Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Some Are Different. Some Are More Different than Others.

Steve Jobs: The Man Who Thought DifferentSteve Jobs: The Man Who Thought Different by Karen Blumenthal
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

These days if someone told you to “Think Different” you'd probably get no raised eyebrows, but if you'd said the same thing ten or twelve years ago you'd have raised quite a flock, and probably gained a few admonishments as well. It was bad grammar in those days because you were supposed to think different-ly.
Yet this article isn't about grammar books or anything like that : It's the advertising slogan launched by a computer company called Apple. And it was in Autumn 1997. The educationalists threw up their hands at the incorrectness of it all, never once pausing to take a closer look at how cute and clever the phrase was.

I didn’t know this, and now I know it I’m really glad I do, along with all the other factoids about Steve Jobs and his Apple Company. I have never owned any Apple product, and after reading this book I think I’m less inclined to go in for one than I was before starting it. Chiefly because almost every one of his products had some glaring fault, each of which happened to work against me — and my disability — in a direct way.

For some reason Mr Jobs hated the CD drawer on computers, so he removed it, to outcries from Apple owners. The same had happened earlier with the floppy disc drive (at that time users were heavily dependent on them). Then later on he then decided that he didn’t like cursor keys (arrow keys) on Apple keyboards. They are the keys which enable you to nudge your cursor up or down the lines, or left and right within the line so you can position it exactly where you want. They were removed without so much as a ‘by your leave’ with even greater outcries from faithful users, all on Mr Jobs’s whim. So far all the things he detested have been things which make my life far easier.

So why did a man’s products, which went so much against the grain against much of what customers wanted become the owner of one of the wealthiest corporations in the world with a customer loyalty base which verged and often over-tipped into the devotional?* And why did I find the Steve Jobs story so riveting, to the extent that I completely lost track of time?

As the tale moved on, my own and Jobs's visions drifted further and further apart. Jobs envisaged phones and electronic gadgets becoming intimately interwoven into our personal lives until their presence separate from the body-mind complex lost all distinction. The final step was his conviction that Apple gadgets should be built with no on/off switch. As the gadgets should be woven into the warp and woof of our life pattern, so too should their 'consciousness' never fall deeper than slumber.

Steve Jobs developed symptoms of pancreatic cancer which he initially tried to bully away in typical autocratic style, (initially with a shot of pethidine in the bum). At one point he'd lie about his condition by informing share holders that it had been cured, a story which aficionados and the markets must have swallowed whole. Certainly the lie prevented Apple stock from taking a nose-dive. The tiny Islets of Langerhans are, however, immune to bluster, genius and deception. Despite the best which modern medicine can do, carcinogenic spores infiltrated every cell of this phenomenal, maddening and brilliant billionaire. In the final weeks of his life, Steve receives a visit from his old friend and colleague Bill Gates and the two spend 3 hours reminiscing on old times.

Towards the end Mr Steve debated, deep within the labyrinth of his madcap genius mind, whether God existed or not, deciding that the odds must be 50:50. On balance though he thought it was more likely that it was like an on/off switch and that at the end we simply winked out of existence just as we’d once winked in. Maybe that’s why I never wanted an off-on switch on any of my devices, he chortled, and I had a little laugh too, even if it wasn’t for quite the same reason.

I found this a rivetting read, without being sure why.

*Because Windows' operating system is so awful?

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