Thursday, October 06, 2011

No Jobs

This is a sad day. A man has died of pancreatic cancer. That man ran a computer company. Did he invent the personal computer? No, he led a team that refined the object to a point that certain people believed his computers to be more than just devices for writing, looking at the Internet, designing and editing things. Did he invent the mobile phone? No, but his company made really smart smartphones. Did he invent the MP3 player? No, but his company made the shiniest MP3 players in the business.

I love good design, and many of Apple's products qualify. Indeed, I have used Macs happily at various points in my life. However, I have a couple of problems with the whole Apple thing.

  • The expense. A while back, a Twitter acquaintance asked for netbook recommendations. I threw my 2p's worth in, regarding my £169 Windows machine. Another chap said that the enquirer simply had to get a MacBook Air. I did a quick bit of research and couldn't find one south of £800. It's a fine looking object, but is it £631 better than my netbook? When sitting in the British Library, making notes from the Radio Times, would I get the full benefit of that £631? Or would I be better off spending it on gin? The chap recommending the MacBook Air said it was worth every penny without providing any convincing arguments as to why. When I bought my first home computer in 1997, I really wanted a Mac. I'd worked with them at Lancaster when I was running the student newspaper, Scan, but they were so much dearer than IBM-compatibles that I climbed in through Windows 95. The same still seems to apply.
  • The cult of Apple. Some people seem to need something to believe in. Many of them think they're too clever for religion, but they display the same sort of blind devotion to a purveyor of technology. Apple strikes me as a more benign and slightly less expensive version of Scientology.
  • The smugness. Apple shops do not have customer service or repairs departments. They have Genius Bars. Even if the choice of name is slightly tongue-in-cheek, it can still fuck right off.
Naturally, the reaction to Steve Jobs' death on Twitter has been extensive. The level of gadget frotting over there is high, as is the number of people who'll make a shit joke about anything. So, the avalanche of quasi-religious Jobs worship is being counter-balanced by lots of weak iDead, iStiff and iCoffin gags. In many ways, it seems to be a Princess Diana moment for nerds. Some keen on being seen to emote the most about a person they never met or knew (Flowers being left outside the Apple shop on Regent Street? Really? Is that where we are?), while others are equally keen on being seen to show how little they care about the person in question. Neither position appeals to me, so I'm avoiding Twitter today, except for the odd dip in to see if they've stopped. There is a #ThankyouSteve hashtag that brought out the worst in me. Thank you for what? Thank you for selling me an overpriced shiny bit of kit that allows me to feel slightly superior? Thank you for all the 'inspirational' platitudes?

What about everybody else who's going to die today? Many of them will die in horrible ways that could be addressed if the world's wealth were more evenly distributed. Relative values mean that some in the west regard poverty as being unable to afford an iPhone, while many elsewhere have no access to fresh water. A man has died. Get a fucking grip.


Keir said...

I wanted to tweet "I haven't felt this way since Princess Diana died", but I didn't dare, lest I be asked to explain precisely what I meant, and then get lynched, like I felt I would if I said back in the day that I wasn't any more bothered about Diana's death than the other hundreds of thousands of people every day.

And it was less than ten minutes, I think, before I saw the first tweet taking his death as an opportunity to say, basically, Android phones are crap. Via a retweet of course.

Jonathan said...

spot on.

Funnily enough I was thinking about the symbolism of the apple yesterday (an aborted blog post, don't ask) - Eve's apple, Newton's apple, etc. Job's apple didn't even cross my mind.

Like you say, he's not the messiah for everyone. Just some poor sod who got cancer and died.

daysofspeed said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
daysofspeed said...

The expense.

"We don't shift junk". Of course you can spend less, but that doesn't mean you are not getting value if you can afford it.

The cult of Apple.

There is a reason I'm a rabid fanboy. Jobs' "think different" did help seduce me to both buy his shit and to wriggle from dull office worker to tedious graphic designer (of course it wasn't that alone). No teacher gave me the same inspiration, I found my calling and my appetite for what I do to pay the rent is geed up by Ive and Jobs (and yes I have heard of Dieter Rams).

The smugness.

Life is too short to let that annoy me as much as CEO's peddling shit dressed up as well designed, well built and well supported. I'll let that one go as I agree Apple nerds are smug, but I don't find it inherently insidious.

Lots of different themes in the above - false "tourism grief" as well as "Apple ain't all that". Apple hating is the new "Beatles were shit" for me. And just because I love Revolver that doesn't mark me down as a yank tourist wearing sew on band logo patches taking photos of the Abbey Road sign.

I think we are all thinking about this too hard but Jobs did make a difference, just like many others - what seems to be making this so mental is the way we can all tell those who care to listen what we think.

I'm not putting a post-it note on the Apple Store by the way, just trying to reflect a slightly different take on the article.

Steve said...

In answer to your question, Louis: Yes, I think that is indeed where we are.

Princess Di's death, the cult of Posh n' Becks, curvy and coloured bits of plastic; it was the start of a new age. These things really do mean *all that* to some pople, and who are we to argue?

I remember getting up late and hung over the day after Princess Di died. I asked my flatmate why Liverpool V Newcastle had been postponed and he told me. Apparently I was out of step with the general public mood.

Louis Barfe said...

Marc - Thanks for that. You've obviously thought about it long and hard. I'm not sure everyone going 'Oh noes, the great man is dead' has.

Bright Ambassador said...

Can't argue with any of that. My thoughts exactly.

Matthew Rudd said...

I love my iMac, me. But I'd never heard of Steve Jobs until about six months ago.

Lee Slator said...

I'm in no way an Apple fan but I do own a couple of their gadgets, namely an iPod and an iPhone. Both are pretty simple devices to use compared to others which is to me their big selling point (anybody who used to won a cheap mp3 layer and moved to an iPod will know what I'm talking about).

I guess we will know over the next few years how important Jobs was to Apple when they roll out new products and see if that 'quality feel' to them has disappeared.