. 5:00 PM

    If all he had ever done was enable Pixar, that would have been enough.

    What an amazing creator.

  2. David

    Isn’t the involvement of Ross Perot as a principal investor in NeXT an untold business story? Presumably he was made whole when NeXT and Jobs were taken back into Apple. Equally presumably he must be dementing or else he’d be commenting and mourning tonight.

    1. Blissex

      I am quite impressed by another mention by Yves Smith that she has been a NeXT user, and now she says for 10 years.

      One of the more amusing details of the NeXT is not just that they got some money from Perot, but that the originator of the OS technology used in the NeXT (and its predecessor, the PERQ), Prof. Rashid of CMU, became the head of Microsoft Research, that is the guy in charge of paying top computer science researchers to not create any technology competing with Microsoft Windows.

      Fortunately it was not 100% effective and some of his students went to NeXT and then to Apple and some Finnish guy did a UNIX clone.

      There was an interview 10-15 years ago with one of the CMU guys who went to Apple after NeXT and he was musing that if he had instead followed Rashid to Microsoft he would have become a Microsoft options millionaire, but I guess that subsequent history might have changed his final assessment :-).

  3. Paul Tioxon

    There was a time when the term human scale meant something, easily understandable to a lot of young people whether or not they went to college. And then, a lot of garage inventors, like Steve Jobs, came up with a computer on a human scale. You did not need the privilege of an Ivy League college or a Pentagon think tank to get access to computer time. You could get it in a box and take it home, and soon enough, operate it as easily as you could dial a phone. It was the democratization of technology that you could actually own that actually did useful and fun things, more with each passing year, and cheaper with each passing year. The drive to make technology accessible, portable, user friendly, on a human scale owes a great big cosmic thank you to Steve Jobs and his persistence of vision.

  4. Daniel Pennell

    I never thought I would feel the kind of sadness I feel about the passing of this man.

    As someone who has worked in the tech field for 20 years I am saddened by the loss of a true visionary that was dedicated to producing the best really useful and attractive technology. He made technology approachable to the average person and so opened up a whole new cultural horizon.

    As a child of the 80′s I will miss him as a symbol of that swashbuckeling, hyper energized, time where being a geek became sexy and cool.

    As someone who heard his commencemnet address at Stanford I regret the loss of a wise human being.

  5. optimader

    an email I dend out regularly
    In memory to a great man

    ‘You’ve got to find what you love,’ Jobs says

    This is the text of the Commencement address by Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, delivered on June 12, 2005.

    I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I’ve ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That’s it. No big deal. Just three stories.
    The first story is about connecting the dots.
    I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out?
    It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: “We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?” They said: “Of course.” My biological mother later found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would someday go to college.
    And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents’ savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn’t see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn’t interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.
    It wasn’t all romantic. I didn’t have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends’ rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example:
    Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn’t have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating.
    None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it’s likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.
    Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.
    My second story is about love and loss.
    I was lucky — I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees. We had just released our finest creation — the Macintosh — a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.
    I really didn’t know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down – that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me — I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.
    I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.
    During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the worlds first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple’s current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.
    I’m pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn’t been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.
    My third story is about death.
    When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.
    Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
    About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn’t even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor’s code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you’d have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.
    I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I’m fine now.
    This was the closest I’ve been to facing death, and I hope it’s the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:
    No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.
    Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.
    When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960′s, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.
    Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.
    Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.
    Thank you all very much

  6. bayoustjohndavid

    He exported American jobs to a Chinese manufacturer that drove its employees to suicide. He couldn’t even offer the excuse of price competition from other firms. Why should Steve Jobs be seen as anything other than a prime example of everything that’s gone wrong with America in recent years?

    1. David

      The Occupy Wall Street crowd is a group of people that sits in th park protesting Wall Street banks but would cry foul if the government took actions to protect American jobs that would raise the prices of their IPADs or Kindles

      1. Stepph

        I am arguably near that crowd and I would not mind one bit if my computer cost $4,500 and nobody had to work 16 hour days and die from jumping off a building in or of awful cancer or lead poisoning to bring it to me.

        Jobs was unquestionably an amazing technologist and a charismatic leader. His company makes beautiful and useful products. But the Orwellian/totalitarian bent was only growing more and more pronounced in recent years. I won’t touch an iPhone, if only because I can’t develop software for it freely.

