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Walter Isaacson's 60 Minutes Interview
October 24, 2011 7:16 AM   Subscribe

Walter Isaacson, author of a just-released authorized biography of Steve Jobs, talks to Steve Croft of 60 Minutes [single-page view] about his brilliant, mercurial, often difficult subject.
posted by killdevil (99 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Video of Steve Jobs memorial at Cupertino headquatrers.

(Currently says "Available Soon, check back later" but it was running last night.)
posted by The Deej at 7:26 AM on October 24, 2011


You want to wait for version 2.0 to come out. It's thinner, faster, and much cooler than the biography you're currently reading.
posted by Fizz at 7:33 AM on October 24, 2011


"And that's why I don't like putting on-off switches on Apple devices."
posted by memebake at 7:33 AM on October 24, 2011


Re: the on-off switch revelation: Wow.
posted by pts at 7:48 AM on October 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


*prosthetic arm falls on workbench*

"And that's why you don't put off switches on consumer electronics!"
posted by hellojed at 7:49 AM on October 24, 2011 [14 favorites]


Started reading the book last night. Amused that while Jobs gave the author complete editorial control of the content no matter how ugly it might or might not be, he did insist on designing the jacket cover himself.
posted by octothorpe at 7:51 AM on October 24, 2011 [11 favorites]


And wow does that book cover look great.
posted by killdevil at 7:54 AM on October 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


You want to wait for version 2.0 to come out. It's thinner, faster, and much cooler than the biography you're currently reading.

..and the cover will be in color.
posted by stbalbach at 7:58 AM on October 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


What I found shocking was that he turned down immediate pancreatic surgery to pursue holistic treatment for several months.
posted by Brodiggitty at 7:59 AM on October 24, 2011


And wow does that book cover look great.

"One million dollars!"
posted by zippy at 8:00 AM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


(10-year running joke)
posted by stbalbach at 8:01 AM on October 24, 2011


(Currently says "Available Soon, check back later" but it was running last night.)

Works in Safari. Perhaps unsurprisingly.
posted by mhoye at 8:01 AM on October 24, 2011


What I found shocking was that he turned down immediate pancreatic surgery to pursue holistic treatment for several months.

The reality distortion field worked both ways.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:04 AM on October 24, 2011 [5 favorites]


Small text at the bottom of the memorial page:
"Streaming video requires Safari 4 or 5 on Mac OS X Snow Leopard or Lion, Safari on iOS 3 or later, or QuickTime 7 on Windows."
posted by tmt at 8:05 AM on October 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Streaming video requires Safari 4 or 5 on Mac OS X Snow Leopard or Lion, Safari on iOS 3 or later, or QuickTime 7 on Windows."

Click preferences.
posted by Fizz at 8:07 AM on October 24, 2011


More often the turning to alternative forms of treatment comes when conventional forms seem not to be working. However, we do have various approaches to "alternative" medicine (?) that are allowed to be available to the public and they seem often to be able to make claims that require no proof of effectiveness.
posted by Postroad at 8:10 AM on October 24, 2011


I will never understand the deification done to this man. He was a damn fine salesman. He was an awesome business man. He was an outstanding capitalist. There is much of those things he should be admired for, but not worshiped.

He did not "change the world" in any way. Sure the company's products were innovative and brought about changes but most likely the people he hired would have invented similar or the same things for a different company. It isn't like all of apple's products were invented by Jobs alone. No doubt many of the patents that his name was on were not really invented by him. He was just able to add his name on to the patents - after all it is good to be the king.

He was by most accounts a less-than-pleasant boss to work for. Not necessarily an unwanted attribute in a business owner, but another reason not to canonize the man. He was greedy, or at least not very charitable. He was gung-ho for censorship and keeping everything as private and controllable as he could. While making use of cheap Chinese labor is part and parcel of business today, he didn't pass on the savings from such cheap labor, he just made his bottom line that much much much better. No, while I admire him as a business man, I just don't see the nearly literal worship of the man.
posted by 2manyusernames at 8:14 AM on October 24, 2011 [17 favorites]


most likely the people he hired would have invented similar or the same things for a different company.

I think most everything you say is true, except that. Or, they might have invented them, but the odds that the company would produce them and market them would be minuscule. As a test, where's Apples competition. [If I get proved wrong here I still win — I'll find out about all kinds of cool products.] Oh, and I say this as someone who really doesn't like to use Apple products.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:18 AM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


He did not "change the world" in any way.

My impression is that we would probably still be using DOS if not for Jobs. The Desktop Publishing revolution probably wouldn't have happened or would have happened much later.

The man had his faults, but make no mistake, he changed the world. Is he as great as MLK or Ghandi? No, of course not. But he did indeed change the world.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:21 AM on October 24, 2011 [12 favorites]


No doubt many of the patents that his name was on were not really invented by him. He was just able to add his name on to the patents - after all it is good to be the king.

