I think about some things in my life that have fallen away or entirely changed, and technology is certainly one of them. When I was in middle school, it was nearly the dark ages. I wrote my first research paper on the effects of smokeless tobacco. To gather research I went to the Northeastern University library at the Burlington, MA, campus. My mom and I would go together after school. She would drive me to the library. I would photocopy all my sources, then we would pile in the car, and head back home.
The resources I used are the brilliance of the caveman’s first paintings, well preserved as a record in time. The renderings of our ancestors that our recent relatives hang in the Smithsonian museum are not unlike the relics of my youth, which can likely still be found in any present-day library procured by modern-day librarians: books, encyclopedias, and microfiche.
To write back then I used a family computer that ran on MSDOS, with a black screen monitor that displayed orange letters in a font called code page 437 (“Code”). I printed out my final draft on a dot matrix printer. I think about the resources I used then and how much things have changed.
What was once a multi-venue, multi-resource process has been condensed down into something much more simple. At home I have my laptop, computer, and printer. I don’t need to go outside of my home, or outside my one device to gather research. I can simply go online. I go to google or use ebscoHost to research my papers. This convenience has eliminated time and money and has liquidated the process of research into something effortless. I simply think of what I need, point and click, and I’ve got what I need. Writing and research is simply a whim at my fingertips.
When I think about Steve Jobs, initially I remember my first Apple technologies. The day was dawning. The first laptop I ever owned was an iMac laptop and iPod I got as Christmas presents. I used the iTunes application on my computer to upload songs to my iPod, which allowed me to listen to music in my car or on headphones while running. I think about Steve Jobs and I think about the technology, as I should. They weren’t necessarily interchangeable but in my mind they go hand in hand. Jobs was the keynote speaker for new Apple products. The procession congeals the Apple computer in a kind of sentience with Jobs that I think will remain in my heart for a long time, in his memory.
I do not know how these technologies would have formed in a different world. In a parallel universe these products may have originated on a different timeline or found their success from different makers. Had it been served on a plate with a glass of cold milk and chocolate chip cookies, I would have attributed its creation to Santa Claus, but it did not come about this way. Steve Jobs is credited with much of the commercial success of the Apple product line. His ability to speak and develop excitement has generated sales and success and as a result he has won countless awards.
Steve Jobs’ interest in typography directly contributed to the inclusion of type set design and writer’s applications, including MacWrite and MacPaint in some of the first Mac computers (Peterson). His love of calligraphy and the study of the formation of letters in different fonts, with proper proportion and spacing, fascinated Jobs (The Apple History Channel). His inclusion of writing and research tools in his computer designs helped facilitate the revolution of the research and writing process.
After Steve Jobs was fired from Apple, he founded NeXT in 1985. NeXT introduced the first NeXT Computer in 1988, and the smaller NeXTstation in 1990. The NeXT computers experienced relatively limited sales, with estimates of about 50,000 units shipped in total. Nevertheless, its innovative object-oriented NeXTSTEP operating system and development environment were highly influential (“NeXT”).
The Next computer used the first graphical user interface and dynamic page generation design. The systems also came with a number of smaller built-in applications such as the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, Oxford Quotations, the complete works of William Shakespeare, and the Digital Librarian search engine to access them. The NeXT computer was used to create the internet, where, in 1990, Tim Berners-Lee used Next to construct the first web browser and web server. (“NeXT”)
Jobs started Next and Pixar, which made the first computer animated film, Toy Story (“NeXT”). Pixar is the most successful computer animation studio ever (“NeXT”). Apple bought Next and they use their ideas for apple technology renaissance (“NeXT”).
Apple started focusing on integrated software for personal devices like cameras, camcorders, and PDAs. This was known as the Digital Hub Strategy; where, different devices and media link together sharing data and common functions. This worked really well for everything on the market except for digital music players. The devices were clunky and had pretty bad user interfaces, so to fix the problem Steve Jobs had the Apple engineers design a new music player, the iPod. The iPod came out in 2001 (“Apple Press”).
With its essential integrated software counterpart, iTunes, it was the product game changer that Apple needed to surpass its competition. The iPod once again showed Steve Jobs’ design values. It was clean, white, simple and elegant. It also introduced a mobile device user interface to the industry. This was the stepping stone to the next product that would again change the world of design. (Peterson)
Steve Jobs revolutionized the way that people use technology to access and learn about new music. What was once walkmen: cassette players and CD players tethered to the ears by headphones were static resources that could play one album at a time. IPods allowed a user interface to find new music. ITunes recommended new music with their predictive algorithms. With an iPod one could store an entire library of music with thousands of songs, as opposed to one album. On February 12, 2012, Jobs was posthumously awarded the Grammy Trustees Award, an award for those who have influenced the music industry in areas unrelated to performance (“Steve Jobs”).
In January 2007, the clean, sleek, simple, and elegant iPhone was introduced to the world. Not only did the iPhone (and 3 years later the iPad) jumpstart a whole new industry standard, Apple again, opened another new media platform for design professionals known as Mobile App Design (Peterson). Steve Jobs’ designs have inspired the way the media works. Most people can access news headlines from the likes of CNN, New York Times, BBC, with mobile applications. This has transformed news ratings systems from a TV platform to an individual window that anyone with an iPhone, smartphone, or other personal device can use.
Jobs was awarded the National Medal of Technology by President Ronald Reagan in 1985, with Wozniak (among the first people to ever receive the honor), and a Jefferson Award for Public Service in the category “Greatest Public Service by an Individual 35 Years or Under” (also known as the Samuel S. Beard Award) in 1987. On November 27, 2007, Jobs was named the most powerful person in business by Fortune magazine. (“Steve Jobs”)
In August 2009, Jobs was selected as the most admired entrepreneur among teenagers in a survey by Junior Achievement, having previously been named Entrepreneur of the Decade 20 years earlier in 1989, by Inc. magazine. On November 5, 2009, Jobs was named the CEO of the decade by Fortune magazine (“Steve Jobs”).