        I find myself hoping that without the magic Jobs touch, awkwardness and clumsiness will creep in again to Apple products, and that the heavy-handed control will become obvious and onerous to users.

        Don’t get me wrong: IBM/Microsoft/Google would all do the exact same thing in Apple’s place, and indeed will try. My problem is that Apple was skilled enough at it to get away with it, and that’s the part that was truly frightening.

        1. optimader

          And your point is what? Without Steve Job’s, destitue chinese factory workers wouldnt even have a roof to jump off of??

          Destitution is a relative thing, take your compaorative analysis of a contemporary chinese laborer visavis their parents/ grandparentslot in life to the Chinese Government.

          Job’s never held a gun to anyones head and told them to work in a factory in China.

          1. Mattski

            Yours, sir or madam, is a searching systematic view! Count me with those here who feel, oddly, that along with visionary technological awareness, one needs a conscience before s/he is accounted a great human being. When kids are contracting cancer picking the precious metals out of your products at African and Indian dump sites, you come up short.

            When an excited Linus Torvalds went to talk to Steve Jobs, all Jobs wanted to talk was market share.

          2. Jon H

            “When kids are contracting cancer picking the precious metals out of your products at African and Indian dump sites, you come up short.”

            That’s your fault, for not disposing of the device responsibly, you freeloading douchebag.

            What are you browsing the web on, a crystal ball free of precious metals?

          3. Schemp

            Jon H:

            It is, practically speaking, impossible to responsibly dispose of electronic waste in the United States. Even if you give it/donate it to a local “green” recycler, the almighty globalized dollar is going to put it in the Indian and Chinese dumps, where a teenager is going to inhale carcinogenic smoke burning wires to get at the copper:

            http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/11/06/60minutes/main4579229.shtml

            I recycle all my electronics I can in the most responsible manner I can find. (I bring my dead batteries in bulk to my relevant city’s facility, for example.) But I have no illusions that much of what I try to dispose of won’t end up contributing to a peasant’s poor health in the third world.

          4. SocraticGadfly

            Oh, there’s a GREAT “ends justify the means” argument. Why don’t you just fly over to Foxconn and tell grieving Chinese families they should be more grateful?

      2. bayoustjohndavid

        Funny you should mention that. I don’t blog much any more because I mainly wrote about local matters,and, since the financial crisis, I’ve been more interested in national matters. Still, after a New York Times op-ed last Spring

        http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/21/opinion/21klein.html?_r=1&hp

        I thought somebody should do a post with a title like “The Next American Revolution will be tweeted on Chinese iphones.” Yves Smith did link to Dean Baker’s criticisms of the NYT piece, if memory serves. The NYT piece was vague and pointless, but it was widely praised, and the only thing it seemed to call for was cutting old age entitlement programs. It was also written by a Council on Foreign Relations researcher who almost certainly read Andy Grove’s “Business Week” article on creating American jobs.

        This is getting off topic, so I won’t waste time with links to better examples, but there seems to be a concerted effort to divide and conquer through generational politics*, lest people think about the fact that increasing income inequality and increasing life expectancy don’t work very well together. At least, not without an expanded welfare state, especially not when the technological advances that increase life expectancy also increase automation and productivity (not the same exact technological advances). That, BTW, was a basic problem the Roosevelt Institute’s Millenial Project, it implicitly endorsed generational identification. Though you do hear Occupy Wall Street protesters speak in generational terms, they don’t seem to be falling into a generational identity politics trap.

        *I will include this:

        http://www.cnbc.com/id/34941334?__source=yahoobuzz&par=yahoobuzz

        without bothering to point out the obvious intellectual dishonesty, since the effort seems to be led by think tank employees who should realize that generational concepts are entirely arbitrary and emotion-laden, i.e. they only get in the way of rational discussion.

        Full disclosure: I was born in the early sixties and so became a baby-boomer in the mid-nineties.

        http://www.rall.com/longarticle_004.htm

    2. Dirk77

      Good point. In his 1995 book, Accidental Empires, Cringely thought that the only true decent person in the whole PC wars was possibly Woz. So it goes back before 2000. That said, corruption is corrupting and did you really expect any company to stand alone against using slaves in Asia to make their products? As Buffett can be a democrat as long as helping the average guy doesn’t get in the way of him being considered the greatest investor ever, so Steve was not going to stick his neck out if it meant sacrificing his goal of creating the greatest innovative company ever. Capitalism does not come with a moral code; you need to supply one. And until someone does, you are going to have people do things that they would not do as individuals.

