Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs

Genius?

While taking a bus to Anaheim,CA I had the chance to watch the recent Steve Jobs film starring Michael Fassbender, and written by Sorokin one of the best writers of his generation. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to see this film in the theater I did have an entertaining 2 hours during the bus ride. I found it bizarre that I had lived through the pinnacle of Apple Inc. So I was interested in the narrative that Hollywood was going to portray and if it was going to deviate from my own having lived in the Silicon Valley most of my life. It surprises me to say that they took an interesting approach to the movie. They focused on his relationships with people from his co-founder Steve Wozniak, to his media handler Joanna Hoffman, and his daughter. Even though he is a driven man who has proved that his vision of personal computing does have space in the modern market. Steve Jobs has proved to me that people will pay a premium for products and for software services. For too long the industry only believed in the importance of business to business technology. Jobs vision was entirely based on the importance of personal computing. Which in fairness was not something many had predicted would envelop the world. What he understood more than most was that the most important thing is ease of use. From the Macintosh, iTunes, iPhone, and the iPad. He knew that people didn’t like the stylus pen and that the laymen wanted convenience. The techie wishes for customization and under the hood access. We actually like reading the source code/documentation. What Engineers sometimes forget is that for most what is important is that the technology works not how it works. This is what pushed Jobs he had a vision of how a device should work and he pushed his engineering teams to make this vision come true. Unfortunately, you need to wait for technology to catch up to your vision. Eventually, it did. Simplicity dominates over customizability. How many people actually partition their hard drives? Build their own computers? Crack open their laptop and play with the parts? Play around with robots or raspberry pi? Only the hobbyists, the future engineers, and inventors. Not the layman. In terms of the history of software history Bill Gates a better businessman than he was actually inventor, but in Gate’s defense, he was a coder at least.

But in the field of marketing, no one can rival what Jobs achieved. He sold his overpriced products based on the illusion of quality. The idea that even though the products inside the computer are the same as IBM machines that is not what matters the most. Anyone can jumble a bunch of parts together and make it a computer, but the design and care are what the consumer cares about. Apple cares. Jobs made Apple more than any company presented itself as an institution that was cool and hip. A company that is individualistic in nature. It is only now that he has long passed that I see the immense impact he had. Microsoft has tried to copy much of what Apple did but without success. Why? Their stores are configured the same, but the Apple stores are packed and the Microsoft can barely fill theirs. They missed on a trick and an important one also. The brand. The soul of a company.

So is Jobs a genius? Yes but not as an engineer. Not as a hardware engineer, or software programmer. Leave that for Alan Turning, Steve Waz, Linus Torvald, Dennis Ritchie, and many others who don’t get the big accolades. Computing isn’t sexy but business and marketing is.

Steve Jobs is a marketing genius with a vision of how technology should be consumed. And today this is still evident. Even his greatest detractors like myself cannot deny him that.

Even I had to buy a Mac after many years of denial because I wanted to develop on the iOS and other Mac platforms.

It still sucks though.

CitizenFour

Recently I got around to watching the documentary CitizenFour. It’s about the first hours of Edward Snowden as he reached out to the press as well his first interactions with journalists of The Guardian. The movie evolves into recording his reactions to the initial release of classified information to the world and thus exposing the programs that exist to spy on the public. I believe people are captivated by not only what information he released to the public, but also him personally. What he did took courage. Many call him traitor now, and he is hated by many all over the world. People like to live in comfort and ease. For a man to forsake his life, wealth, lover, and family for his beliefs does take courage. Doesn’t matter if you think he is a traitor or not it takes conviction to do what you feel is necessary.

Yet I can’t help, but think he was bit naive when it come to trusting the press. As many already know the press has become a mouthpiece for the institution that is the state. You are fed the propaganda you want to believe, and proper facts and unbiased analysis are avoided. I am sure the intentions of The Guardian, New York Times, Washington Post, etc. were pure and some journalists still believe in proper reporting. It is the self-preserving nature of those who are in power of the welfare state who need to make sure that anything that can threaten them be contained.

Computer guys tend not to be the most social, or fluid speakers for that matter. I believe that Snowden stuck with an ideology that existed in his head of what justice and freedom are. He ran with it as someone who believed in the principles of western democracy. If you have been reading my blog you are well aware of the themes I try to convey in my writing. One of those themes is the idea that western principles are decaying fast.

What he failed to understand is that people are networked in. They aren’t going to give up the ease of unencrypted email, Facebook posts, Instagram photos, or Snapchat videos. People aren’t going to bother to create strong passwords or have 5-6 email accounts. Most people don’t even read the terms of service that all software companies force you to agree with. We live in a life of convenience, and luxury.

I once went to see a talk given by the legendary programmer, and activist Richard Stallman. I was hoping to get some technical insight of GNU, but instead became a political speech about promoting libertarianism and that the individual rights of citizens that are being corroded by modern software companies. He had a point, but he is mistaken on what the solution should be. He believes like many before in the need to get politically motivated. In my opinion, only economic collapses get most people motivated. He criticized that “we” tech people always look for a technical solution to the problem, but, in fact, we need to solve it as a political one. Well, I have to say I don’t see the change he keeps yearning for. I see more of the same. I bring up this point because I think Snowden indirectly did the same. He realized there was an issue, and pursued the traditional routes solving the problem. As you clearly see in a sense both have failed. They did have an impact and still do. Yet the sea hasn’t changed color, and we are still drowning in the decay that is the welfare state.
When I started learning about computers it started for the simple fact that I liked video games, and from there my world viewed kept expanding. I started to see the larger role that software and computers were partaking in society. Software is allowing people, and, more importantly, civilization rewrite the rules, and structure of the society. As I get older I realize that as a coder I don’t only have a responsibility to write programs that are technically correct, but that must also follow my morality, and ideology.

There is a battle between software that is closed, and those which are open. Only time will tell which one ends up winning the war. That battle may determine Snowden’s legacy ends up being.