Uhh, that would be a ludicrously dangerous and stupid thing to do. Intentionally falsifying the inventorship of a patent is a good way to get the patent rendered invalid under § 102(f). See Pannu v. Iolab Corp., 155 F. 3d 1344 (Fed. Cir. 1998). It's also a good way for the patent attorney to get in ethical trouble.
posted by jedicus at 8:23 AM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


What I found shocking was that he turned down immediate pancreatic surgery to pursue holistic treatment for several months.

The procedure is pretty drastic—I can't say I'd blame him for being reluctant.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:27 AM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


He did not "change the world" in any way.

The best way I can think of to respond to this is to point to the fact that every personal computer in the world today is fundamentally a Macintosh (in the sense that the user interface and user interaction design of the original Mac inspired all of the PCs that followed it). Similarly, within the next two or three years, once feature phones are supplanted at the very bottom end of the cellular phone market by cheap Android devices, it will be accurate to say that all cellphones are fundamentally iPhones.
posted by killdevil at 8:29 AM on October 24, 2011 [14 favorites]


My impression is that we would probably still be using DOS if not for Jobs.

X was introduced the same year as the Mac. I think it was pretty clear by the early 80s that as soon as you could build something like the Alto for cheap enough, that was the future.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:34 AM on October 24, 2011 [7 favorites]


"Mercurial" has been used so often in articles I've seen about Jobs since his death, but so rarely used in ordinary conversation, that I think of it as being along the lines of something I saw in a journalistic euphemism compilation, to the effect that "feisty" as always being used with powerful women to mean "bitchy" (but so powerful that you can't come right out and say that in an article or risk losing your job, or so the implication went). Saying he's "mercurial" seems a fancy way to suggest, He's crazy smart--I mean, everyone knows that, and he's smarter than me or you, I mean, come on--but sometimes he's a total asshole.

Or is this just a case of journalists copying one another? All using the same, rarely used word to describe the same dude, because it's a convention by now?
posted by raysmj at 8:38 AM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think it was pretty clear by the early 80s that as soon as you could build something like the Alto for cheap enough, that was the future.

See that air conditioner underneath the Alto? That the hard drive, man.

We should all count our blessings, that Steve Jobs brought beautiful and thoughtful design to computing.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:43 AM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Anyone who doesn't think Jobs changed the world must not have been around in the 70s or had a father who worked for IBM when the Mac came out.
posted by spicynuts at 8:51 AM on October 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


Sure the company's products were innovative and brought about changes but most likely the people he hired would have invented similar or the same things for a different company.

Hah. Even Wozniak would have never built the Apple II without Steve Jobs pushing him. Let alone the mac, ipod, etc.
posted by empath at 8:53 AM on October 24, 2011


I wonder when the blockbuster biography of Dennis Ritchie is coming out? If Jobs deserves all this hagiography (and I'm not necessarily disputing that), surely Ritchie does too?
posted by kmz at 8:54 AM on October 24, 2011 [8 favorites]


Sorry - I still think it should have been called "Magnificent Bastard"
posted by symbioid at 8:56 AM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


The other way that Jobs changed the world is that after he died, every hack commenter added the word "hagiography" to their vocabulary.
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 8:59 AM on October 24, 2011 [16 favorites]


See that air conditioner underneath the Alto? That the hard drive, man.

Sure, but... 1973, dude. Nineteen-seventy-motherfucking-three. They had barely even invented the microprocessor, and the 8080, 6800, and 6502 didn't exist yet except as fevered dreams of chip fabs.

We should all count our blessings, that Steve Jobs brought beautiful and thoughtful design to computing.

In this matter, s/Steve Jobs/Seagate/ . I suppose we could quibble about how Jobs would have designed the Mac if hard drives were still at least mini-fridge sized.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:03 AM on October 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm sorry if you've never heard the word hagiography before. It's barely a 75-cent word.
posted by kmz at 9:04 AM on October 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


X was introduced the same year as the Mac. I think it was pretty clear by the early 80s that as soon as you could build something like the Alto for cheap enough, that was the future.

I was there at the time, and no, it was NOT "pretty clear", and hindsight is indeed 20/20. The first Apple implementations of the things Jobs and his crew saw at PARC were not cheap - the Lisa was ridiculously expensive, and in January of 1984, when the Mac was first released, it was $2495 for the 128K version - the Imagewriter was another $495, and you could get started with MacPaint and MacWrite out of the box. And that's in 1984 dollars, mind you.

Listen, I'm the first guy to say that I was often critical of Steve - when he went after some of my friends in the nineties, trying to claim that Pixar owned the patent on the notion of a seamlessly-tiling image/texture, I went head to head against him and Pixar, and was asked to come speak to Pam Kerwin, who was the head of Pixar product marketing at the time (if memory serves me correctly). I laid out my case, showed Pam something from my first Photoshop book which clearly proved prior art, and Pixar backed down. It pissed me off that he would give small developers a hard time, I took that one kind of personally.

I'm also friendly with Dan Kottke, who would hang out at my place in the early nineties as well (he was friends with my ex-wife), and I heard lots of less-then-lovely stories about Steve. Search me out on YouTube, you'll find me talking about how I thought that the original marketing video for the iPad seemed cult-like to me. You better believe that I got a less-than-nice call from Apple over that.