      1. IF

        The same year, Alcorn assigned Steve Jobs to design a prototype. Jobs was offered US$750, with an extra $100 each time a chip was eliminated from the prospected design. Jobs promised to complete a prototype within four days.
        Jobs noticed his friend Steve Wozniak—employee of Hewlett-Packard—was capable of producing designs with a small number of chips, and invited him to work on the hardware design with the prospect of splitting the $750 wage. Wozniak had no sketches and instead interpreted the game from its description. [...] The original deadline was met after Wozniak did not sleep for four days straight. In the end 50 chips were removed from Jobs’ original design. This equated to a US$5,000 bonus, which Jobs kept secret from Wozniak, instead only paying him $375.
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breakout_(video_game)#History_and_development

        Don’t think Jobs’ early days were any better than Gates’. Maybe he improved, who knows (ignoring the Apple Gestapo etc.), but it is Gates who is trying to save the world now.

        1. Jon H

          “This equated to a US$5,000 bonus, which Jobs kept secret from Wozniak, instead only paying him $375.”

          Yeah, given that Jobs’ commercial instincts made Wozniak vastly wealthy, I’m guessing Woz doesn’t really hold a grudge about this.

          Woz had no commercial instincts. Never has. He would have been content with Apple computers in wood cases that required soldering to get them up and running after you buy them. Woz would have been happy, yes, but he never would have had the money to launch the US festival.

    3. Jon H

      Feel free to buy another brand of computer… if you can find an artisanal computer maker, with laptops hand-crafted by well-paid Amish craftsmen on a relaxed schedule in an open-air workshop on a nature preserve.

  7. Thorstein

    Yves, I’ve long believed that you should write much more about your experience(s) at O’Connor & Associates (OCA). The brief statements you’ve made here at NC and in “Econned” aren’t enough.

    As far as I know — and it’s next to nothing — OCA was *the* biggest consumer of NeXT computers, and Jobs was a regular visitor to OCA’s offices. Iirc OCA used to destroy the boxes in which the NeXT computers arrived for secrecy’s sake.

    OCA was probably the first HFT firm in the world, no? The advent of powerful, inexpensive computers like the NeXT cube helped alter the balance between the East Coast’s control of the major stock exchanges and the eventual creation of ECN networks, like BATS, EBS, ARCA, Island, et al. that would later erode the former monopoly of control exerted by the old-line East Coast financial exchanges, much to their chagrin.

    OCA, as far as I know, was “first” to mathematize & rationalize options market-making & Jobs’ NeXT computer was supposedly intregral to that effort.

    I’d be very interested in knowing more about what transpired at OCA back in the early 90s before they sold themselves to SBC. Your reminiscences could help fill in the blanks.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Half of O’Connor’s budget went to technology. The head of technology, who was one of my immediate clients, talked to Jobs frequently and saw him often. They needed a platform where they could develop and implement new trading strategies rapidly, and NeXTStep was perfect for that. There was a long period (maybe 1 1/2, maybe even 2 years) when OCA was running the biggest private Unix network in the world. It was very cool in 1991 to get e-mail (even though I got hardly any) and be able to send attachments and see all the computers on the network and be able to log into yours remotely.

      OCA didn’t do HFT per se, it did statistical arbitrage. It looked for price disparities between the theoretical value of options and their actual price. That was a great business while it lasted, but as the markets became more efficient, they got less and less per trade. So they started doing OTC derivatives, which meant they needed a big balance sheet, and that eventually led to the need to tie up with a bank or big brokerage firm (they had gotten into that business when I was working with them, a lot of my effort was to assist in certain initiatives to move the firm in that direction).

      They did do some stuff that was shades of HFT. They had a small but very serious tech R&D unit. In those days, Reuters provided a box with images, not a data feed. They figured how to take the Reuters image transmission and turn it into a data feed and dump it into their computers. That saved them seconds, which was a huge leg up.

      BTW the NSA was also a big user of NeXTs. One of my buddies bought a NeXT from the NSA (they’d NEVER do that now) and he said it was the cleanest computer he ever had.

      1. Jon H

        I remember the NeXT print panel’s printer list at SBC/OC in 1994/95. I could have printed to London, among other places. I thought that was so cool, though I never did it.

