In 1985 i wrote Steve Jobs a love letter congratulating him on being fired from Apple. It was a clever piece, handwritten, on pretty sexy stationary. i talked about the opportunity it afforded him and said i would like to work for him. i got no reply.
Angie encouraged me to write about Jobs last night, to be current. But i was too curious about how the media would cover him. Not really to my surprise, with the except of some of my more radical friends, the coverage of Jobs is glowing. The Edison of our time. Genius, a loss to the world. Yadda Yadda.
One of the phrases which comes up regularly is he invented things we did not even know we needed. This sets off bells in my head. What i really think this means is the created demand for products which we survived fine with before he came along. He in essence made us more materialistic.
i am certainly not an anti-technologist. And i think Jobs did do impressive work taking graphical user interfaces out of the Xerox PARC lab environment and commercializing it. Jobs is clearly a brilliant industrial designer and capitalist, having built the largest technology company in the world.
But heroes of this type have clay feet, and Jobs’ were especially dirty. Unlike is Silicon Valley Pirate friend Bill Gates, Jobs was miserly with his money (both personal and corporate). Upon retaking control of Apple in 1997 Jobs axed all philanthropic donations saying that the company needed to cut costs and would reinstate these programs when it was more profitable. With Apple as one of the most profitable companies in the world for many years after that, Jobs seems to have forgotten about the rest of the world, for he never reinstalled corporate giving. And of course what industrial capitalism story would be complete without the story of the oppressed and suicidal Chinese factory workers.
No doubt Jobs was brilliant, and he manifested many of his dreams. And he got lost in his technophilia. He missed the opportunity to use his wealth, power, charisma and influence to change the structural problems of the world. In reading the many accolades in the most recent press about Job, i believe he was a great guy. And along with being a great guy comes great responsibilities.
So now i may go out and buy an iphone, so i can teather it to my laptop which is going with me down the Erie Canal. The irony of the purchase of my first apple product is certainly not lost on me.