Meanwhile, my life would look drastically different were it not for Jobs and the things he made happen by the sheer force of his will. Every major friend and adventure of my adult life is somehow touched by the stuff this guy brought to market. Besides Ford, Tesla, Edison and Newton, how many other people can you say that about? When I heard that he died, I cried, probably more for what this milestone meant to my own life, than anything else, but also because, like Jobs, I don't march to the beat of a anyone's drummer, have always followed my own path, don't deal well with authority, and consider myself somewhat of an outsider. Jobs proved, with everything he did, that you can make up your own rules, and succeed.

And I certainly have learned that having strong opinions means you'll end up with lots of enemies. Such is life.

No one is saying the guy was a saint - that's a big part of the book linked in the FPP actually establishes rather explicitly - but Steve and the things he did, had a profound effect on my life, and the lives on many other millions of people. If you don't understand that statement, then well, I sort of feel bad for you.

Sort of.
posted by dbiedny at 9:08 AM on October 24, 2011 [21 favorites]


Does "visionary" trump "prick"?
posted by davebush at 9:09 AM on October 24, 2011


I wonder when the blockbuster biography of Dennis Ritchie is coming out

Why is it that I only see Dennis Ritchie being brought up in threads about Steve Jobs? It seems to me like he's being used as a convenient hammer to beat Apple fans with and, that's not really respectful to him or Steve Jobs.
posted by empath at 9:09 AM on October 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Does "visionary" trump "prick"?

Yes.
posted by JimBennett at 9:13 AM on October 24, 2011 [5 favorites]


Does "visionary" trump "prick"?

Yes: because "prick" affects a handful but "visionary" affects the multitude.
posted by glhaynes at 9:16 AM on October 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


What I found shocking was that he turned down immediate pancreatic surgery to pursue holistic treatment for several months.

I'm not sure why. How to treat something as devastating as cancer is a very personal choice. When my mother had her first meeting with her doctor after finding out she had cancer the treatment options ranged from immediate and severe chemo to doing nothing and letting it run it's course.

I'm certainly not saying it was his best choice, but I'm not going to fault the man for his choices based on deeply held beliefs.

He was by most accounts a less-than-pleasant boss to work for.

No one has claimed he was pleasant to work for. Whatever he did, it worked. And there have been no shortage of those that worked under Jobs that seemed pretty upset with his passing.

It isn't like all of apple's products were invented by Jobs alone.

No sane person claims that.

most likely the people he hired would have invented similar or the same things for a different company.

A ridiculous statement. I'm not even sure where to begin. Jobs biggest strength was as someone that saw the big picture, that focused smart people. It's not like Apple hired all the smart people and left none for other companies. So why did Apple go from a dying company to the biggest tech company in the world? Why are most tech companies, filled with smart people, floundering and playing catch-up to Apple? Not a difficult question.

He was greedy, or at least not very charitable.

I have no idea how charitable Jobs was/is, or if he made any plans for what to do with his wealth after he died, but if you're using greedy as meaning hungry for money, you're wrong. Money seemed to mean very little to Jobs. He was driven by making great products. He could have easily retired, bought an island, and lived his last year taking it easy. But he was working until his very last day. A workaholic, driven, obsessed, maybe. Greedy, nah.

keeping everything as private and controllable as he could.

So how did all that control work out for Apple? Taking control of everything from the software, to the hardware, to how apps are installed are part of what made Apple what they are. You can disagree with it, but without it Apple loses one of the strengths if has over other companies, and one of the driving forces behind their products.

I just don't see the nearly literal worship of the man.
posted by 2manyusernames


I don't think many people, who actually followed Jobs or Apple, are making the claim he should be worshipped. I think most believe what Brandon Blatcher said:

The man had his faults, but make no mistake, he changed the world. Is he as great as MLK or Ghandi? No, of course not. But he did indeed change the world.

Love him or hate him, I'm not sure how anyone could claim Steve Jobs didn't change the world unless they've lived in a bubble the past 30 years, and I'm not sure how anyone, fan of Apple or not, can say it's not a huge blow to lose his vision over the next 10-20 years.
posted by justgary at 9:19 AM on October 24, 2011 [6 favorites]


I find it amazing that someone could be so influenced by the Buddha and Timothy Leary and remain such an asshole.
posted by localroger at 9:21 AM on October 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Why is it that I only see Dennis Ritchie being brought up in threads about Steve Jobs?

Did you miss the obit thread? (Looks like you might have. Along with more than a few OS X fans.)

And what do you expect when two giants in the field die within days of each other? Do you really think nobody's going to make comparisons?
posted by kmz at 9:22 AM on October 24, 2011


I find it amazing that someone could be so influenced by the Buddha and Timothy Leary and remain such an asshole.