  8. IF

    I understand mourning people like Alexander Fleming, Konrad Zuse or even Gordon Moore (when his day approaches). I don’t see how Jobs changed history or impacted most of humanity. Are Chris Bangle or Karl Fabergé on the shortlist? Toys for the privileged have to be celebrated.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      You really don’t understand the underlying technology. Most “innovation” is applied rather than fundamental research. The original Lisa was a real step forward, and Jobs, unlike Faberge, created huge new consumer markers, multiple times.

      The NeXT was widely celebrated as one of the best operating systems. Jobs had the bad misfortune to launch it when the workstation market was mature (ie, big installed bases meant better tech would not necessarily win). And he didn’t give up. He launched the iPad even thought tablet devices had bombed before; Apple’s own Newton was a commercial flop, even though a cohort of techies adored it.

      Jobs’ contributions were more important than those of, say, Frank Lloyd Wright. And he met the test by which entrepreneurs are valued in Japan: creating employment.

      1. Jon H

        He stuck with Objective-C, despite C++ coming from AT&T and generally becoming synonymous with object-oriented programming, whereas Objective-C was this obscure language created by a couple of guys.

        Good thing, too. It would have been easy for a weaker, market-following CEO to toss ObjC and try to rewrite everything from the ground up in C++ to appease the mainstream.

        (Came really close to dumping ObjC for Java, though. At one point in the late 90s there was talk about changing ObjC to have a Java-like syntax. Dodged that bullet.)

        1. Cindy Elmwood

          Yes, and sticking with better if less mainstream underlying technology was a plus for getting some of the best engineering talent to work for Apple. (And ObjC was more strongly influenced by Smalltalk, another Xerox PARC offspring.)

        2. decora

          yeah whatever.

          http://discuss.joelonsoftware.com/default.asp?design.4.374472.19

          http://www.theanimalfarmcreations.com/?p=2074

          i think that Steve Jobs real purpose for using Objective C was that it made it harder to port programs from Mac OSX to competitor operating systems (linux).

          Think about it, why would you buy a gigantic $5000 mac when you could buy a $2000 linux box and use the same exact applications? Thats what would have happened if the NS Objective C libraries had been ported to Linux fully.

          Old Steve ain’t no dumby.

        3. decora

          http://discuss.joelonsoftware.com/default.asp?design.4.374472.19

          http://www.theanimalfarmcreations.com/?p=2074

          i think that Steve Jobs real purpose for using Objective C was that it made it harder to port programs from Mac OSX to competitor operating systems (linux).

          Think about it, why would you buy a gigantic $5000 mac when you could buy a $2000 linux box and use the same exact applications? Thats what would have happened if the NS Objective C libraries had been ported to Linux fully.

          Old Steve ain’t no dumby.

          1. Jon H

            No, the Cocoa frameworks that came from NeXT make extensive use of Objective-C’s dynamic character. You have to jump through hoops with C or C++ to even approach that functionality.

            Ditching Objective-C would have meant ditching the frameworks, which would have been fatal. Linux had nothing to do with it. NeXT had mature application development frameworks of high quality; it would be foolish to throw that away.

            A port to Java was almost kinda feasible because Java is more dynamic than C or C++.

    2. Richard Kline

      I second all Yves remarks, and will add a few of my own. I’ve been an Apple man since the Apple II.

      Jobs did not create either object-oriented routines or categorical rather than rule-based decision nets. He recognized their power more than anyone else, and all the more remarkably in that most of tech then and now is conceptually optimized around antithetical strategies. Jobs moreover determined to bring the power of categorical matrices to the end-user in an industry that _despises_ the end user. The better he got at that, the more Jobs brought functional design to the non-tech user: one doesn’t have to know a thing about ‘what’s under the hood’ to still utilize the operational power of the systems, software and design systems, which he optimized his corporate design teams around. Jobs understood that graphical organization, industrial design, and information sorting are power multipliers in and of themselves beyond what ‘computing power gives you’ because the former optimize what the _human_ interfacing with the device can do: much of tech doesn’t grok that reality, even now.

      Jobs’ skill as a showman was honed over years. He had his failures early, but really learned how to stroke the market. He had a genius for that which no one in his corporation, nor few in any others, can or will replicate. —But I don’t find that a particularly remarkable nor interesting genius, unlike the techgeeks and money folks who see dollar signs in that kind of genius.