In November 2010, Jobs was ranked No.17 on Forbes: The World’s Most Powerful People (“Steve Jobs”). In January 2012, when young adults (ages 16 – 25) were asked to identify the greatest innovator of all time, Steve Jobs placed second behind Thomas Edison (“Steve Jobs”).
In March 2012, global business magazine Fortune named Steve Jobs the “greatest entrepreneur of our time”, describing him as “brilliant, visionary, inspiring”, and “the quintessential entrepreneur of our generation” (“Steve Jobs”).
Two films, Disney’s John Carter and Pixar’s Brave, are dedicated to Jobs. Steve Jobs was posthumously inducted as a Disney Legend on August 10, 2013 (“Steve Jobs”).
There is no question these awards and accolades have only scratched the surface of the legacy of Steve Jobs. Jobs was a man, and stands as a testament to the obelisks that the primates have encircled and made entirely their own. It is the discovery of fire that our Cro-Magnon forefathers came upon perhaps by chance, inevitably to find warmth. Sometimes people don’t criticize what they can’t understand, such as the brilliant engineer Steve Jobs. Who could fault him? He was brilliant. But the salesman Steve Jobs has been accused of so many crimes.
There’s hardly a cliche in the leftist lexicon liberals couldn’t have applied to Jobs and his customers: commodity fetishism, false consciousness, objectification and alienation, manufactured wants, the marketing of desire, and, most obviously, planned obsolescence. This last is the hoary charge from mid-century that American businessmen designed a product so it would soon be superseded by a similar product, compelling consumers to buy, buy, buy (Ferguson).
There is something that aligns perfectly with a formula that is inherent in us all. I am still trying to extrapolate. The variables are comprised of the American dream, entrepreneurship, and the capturing of what people all wish they had: tons of money. There is no question in my mind that Steve Jobs is the world’s greatest capitalist, yet to be toppled by the next big thing. The remains of this insight help me to step from this dark precipice to determine what many hold as a symbol of greatness, when, in essence, we have been enculturated to know this greatness is inside us all. To understand the idea of Steve Jobs, or any cult of personality that we might think is great, is to understand our own flawed notions of greatness.
In season three of Community, the community college study group is fiercely recruited by Glee club director Mr. Rad, played by Taran Killam, who, after losing the original members to a collective mental breakdown, preys on the group. “Glee, it’s like a drug that you use that turns pain into shoes and your shoes into dance” (“Baby Boomer”). The hypnotic song master croons to an unsuspecting target. Abed, played by Dani Pudi, sings, “Glee is what’ll spread to my friends like a virus that sends them to a healthier place” (“Baby Boomer”). The infected members of the study group infect others and double their efforts, eventually forming a complete glee club that will supposedly go on to perform at regionals.
After Abed infects his best friend Troy, played by Donald Glover, they turn Pierce Hawthorne, played by Chevy Chase. Pierce, an aging baby boomer, is particularly vulnerable due to his demographic’s “well-documented, historical vanity” (“Baby Boomer”).
“You, Pierce? Your generation invented music” (“Baby Boomer”). Pierce responds, “I don’t know about invented; perfected maybe” (“Baby Boomer”). The ensuing anthem heralds Santa, having been part of Pierce’s peer group, who “fought at Woodstock and Vietnam, smoked a ton of acid and burned his bra” (“Baby Boomer”). The song credits Santa with the advent of “Spielberg and microchips” (“Baby Boomer”). Santa “invented Coca Cola and aerobics” (“Baby Boomer”). “He made the iron curtain and the Gremlins, too, fake butter and AIDS, and Twin Peaks” (“Baby Boomer”).
Pierce cuts in, singing, “You’re welcome for everything in the world. I’m Baby Boomer Santa, I bring the gift of the world” (“Baby Boomer”).
The remaining uninfected of the study group back out of the study room together, shaking their heads, promising each other it will never happen to them. They all became infected in the coming days, all succumbing to Glee.
Glee in this analogy is the hype that surrounds anything, the social distortion that echoes around something huge, the sequel trilogy to the Star Wars movies. They weren’t that great. I still love IV, V, and VI the best. They all have this place in my heart that will not be tarnished by the ensuing onslaught of the prequels. The first of the post-quels, Star Wars VII, is something I am eagerly anticipating, coming December 2015. It’s supposed to be great: “more practical effects, less CGI; captured on film, not digitally; and it will feel more authentic” (Mentel). It will have to be better than the prequels, in my hope of hopes.
In addition to the hype of inevitably bad movies, I think of incumbency as another useful marketing tool. “The percentage of incumbents who win reelection after seeking it in the U.S. House of Representatives has been over 80% for more than 50 years, and is often over 90%” (“The Power”). If he’s been in office for one term, what would another term hurt? The devil we know is safer than the devil we don’t. And that devil continues on to a lack luster second term, occupying space instead of breaking records or blowing our minds. “True, things can definitely get out of control when frothy-mouthed marketers promise life-changing miracles to get all of us to take notice” (Stapleton).
Regardless of the bad movies, there have been some great ones. And of the presidents we hold up as the top five, there are always some that we have marked off that list. But there will always be something else, something more that we have not seen or cannot see, not without the hype that extends to the world hope in the form of something we wish upon that grants us more wishes until we have witnessed something grander than all our expectations. And the fact that we saw it happen means that we all were there and we were a part of it. And it will be held up in the annals of time as something historical, important beyond words can comprehend.
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