Because they were assholes too?
posted by chronkite at 9:24 AM on October 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


Why is it that I only see Dennis Ritchie being brought up in threads about Steve Jobs? It seems to me like he's being used as a convenient hammer to beat Apple fans with and, that's not really respectful to him or Steve Jobs.

It's pretty tacky, honestly, as if Dennis Ritchie's life only had meaning because Jobs' did. But people gotta do what they do.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:26 AM on October 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


I find it amazing that someone could be so influenced by the Buddha and Timothy Leary and remain such an asshole.

Honest question: Did Buddha or Leary try to run a company? That could be the difference.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:27 AM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


In 1991, I had the unfortunate opportunity to watch Tim Leary make a total, complete ass of himself at the screening theater at C building/ILM in San Rafael, and stormed out of the presentation convinced that he was a moronic shmuck. I've seen - or heard - little to convince me otherwise.
posted by dbiedny at 9:28 AM on October 24, 2011


And what do you expect when two giants in the field die within days of each other? Do you really think nobody's going to make comparisons?

You're comparing two dissimilar legacies of visionaries in similar (but not the same) fields simply because they both just died. Frankly, I find that sort of gross.
posted by JimBennett at 9:28 AM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


You're comparing two dissimilar legacies of visionaries in similar (but not the same) fields simply because they both just died. Frankly, I find that sort of gross.

By that measure, it's gross to compare Jobs to, well, anyone, since it's not as if there's really someone similar to compare him to. For example, people compare Jobs and Gates all the damn time, and they're in "similar (but not the same)" fields. One is famous primarily for his hardware and interfaces being integrated vertically, the other for OSes and productivity software being made available to a wide and disparate market. And, to be quite honest, neither is really the one that did anything but move the process in a successful fashion.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:45 AM on October 24, 2011


He did not "change the world" in any way. Sure the company's products were innovative and brought about changes but most likely the people he hired would have invented similar or the same things for a different company.

What he did was drag aesthetics, visual design, and the idea of a positive user experience into a field that really didn't have any of that on a consistent basis. And then curate and lead an environment where products that embodied those could be created.

The thing about Apple's products that's not always obvious is the emotional bond that customers have with them and Apple. A lot of work goes into that.
posted by ZeusHumms at 9:47 AM on October 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Isaacson: ...And I think he felt the normal rules just shouldn't apply to-- and he had his little everyday acts of rebellion that were showing, "Hey, I'm a little bit different."

Kroft: Parking in handicapped spots?

Isaacson: Yeah. I mean, he always kind of felt, "I don't succumb to authority." So, you know, it's just who he is.


Ugh. Is it petty to get hung up on this detail? But I mean, you can be a brilliant-marketing-genius-visionary-who-doesn't-succumb-to-authority and NOT park in handicapped spaces. It's quite easy.
posted by book 'em dano at 9:53 AM on October 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


What Jobs knew, and all he knew, was how to pander to the masses. He was a genius at that. And he did it early, in a field that was highly technical and largely disdained that sort of hucksterism. He was a pioneer in that regard.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 9:56 AM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, I'm annoyed that I only thought to get the bio last week, and now can't cancel the order.
posted by ZeusHumms at 9:57 AM on October 24, 2011


it's gross to compare Jobs to, well, anyone, since it's not as if there's really someone similar to compare him to.

Henry Ford was mentioned upthread, but only in passing. He didn't invent the car, but his vision of the car is the one that we live with to this day. Also, he was a control freak (any color, as long as it's black), and apparently something of an asshole.
posted by mr vino at 10:01 AM on October 24, 2011


I found out recently the guy who designed the iMac, iPad, iPhone, iPod was not Steve Jobs (though he had a roll), it was Jonathan Ive, lead designer, born February 1967, which gives him an astrology profile of Aquarius/Sheep, which is the same exact profile as Steve Jobs, Aquarius/Sheep. The two most influential people at Apple have the same exact personality profile, if you believe in those things. I guess they worked well together saw the world the same. If he stays (not for sure), Apple should continue to make exceptionally well designed stuff, but if he leaves it's a new game.
posted by stbalbach at 10:03 AM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, I'm annoyed that I only thought to get the bio last week, and now can't cancel the order.

Especially since I could get it from the store this afternoon.
posted by ZeusHumms at 10:12 AM on October 24, 2011


Outwardly, Apple products are designed for esthetics. Sometimes they perform tasks better than other computing platforms, sometimes not. The iPod was really slick, but it was the iTunes store that really changed the music industry. Apple got consumers to accept DRM, and the iTunes store is probably responsible for a lot of their profit. The iPad has some nifty uses, for me, none of them work-related. But they've got consumers to buy lots of apps, to the extent that, when the app store was offline, some users were distraught.

Apple products are consistently quite a bit more expensive. They are marketed extremely successfully, and many people are not only willing, but wait in line for the chance to buy them. I've used various Apple products. They 'just work' as long as you do it the Apple way. For all of their vaunted Think Different, my experience of Apple products is Think and Work the Apple way.