      For me, the most interesting lesson about Jobs’ ultimate success is something that does not demonstrate genius per se, to me, but does demonstrate a remarkably pellucid acumen: design matters. I think that there are many, many people who _can or could_ replicate his grasp of what makes for a ‘good design.’ Maybe only 1% of the population (probably more like 5%), but that’s still a large number of people. Even now, the importance of Jonny Ivie is underestimated since he did a lot of the recent design work which Jobs only tweaked or simply approved. But in fact, there are many people who can demonstrate his grasp of functional design and bring that to development and to market. —But they don’t because the corporate structures in which they labor simply suffocates good design, in the main. Jobs succeeded when he controlled the corporate process sufficiently to get it out of the way of those who understood function and design. To me, that’s the lesson. Corporations make it largely impossible to bring the design talent out there to market. He knew it in his bones; said as much regarding IBM and Mr. Softee, both worshiped by the market for their immense profitability but shunned by large parts of the public if they had or have a choice. We have the talent to take up where Jobs has left off, but we produce in enterprises which cannot and will not use that talent effectively. Being passionate about what you do isn’t nearly as important as having the latitude to do what you’re passionate about: that’s Jobs’ lesson.

      What a shame death shook his hand so early; but he made his time count.

  9. diddywadiddy

    It won’t be long before he’s back in that garage with Woz, about to change the world. We can hope it’s for the better.

    I loved him. I know about the outsourcing. But man, did he want to create, and did. Real artists ship.

    1. Jon H

      Amateur. At NeXT Jobs had an all-robot assembly line, with the robots controlled by NeXT computers.

      1. Woodrow Wilson

        “Amateur. At NeXT Jobs had an all-robot assembly line, with the robots controlled by NeXT computers.” -

        Cheerleader. In a few decades we can just replicate ourselves with silicon and solve the global population problem at the same time.

    2. optimader

      and who’s “building” those tecnological advances? The short sighted lament of the ages..(see file: Steam Engine)

  10. Alex

    Well yes, Jobs was a great creator of rather useful things for some people, a guy full of intelligence, willpower and imagination.

    That being said, iPods, iPads and iPhones are beautiful objects reserved to fashionistas, nothing more. Jobs could also indulge in the lowest forms of marketing and mass manipulation.

    For all his genius, Jobs hasn’t made the world any better. So please, let’s not overplay it.

    1. decora

      my first computer was in 2nd grade. it was an apple II. there was one for the whole class. i got to touch it mabye twice that year.

      got a computer science degree 17 years later.

      thanks Steve.

  11. Ven

    I greatly admired Steve Jobs and always sensed a certain honesty in everything he did.
    He is one of the rare people whose life made the world a better place by touching people positively. He struck me as a “John Galt” with a social conscience and I hope a number of people are inspired by all his speeches/quotes and just by how he conducted himself through out his life.

    This is from a person who had never owned any Apple product, but have always wanted to listen to what he had to say.

    Also, this is one example of how this country/society is great place for people like him.

  12. b.

    Dissenting voice: Steve Jobs was possibly the most outstanding mind behind the drive to convert customers into consumers, the one man who decisively shifted the focus to devices of consumption as opposed to tools of empowerment, productivity and creation. He used his considerable influence and market power to push a cloud storage toll booth agenda that has severe implications for the open society, far beyond the minor conveniences and inconveniences that results from renting storage devices for your own data.

    Steve Jobs defined and drove an agenda to disenfranchise and disempower his customers, a hypocrit ruthlessly gutting legacy copyright monopolies while building his own (not unlike Google in this respect), assembling the One App Store to rule and end them all. His outstanding gifts and his impressive drive were ultimately directed by a pathological need to control and to profit, and if we are unlucky, the unbound reach for total control will be his lasting legacy.

    It is not by accident that the NeXT is extinct.

    1. Jon H

      ” Steve Jobs was possibly the most outstanding mind behind the drive to convert customers into consumers, the one man who decisively shifted the focus to devices of consumption as opposed to tools of empowerment, productivity and creation. ”

      Yeah, right. Apple Stores provide a better customer experience than any other electronics manufacturer. Where are you going to take your malfunctioning Samsung tablet? Best Buy?

      If you’d pull your head out of your ass and wipe the ideological excrement out of your eyes, you might notice there’s an awful lot of software and hardware gear for creating available for Macs and iOS devices.

      1. Paul

        I think you’re being kind of obnoxious in your defense of Jobs, and of Apple. Not just this post, but the one above.

