Monday, October 10, 2011

Steve Jobs was a conservative Republican.

And probably a full-blown TeaBagger as well. And I say that without bothering to research his political contributions.

A personal sidebar here: My first computer was a Macintosh, in November of '88; when I went from the Plainview Daily Herald to the Midland Reporter-Telegram it was sitting on the desk I inherited, the result of a vendor arrangement in exchange for some co-op advertising. The two geeks in what was later called IT did not have anything like it and were very envious. They were working on those old Tandy TRS-80's, typing in MS-DOS. They were also playing around with some local petroleum engineers and geologists on something called a 'bulletin board service'.

(The only computer science I had learned in college in the late '70's was FORTRAN, and we were punching Hollerith cards and turning in a stack for the dining-room sized mainframe to spend a few hours processing.)

By the time I left the newspaper business for good, in January '92, there were about ten Macs in the building, all with big monitors and the paper was paginating (composing pages online). I was giving tutorials to my manager, not to mention the rest of the advertising sales staff. The MRT, to its credit, was ahead of the industry curve with regard to electronic publishing. But I never worked on another Mac after that; I bought PCs for my home use (my first was a Gateway) because I had bought into the meme that there wasn't enough software to run on anything but PCs. And wasn't ever going to be.

I was never willing to pay Apple's premium -- when desktop systems eventually dropped in price from $2K and $3K to around $1000, Macs were still $1500 -- for something that I perceived was nothing more than an affinity brand. Even the persistent urban legend that Macs never get computer viruses didn't sway me. It's also why my first smartphone is an Android. I had originally purchased the jazziest Blackberry on the market four years earlier and could not figure out how to use it. It had the wheel on the side; I couldn't change the font to something I liked ... so I traded it back in on a Motorola RAZR -- which was also one of the trickest phones on the market at the time. But was just a phone, of course; no e-mail.

The news that Jobs was a supreme tyrant and an even more massive tightwad disappoints me greatly. His long refusal to acknowledge the child he had out of wedlock points to the darker nature of his character.

Now I get the marketing whiz part of him completely. He didn't just create an affinity brand like Tiffany, Rolex, Lexus, Neiman Marcus ... he created a culture around his products. Root word being cult.

I get that Steve Jobs was so much smarter than everybody else -- and that he fostered an environment of sophistication within his company that focused on making things as easy as possible for the end-user -- which was clearly demonstrated by the fact that it took Microsoft ten years to copy him (Windows). I totally get that his ego correspondingly dictated that he charge people more for his superior intellect (in product design, razzle-dazzle presentation, etc.) That part is absolutely praiseworthy in our capitalist system.

That he had no measurable record of charitable giving despite a personal fortune estimated to be $8 billion, I admit, shocked me. Steve Jobs was a TeaBagger in at least one respect: he had that classic "I got mine, now you go get yours" attitude. "You don't need/won't get any help from me. I did it all by myself." Herman Cain as recently as this past Thursday espoused this same philosophy with respect to his lack of participation in the civil rights movement.

I find that mentality -- "No handouts, you lazy bums!" -- to be as abhorrent as any other pestilence on the land.

Bill Gates suddenly went up several notches in my estimation by comparison. And that is a crying-ass shame. Because Gates and Microsoft represent the culture of American corporate domination translated into soul-killing mediocrity as much as do the oil and gas companies, the newspaper and automobile companies I worked for once upon a time, et cetera (slow-to-no innovation in new technologies despite massive profit margins being just one hallmark).  I'm sure you can think of other industries that fit this description.

But at least they've given some back to those less fortunate.

It's true what Robert Fulgham wrote: everything we need to know we learned in kindergarten. Steve Jobs was way smarter in business than most people who have ever walked the Earth, and without having finished college. He also apparently did not absorb much from K.


Jolly Roger said...

When I heard about Jobs's death, one of the first things I thought about were the suicides in the Chinese sweatshop that was turning out iPads. Some of the "workers" there were all of 14 years old.

Steve Jobs unquestionably contributed mightily to the circumstances we now find ourselves in. People may not want to hear it, but it happens to be the truth.

Unknown said...

I am pretty sure that Mr. Jobs was sold the idea of working with that factory. A nice report by its Chinese management showed their fast production times and impeccable quality. The blame should be laid on the factory's management, not its clients.
If you hire a programmer, who in turn pays peanuts to his younger brother to do the work, is it really your problem to investigate how he works? If you dont know you can not be blamed. People are throwing dirt at Jobs because they do not appreciate his ideals, but those were ethical and correct. If the factory could not produce what Apple needed for the price they offered they should raise prices or get more staff. Instead they chose to use children.