Ccomputing technology would have been invented. It took Jobs to invent the iTunes store. He was a brilliant marketer. He obviously drove staff to create beautiful designs, and to think about how people interact with computers, but the 'elegance' of the Mac is made up of equal parts good design and hype. Jobs was exceptionally good at creating 'cool.' He was passionate about what he did, and was exceptional at making people want what Apple produces. Was he using his illness to get people to listen to his rant about Google and Android? The ongoing lamentations over the death of a man who marketed cool, shiny consumer goods is an accurate reflection of our culture.

It's awfully sad that he didn't get his illness treated promptly, when it was likely to have been a successful cure. That must be profoundly sad for his family and friends.
posted by theora55 at 10:13 AM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Mercurial" has been used so often in articles ....

This reminds me of an unintentional layout error in a Steve Jobs' tribute in our local newspaper.

The line was "Steve Jobs was a prickly person to work for...." but the sentence came at the end of a line and there was an unfortunate hyphenation.

"Steve Jobs was a prick-"
posted by storybored at 10:23 AM on October 24, 2011


The story of Jobs finding and then not finding his father was new to me. And amazing. As an adopted child who found both birth parents in my early adulthood (as well as various half-sibllings) the Mona Simpson/Steve Jobs connection has always been of peculiar interest. In fact, her "novel"A Regular Guy--a stretch to call the title character "loosely based" on her famous brother--was my first introduction to the long since well-entrenched portrait of Jobs as difficult/unpleasant/etc. genius. I'm surprised the book gets so little mention, and was surprised to find that they were so close when she painted his alter ego in the worst possible light. If you're interested, the first critical customer review is worth a look.

Anyway, it was moving to me that he commissioned, or requested the Isaacson bio in the first place "so my kids can know me," as I read in one of his obits.
posted by emhutchinson at 10:35 AM on October 24, 2011


Re: Buddha and Timothy Leary:

chronkite: Because they were assholes too?

W. T. F. ? Well I can't speak personally of the Buddha (although I'm sure his followers would have some words about this) I did personally meet Timothy Leary, and he struck me as being the very opposite of an asshole. I'm glad it's him and not Jobs that I got to meet before they died.

Brandon Blatchera: Honest question: Did Buddha or Leary try to run a company? That could be the difference.

The Buddha was a prince who grew up expecting to run a kingdom, and the essence of his teaching is rejection of a lot of much of that conventional wisdom. I am pretty sure none of the bullet points on the 8-fold path is "be a hardass to those you rule." I am sure the major religion he founded has lasted longer and will have more enduring influence than Apple ever will.

As for Leary he created a number of successful organizations, some under great duress (as when he was in prison), and he seems to have done it all by being inspirational instead of a dick.

I brought those two up because Jobs himself cites their influence on him, but he conducted himself remarkably unlike either of them.
posted by localroger at 10:45 AM on October 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Found one of many "live blogs" which highlight revelations from the bio as the blogger reads it.
posted by ZeusHumms at 10:52 AM on October 24, 2011


I brought those two up because Jobs himself cites their influence on him, but he conducted himself remarkably unlike either of them.

From Wikipedia; "Although his father ensured that Siddhartha was provided with everything he could want or need, Buddhist scriptures say that the future Buddha felt that material wealth was not life's ultimate goal.[36]"

Sounds like Steve. He also was a vegan, I think, refused to eat anything that had a face.

Think for yourself and question authority was a mantra of Leary's. No doubt Steve was very big on that.

My point with all this is that Steve said he was influenced by Buddha and Leary, not that he sought to emulate them or every principle they had. As far as I know, he was never arrested, yet Leary was regularly in jail. Does that mean Steven wasn't influenced by Leary?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:00 AM on October 24, 2011


Also, was anyone else amazed by the brain scans of a normal brain vs an autistic brain? I can't find those specific images online, but man they were fascinating.

In a normal brain, the part that deals with language was neatly bound and laid out. In the autistic brain, the bundles of nerves were just all over the place, seemingly at random. They should do an hour long segment on just that.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:08 AM on October 24, 2011


"Leary was a fool. Drunk with 'celebrity-hood' and his own ego, he became a media clown-and was arguably the single most damaging actor involved in the destruction of the evanescent social movement of the '60's. Tim, with his very public exhortations to the kids to 'tune in, turn on and drop out,' is the inspiration for all the current draconian US drug laws against psychedelics. He would not listen to any of us when we asked him to please cool it, he loved the lime-light and relished his notoriety... I was not a fan of his."

-noted asshole Hunter S. Thompson

And of course I can't say for sure whether the Buddha was an asshole, but I'll bet he seemed like one a lot of the time.
posted by chronkite at 11:12 AM on October 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


"His way to achieve catharsis is to hurt somebody. And I think he feels he has a liberty and a license to do that. The normal rules of social engagement, he feels, don't apply to him. Because of how very sensitive he is, he knows exactly how to efficiently and effectively hurt someone. And he does do that." - Jonathan Ive

... just like the Buddha.
posted by Auden at 11:22 AM on October 24, 2011


The Desktop Publishing revolution

Without Canon & Apple, it might have been the desk-side revolution. I remember seeing a Xerox laser printer in 1984. It was the size of a clothes washer, printed a page a minute (or two) and was controlled with a roff-alike (not WYSIWYG).