  13. Nightsky

    Working for Motorola Semi in the 80′s, I remember after Jobs left Apple and started NeXT, the word came down from high above to give Jobs anything and everything he requests.

    Losing the microprocessor for PCs to Intel, Motorola didn’t want to lose the loyalty to the one man who could create markets. NeXT never turned out to be a hardware winner, but his talent was clearly understood back then. Something to be said for hitching your wagon.

  14. Gil Gamesh

    A great capitalist dies. America weeps. How can God be so cruel?
    It’s amusing, I suppose, that Jobs made so much money by betting on design and ease of use for his consumer goods. Radical, given the main current trend to trash. His legacy is mixed, for sure. American’s techno-infantilism owes much to Jobs. One thing: he will not be remembered for “generations’, as uber-monopolist Bill Gates pontificated.

  15. Mattski

    Jon H says:

    “When kids are contracting cancer picking the precious metals out of your products at African and Indian dump sites, you come up short.”

    That’s your fault, for not disposing of the device responsibly, you freeloading douchebag.

    You’re presuming quite a bit about what I do with my non-Apple products when they no longer serve. But clearly, nonetheless, I struck a nerve. YES, I do think that corporate America is responsible for the products it produces, right through obsolescence. (After all, it’s all our precious metals they’re utilizing!) It’s corporate America that freeloads, and if you approve then all I can say is that if the genital-cleaning equipment fits then by all means apply it!

    I won’t expect to catch your sorry behind at the protests, Jon. In fact, you must have strayed in. . . from the Free Republic, perhaps?

    1. Mattski

      P.S. Maybe there IS more hope for the British left than what passes for progressivism here. Witness the post that gets the most recommends beneath the rather fawning obit at The Guardian:

      “He made insanely great products.”

      That really isn’t true, He created the illusion of a great computer, the Macintosh marketed on class snobbery that the computer illiterate convinced themselves was superior. It was stable because it was primitive. It was insanely slow.

      I’d second that!

  16. Mark P.

    The Onion –

    “Last American Who Knew What The Fuck He Was Doing Dies”

    http://mobile.theonion.com/articles/last-american-who-knew-what-the-fuck-he-was-doing,26268/?mobile=true

    Last American Who Knew What The Fuck He Was Doing Dies

    10.06.11
    + Share

    CUPERTINO, CA—Steve Jobs, the visionary co-founder of Apple Computers and the only American in the country who had any clue what the fuck he was doing, died Wednesday at the age of 56.

    “We haven’t just lost a great innovator, leader, and businessman, we’ve literally lost the only person in this country who actually had his shit together and knew what the hell was going on,” a statement from President Barack Obama read in part, adding that Jobs will be remembered both for the life-changing products he created and for the fact that he was able to sit down, think clearly, and execute his ideas—attributes he shared with no other U.S. citizen. “This is a dark time for our country, because the reality is none of the 300 million or so Americans who remain can actually get anything done or make things happen. Those days are over.”

    Obama added that if anyone could fill the void left by Jobs it would probably be himself, but said that at this point he honestly doesn’t have the slightest notion what he’s doing anymore.

  17. Sam

    Enough with the hero worship already. The guy was a computer visonary yes. But he was also responsible for implementing a system that massively exploits underpaid and underprotected workers in dark corners of the planet, in order to make products that cynically suggest that their being “designed in california” is the only sunny fact that we need to know.

    I heard the guy died with 5 billion in the bank. Well you cant take it with you – I wonder if the money would have been better spent on decent wages for all the chinese workers who contributed to the cause. If not for them Jobs would have been making shiny devices for a company that would be have been financially unviable instead of being the most valuable brand in the world.

    Why “Naked Capitalism” exists and fails to point any of this out, I cant understand.

    1. Jon H

      What computer are you using to type your comments, and do you think it was assembled by different, better-off people?

      It wasn’t.

      You’re like a man condemning sex tourism, while he’s being serviced at a Bangkok brothel.

  18. Sam

    Actually, I’m not the one hailing computer industry execs – you are. So you answer for your hero worship. as you’re the one practising it. If you’re saying that the entire PC industry is dirty – indeed I agree and I’m pointing out that Apple under Jobs was no better and no different.

    So clearly this guy as overhyped – he was no hero or humanitarian. Particularly as he was operating at price points that gave him full latitude to change the dirty practicies of the industry.

    But instead he died with 5 billion in his bank account and no legacy of change for the workers in this industry, despite the value that they create.

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