10/08/2011

You'd think the guy was Jesus Christ

'Steve Jobs R.I.P.' photo (c) 2011, Todd Benson - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/I swear, if I have to read one more "news" story, watch one more local reporter broadcast from an Apple Store, or hear one more pundit compare Steve Jobs to Edison, I'm going to scream.

I get it, he's a popular guy. I get it, he's as rich as god. I get it, his gadgets are super trendy and cool. But, the guy is not Edison, Einstein, Franklin, Tesla, or the guy who invented the wheel. In fact, I feel sorry for the guy who invented the wheel because he doesn't get any credit at all and he certainly didn't get a cut from all the various uses of his invention not to mention he didn't have the good sense to keep it a "proprietary" format.

Steve Jobs was a nice guy from all accounts. He was a little quirky but people seemed to like him for the most part. That's great. Sure his company produced some interesting gadgets but I contend he did not "change the world." Why? Because most of the gadgets he "made" were actually made by other people even if they were credited to him. Even worse were all the designs and gadgets his company took from others and then reworked under their own brand and sold. That's not invention, it's just tinkering. Edison at least invented a few of his things himself (although many were contributed by his employees too). The same can't really be said of Jobs whose gift was marketing and refining the ideas of others. He was a great businessman. Maybe he's the Carnegie of our time but he's not the Edison of our time.

One commentator I heard on NPR attributed the computer to Jobs. This is about as accurate as Al Gore inventing the internet. Seriously? The computer was Steve Jobs' invention? Funny, there were computers long before Jobs came on the scene. What he did was take something someone else did and refine it. Sure, that was a big deal and we all get to spend endless hours wasting time on Facebook thanks to Mr. Jobs (or more accurately Mr. Wozniac because as usual Jobs was the marketing guy). But, he did not invent personal computing - he simply took it from the realm of business to the realm of entertainment. Yay for him, but it does not make him Edison or Einstein.

I love the "he changed the world of music" analogy followed by the reference to iTunes. Really? iTunes was actually the creation of two other guys and Jobs and Apple bought their designs. Likewise, I'm getting sick of the "he created the digital music revolution" line. The iPod was not the first digital music player by any stretch. Jobs' company simply took what others were doing and figured out a way to make it proprietary at the outset. That tied in nicely with his other new business - selling music. He did not invent a single thing that "revolutionized" digital music. He simply repackaged what others had already done. And when you think of all the rigmarole over pirating, loss of revenue to artists along with the increased scrutiny of our own activity online because of file sharing, are we really that much better off? Not to mention the increase in general rudeness of people walking around 24 hours a day with their little earbuds in so they don't have to interact with a single other human being - unless it is post to Facebook or Twitter via their iPhone!

Let's stop for a moment to consider something. When Edison invented the phonograph no one had ever recorded the human voice before. Think about that. Until that moment in history once a word was spoken or a note played it was gone forever. We can never hear George Washington deliver his Farewell Address. We could never hear Lincoln deliver the stirring Second Inaugural Address. We couldn't hear Mozart play his own piano concertos. Until the moment that Edison sang "Mary Had a Little Lamb" into the bell of his phonograph no human voice could be recorded and replayed later. That is a pretty big deal.  Compared to that, being able to listen to Lady Gaga while power walking just doesn't rise to the same level.

Listen, I know Apple fanatics are devoted to Jobs and Apple. They think the guy shit gold bricks and peed Chardonnay. It's nice, even if a little creepy, to have that kind of devotion to a corporate guy. And let's face it, Apple's history of lawsuits to squelch competition blows apart the whole "hippie ethic" line that is being repeated like a New Age pseudo-Buddhist mantra. Jobs and company made damn sure that anyone trying to do what they were famous for (taking a design by someone else and reworking it to make a profit) would be met with legions of lawyers not incense and herbal tea. Heck, when they lost their prototype iPhone did they just shrug and release it to the universe? Hell no, they impersonated cops (illegally) and strong armed anyone who might have even seen the thing! Not too hippie cool.

Yes, it's very sad he died. Pancreatic cancer is a particularly horrific way to go. It's painful and agonizing and I wouldn't wish it on anyone. A day of reflection would be appropriate for a business person but weeks and weeks of what appear to be the beginnings of some beatification process are really over the top. Steve Jobs was not Jesus Christ, he was not Thomas Edison, he was certainly not Albert Einstein. He was a businessman who made a very large fortune entertaining people to the point of distraction. Think about it, is life really "better" with your iPhone and being plugged into a fake reality 24/7?

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