I also saw the beginnings of Project Athena which was X-windows plus an infrastructure, launched a year before the Mac was released. It may have brought many of the things the Mac brought to the market, but in a less populist way.

It's a strange situation that a company that helped the race to the bottom (and to all people) in some ways resists it so strongly in others.
posted by morganw at 11:22 AM on October 24, 2011


Well, every famous person was an asshole.... everyone except PABLO PICASSO.
posted by storybored at 11:23 AM on October 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


I can't go into detail, but anyone who says that Apple's brilliant employees and designers would have been able to design the same apple products we know even if Jobs was not there are mistaken.

The usual design process in Apple, at least for industrial and interface design, were always a conversation between Jobs and the designers. A conversation that usually went like this:

10: Designers: We have this awesome thing that is perfect and better than anything the work has seen. We feel proud and happy. Jobs will be so impressed.

20: Jobs: It is OK, but here is a list of 75 things that suck in your design. Do it better. Now.

30: GOTO 10


So yeah, apart from being good at making money, Jobs was a good leader. In most places I have worked as a designer or engineer, the creatives HATE the bosses who demand constant changes. The changes usually feel arbitrary, and usually are (Once a boss confessed that he kept rejecting my design because he thought the color scheme was 'too gay' for him), and the designers end up frustrated and under-performing. When you are lucky enough to have a boss like Jobs, you look at YOUR finished product and are amazed to find out you had something so good in you.

It is hard not to be a dick when you want everyone to see that 2+4=4, and they keep insisting that maybe it is 3.5 or 6.
posted by Ayn Rand and God at 12:09 PM on October 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


It is hard not to be a dick when you want everyone to see that 2+4=4, and they keep insisting that maybe it is 3.5 or 6.

So you're saying that being a dick makes you bad at math?
posted by desjardins at 12:14 PM on October 24, 2011


Yes, I suck. Kill me now. I am moving out of the country and changing my name.
posted by Ayn Rand and God at 12:22 PM on October 24, 2011


(actually, you got it right. That's the infamous Jobs reality distortion field, convincing people that 2+4=4. )
posted by Auden at 12:34 PM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


chronkite, thank you, now I understand why a mutual friend of mine & Hunter kept bugging me to let her connect us, she thought we'd appreciate each other, but I had no desire to try and keep up with his alcohol and drug intake, and politely declined. Sounds like we would indeed have gotten along. Sigh.
posted by dbiedny at 12:52 PM on October 24, 2011


I would like to see that 60 minutes article, but since I'm on an iPad, CBS feels the need to break the link to that article with a redirect ad for their 60 minutes app.
posted by splatta at 12:54 PM on October 24, 2011


About the "charitable" discussion: for many people (including me), Apple's lack of a discernible corporate philanthropy program is a huge blight, made even more blighty by Apple's refusal to allow nonprofits to use iOS apps to solicit donations. I don't necessarily demand charity of individuals, but I do expect it of multinational corporations.
posted by roll truck roll at 1:03 PM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Most multinational corporations are not much more than cursorily philanthropic. So why hold Apple to a higher standard?
posted by killdevil at 1:10 PM on October 24, 2011


Most multinational corporations are not much more than cursorily philanthropic. So why hold Apple to a higher standard?

Because its CEO waxed eloquent about how it's not all about the money?
posted by ambient2 at 1:23 PM on October 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


About the "charitable" discussion: for many people (including me), Apple's lack of a discernible corporate philanthropy program is a huge blight, made even more blighty by Apple's refusal to allow nonprofits to use iOS apps to solicit donations. I don't necessarily demand charity of individuals, but I do expect it of multinational corporations.

Tim Cook at least put started a charitable matching program last month (Ars Technica article). I think this is an example of where Steve Jobs' personal biases shine through. I'm not sure about the refusal to allow donation solicitation, but Apple would get blamed for letting fake nonprofits get in the App Store. I'm guessing gatekeeping for that class of apps could get complex and argumentative very quickly.
posted by ZeusHumms at 1:24 PM on October 24, 2011


I'll go out on a limb here and predict that Jobs' widow will get heavily involved in a variety of philanthropic activities, and redeem Steve's rep in this regard. Just watch.
posted by dbiedny at 1:30 PM on October 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm impressed that Jobs stayed out of the limelight as much as he did. He was never the front person for Pixar, and his immediate family was mostly off the radar aside from Lisa.
posted by ZeusHumms at 1:40 PM on October 24, 2011


Larry Page sought out and got Jobs' advice on how to be a CEO:
We talked a lot about focus. And choosing people. How to know who to trust, and how to build a team of lieutenants he can count on. I described the blocking and tackling he would have to do to keep the company from getting flabby and being larded with B players. The main thing I stressed was focus. Figure out what Google wants to be when it grows up. It's now all over the map. What are the five products you want to focus on? Get rid of the rest, because they're dragging you down. They're turning you into Microsoft. They're causing you to turn out products that are adequate but not great.
posted by octothorpe at 2:32 PM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sure the company's products were innovative and brought about changes but most likely the people he hired would have invented similar or the same things for a different company.

