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.