There have been other satisfactory rebuttals of this already, but to me the simplest refutation is the output of Jony Ive. He was hired by Apple as a promising industrial designer about five years before Steve's return, but as far as we know his impact on the look of Apple's products over that time was minimal. In the five or so succeeding years we saw, among other things:
  • The original iMac
  • The clamshell iBook (the one like a toilet seat)
  • The iPod
  • The iBook G3 (the one that, though constructed very differently, looks outwardly similar to the current MacBook Pro)
  • The G4 iMac (the pudding basin cum desk lamp thing)
So the same person at the same company who couldn't produce anything of note until Steve encouraged/challenged/goaded/enabled (or whatever combination) him and his team to do it, suddenly produced an incredible (and continuing) string of radically new industrial designs for computers and consumer electronics. It could have happened anywhere, it must just be a pure fluke that it happened at Apple while Steve was there...
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 2:41 PM on October 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


Speaking of the Buddha and Jobs:

As the stories go, Buddha was mostly sweetness and light, though I'm not sure how his abandoned wife and son thought of his spiritual journey.

But, if I remember correctly, Jobs embraced Zen, which is fairly harsh in the ways adherents pursue their goals (or not-goals). If you fall asleep during group meditation, someone will helpfully hit you with a stick. Zen stories often end up with someone getting slapped, beaten, or sometimes murdered by their masters in the name of gaining enlightenment. Zen masters are not known for their compassion towards the monks under their care.

So Jobs kinda fits right in.
posted by honestcoyote at 2:47 PM on October 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


I find it amazing that someone could be so influenced by the Buddha and Timothy Leary and remain such an asshole.

As many have pointed out, then you need to read more about the Buddha and Leary.

I find the enmity toward other people's reactions to Jobs' death really interesting. HOW DARE YOU CLAIM HE CHANGED LIVES, HE'S MARGINAL AT BEST! The fact is implying that people's lives have been changed by someone (say, Edison, Disney, Ford) is to my eye value neutral. You can hate what has been done by the companies those men enabled and still admit to the fact that they shaped the modern landscape in profound ways. If anything, Jobs fits right into a list like that. Powerful, forceful people who transformed the world. That's true whether you hate or love Apple.

The historical case for Jobs as a personification of the computer era is incredibly strong. He was right there, making decisions about what PCs now look like, mice, touchscreen devices, phones, even what animated feature films. These impact us even now.

Admitting that this is so is not mutually exclusive to thinking the man was an asshole, a jerk, dragged his feet about his illness, or whatever else.

Remember gang, all these gods have clay feet. All of them. If you didn't know it before now, welcome to reality. People are giant mixed bags of features. Even Gandhi and MLK were not perfect people, they had some pretty screwed up aspects to their lives, but when we talk about people changing the world, I think consensus reality looks at some kind of totality of impact. I think Jobs fares pretty well there.
posted by artlung at 3:29 PM on October 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


About the "charitable" discussion: for many people (including me), Apple's lack of a discernible corporate philanthropy program is a huge blight, made even more blighty by Apple's refusal to allow nonprofits to use iOS apps to solicit donations. I don't necessarily demand charity of individuals, but I do expect it of multinational corporations.

Here's my story on that ...
I've been to a few "Executive Briefings" at Apple HQ. Basically, they're dog-and-pony shows where Apple tries to convince potential customers (my university, in this case) to buy lots of stuff. At a previous one, one of my fellow attendees mentioned that our university has a strong social justice mission, and asked whether that resonated with Apple at all. Blank stares. Someone clarified - you know, corporate giving, philanthropy, helping the less fortunate, that sort of stuff. The answer was basically no, that doesn't exist here, but we have some really cool stuff to sell you.

That's all fine; Apple has every right to give or not give. What pissed me off was that this meeting took place at Apple in the Martin Luther King conference room, which was covered with photos of King, Cesar Chavez, Jackie Robinson, Gandhi, and other people who'd worked for social justice. Co-opting these images to sell us iPads felt pretty shallow to me. Given the way Steve's vision permeated every aspect of Apple, I can't help but believe that was intentional. If you're going to keep all your money and not give back, name your conference room after Ayn Rand or Milton Friedman, fer chrissakes ...
posted by chbrooks at 4:17 PM on October 24, 2011 [7 favorites]


I'm not sure about the refusal to allow donation solicitation, but Apple would get blamed for letting fake nonprofits get in the App Store. I'm guessing gatekeeping for that class of apps could get complex and argumentative very quickly.

This is an issue that gets talked about a lot in the nonprofit world. This Ars Technica article lays out Apple's stated reasons and the counterarguments pretty well.

Bottom line: there are huge nonprofits doing that work of vetting orgs already (I work for one of them, there are a handful of others). Some of them are even doing really impressive things with standardizing qualifications of NGOs worldwide, and doing a good enough job at it to satisfy world governments and major foundations. This is not an unsolvable problem, and the sector would jump to provide a solution.
posted by roll truck roll at 4:37 PM on October 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


One more point before I step off this soapbox: I don't actually know if this limitation has anything to do with Apple's lack of philanthropy programs. They're actually completely separate issues, but together they paint a bleak picture.

I think that from Apple's perspective, the limitation is in line with other iOS limitations: fundamentally, iOS devices are about consuming, not doing.
posted by roll truck roll at 4:40 PM on October 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


I caught the 60 Minutes interview the other night -- the bit about how he met (and rediscovered) his birth father was astounding. You can watch it here, from 5:00-7:30.
posted by Rhaomi at 5:02 PM on October 24, 2011


Bottom line: there are huge nonprofits doing that work of vetting orgs already (I work for one of them, there are a handful of others). Some of them are even doing really impressive things with standardizing qualifications of NGOs worldwide, and doing a good enough job at it to satisfy world governments and major foundations. This is not an unsolvable problem, and the sector would jump to provide a solution.

Fair enough. Maybe this will change then, if organizations and interested people wear Apple down.
posted by ZeusHumms at 5:29 PM on October 24, 2011


I wonder if humility played any part in Steve Jobs success at all.
posted by ZeusHumms at 5:29 PM on October 24, 2011


fundamentally, iOS devices are about consuming, not doing.

Fundamentally, this is a completely absurd statement. iOS devices are platforms for software, and software is most emphatically used for doing.

Unless, of course, you think compiling your own open source software on a device is more worthwhile than using proprietary software to do any of the ~450 000 things there are apps for, including tools for medical professionals, accessibility tools for the disabled, etc.
posted by unigolyn at 9:19 PM on October 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


Unlike, say, HTC or a dozen other smartphone manufacturers, Apple's business model is based on ongoing sales of content. I'm not sure where the open-source vs. proprietary angle came from.
posted by roll truck roll at 9:46 PM on October 24, 2011


Does "visionary" trump "prick"?

Yes: because "prick" affects a handful but "visionary" affects the multitude.


The consumer needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one.
posted by zippy at 10:19 PM on October 24, 2011


Read up to the Apple II section last night, pretty fascinating stuff, as much a history of Silicon Valley as a biography of Jobs. So far the the most amusing thing is that he refused to ever shower, thinking that his extreme fruititarian diet protected him from the toxins that caused odor. It didn't. It was so bad that Atari made him work the night shift because no one could work near him.
posted by octothorpe at 5:03 AM on October 25, 2011


Honestly, he comes off as mentally ill.
posted by desjardins at 8:01 AM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]




Finished off the bio today. Lots of interesting and sometimes amusing, sometimes depressing facts about Steve Jobs.

I'm still trying to stitch it all together to form a picture of the guy. The one that sticks with me is a question from one of his former employees: why he had to be sometimes so very blunt and very mean?

It was sort of answered, but not to my satisfaction. Was he aware just how much he hurt people? Was he aware how much that drove people away from him?
posted by ZeusHumms at 9:54 PM on October 27, 2011


I finished the book yesterday. Very well worth reading!

It was sort of answered, but not to my satisfaction. Was he aware just how much he hurt people? Was he aware how much that drove people away from him?

I agree it was a somewhat mysterious, as is much of how we all behave, but it seems like the short answer to that is: if his behavior drove you away instead of inspired you to do better, then in his eyes, you are just not an "A player" and he had no need for you.

At the end he does allude to the fact that maybe he could have been nicer to people, but then back-pedals and says that's just who he was and he couldn't be any different.

I agree with Isaacson's assessment (without any firsthand knowledge, of course) that Steve's nastiness really did not work in his best interest. You can be intense, demanding, perfectionistic, and blunt without being an asshole. But it seems he wasn't intrested or able to change his behavior.

I guess I would have ended up on Steve's "B player" list, because I have no tolerance for putting up with abusive behavior, no matter the motivation.
posted by The Deej at 7:55 AM on October 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


A transcript of Steve's eulogy, delivered by his sister Mona. It includes his last words, but I won't spoil them here.
posted by Rhaomi at 2:36 PM on October 30, 2011 [1 favorite]




> Apple's business model is based on ongoing sales of content.

What? No. Apple's business model is based on selling you hardware at a tidy profit. Nothing about the music store or the app store has changed this. All the various "stores" are simply features created to make the hardware more attractive. The fact that they themselves turn a profit is great, but for Apple the real money has always been in selling you a thing.
posted by pts at 8:20 PM on November 12, 2011


Steve's final words are remarkably similar to Timothy Leary's.
posted by localroger at 6:42 AM on November 13, 2011


> charitable matching program

That lets you donate (and force a match) to any 501(c)(3) including ones that come down on the opposite side of Apple (or its partners).
posted by morganw at 1:28 PM on November 16, 2011


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