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Eulogy For Steve Jobs
October 30, 2011 9:51 PM   Subscribe

The New York Times have published the eulogy Mona Simpson delivered for her brother Steve Jobs at his funeral, which includes his last words. Now it you'll excuse me, I think I have something in my eye...
posted by Effigy2000 (93 comments total) 40 users marked this as a favorite

 
Much thanks. There's something about his last moments that I'll always wonder about. Mona Simpson did well.
posted by ZeusHumms at 10:00 PM on October 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


It was linked in the open thread on Steve Jobs.

The Simpsons reference is actually named for her -- her husband was a writer on the show.
posted by gingerbeer at 10:01 PM on October 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


This was lovely.
posted by HostBryan at 10:07 PM on October 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


very good.
posted by brevator at 10:08 PM on October 30, 2011


Steve’s final words were:

OH WOW. OH WOW. OH WOW.


I wish I could get a eulogy like that when I die, but then I realize billions will never accomplish the things he did in his short time here.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:14 PM on October 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


I wish I could get a eulogy like that when I die, but then I realize billions will never accomplish the things he did in his short time here.

Consider also that his sister is an accomplished novelist.
posted by ZeusHumms at 10:20 PM on October 30, 2011 [5 favorites]


That's true, I didn't intend to diminish her gift with words.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:24 PM on October 30, 2011


:'(
posted by Xany at 10:35 PM on October 30, 2011


Jeez.
posted by tumid dahlia at 10:46 PM on October 30, 2011


Q_Q
posted by Scoo at 11:07 PM on October 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I had no idea they were related! Crazy.
posted by lunasol at 11:21 PM on October 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


• pretend that dot is an Apple. Too bad there isn't a keyboard apple.
posted by Cranberry at 11:59 PM on October 30, 2011


That was very well written. I'd like to check out some of her fiction.
posted by bardic at 12:13 AM on October 31, 2011


GRAR YOU AREN'T SUPPOSED TO MAKE US FEEL LIKE HE WAS A HUMAN BEING

I MEAN

THIS IS THE INTERNET
posted by DoctorFedora at 12:20 AM on October 31, 2011


(in all honesty, that was a pretty tough read. Great writing.)
posted by DoctorFedora at 12:33 AM on October 31, 2011



posted by dumbland at 12:56 AM on October 31, 2011


Oh wow.


.
posted by infini at 1:02 AM on October 31, 2011


OK, it's a little weird for me to admit this.

I've always been terrified of death. My brain absolutely quails at the concept of nothingness, erasure, end, and I don't really buy the whole Life After Death / Life That Transcends Death that the world's major religions are hawking.

But Steve Jobs saying what he did at the end? That gives me hope in a way that surprises and moves me. What an extraordinary human being, and what a tragic loss for the rest of us.
posted by ZakDaddy at 1:44 AM on October 31, 2011 [20 favorites]


That was a beautiful eulogy.
posted by iamkimiam at 1:51 AM on October 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


I can't remember where I saw this, but Steve Jobs died with around $6 billion and no reputation for philanthropy. Bill and Melinda Gates have given over $28 billion to charity, and plan to have given 95% of their wealth away by the time they die.

The codfish lays ten thousand eggs,
The homely hen lays one;
The codfish never cackles,
To tell you when she’s done;
And so we scorn the codfish,
While the humble hen we prize;
Which only goes to show you,
That it pays to advertise.

posted by Joe in Australia at 2:09 AM on October 31, 2011 [19 favorites]


Steve Jobs died with around $6 billion and no reputation for philanthropy

He was busy dying, at the time.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:11 AM on October 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


It was a beautiful eulogy.

On the topic of charity, though unrelated to the linked article, it seems unlikely that such a private person would willingly publicize their philanthropy. It is unseemly to keep focusing on something like that without viewing the other benefits provided by his dedication to his work and family.
posted by tmt at 2:49 AM on October 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


I can't remember where I saw this, but Steve Jobs died with around $6 billion and no reputation for philanthropy. Bill and Melinda Gates have given over $28 billion to charity, and plan to have given 95% of their wealth away by the time they die.

As far as eulogies go, the Gates have the disadvantage of still being alive. So, apples and, um…
posted by acb at 2:59 AM on October 31, 2011


One step closer to beatification.
posted by crunchland at 3:22 AM on October 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's a very nice eulogy. It's also largely independent of what he did. It's about who he was and how he felt. We can all have a eulogy like this one.
posted by OmieWise at 3:31 AM on October 31, 2011 [6 favorites]


One step closer to beatification.

Gates doesn't have that kind of dough.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:43 AM on October 31, 2011


I'm glad to hear they weren't: OH OW! OH OW! OH OW!
posted by fairmettle at 3:54 AM on October 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


What a beautiful eulogy. A skilled writer, an interesting subject, and a great depth of feeling.
posted by bardophile at 3:54 AM on October 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


I can't remember where I saw this, but Steve Jobs died with around $6 billion and no reputation for philanthropy. Bill and Melinda Gates have given over $28 billion to charity, and plan to have given 95% of their wealth away by the time they die.

Listen, Jobs was no saint (no one with that much money is), and few of us really knew him well enough to say for sure what went on in his head, but he was rather better than your average billionaire. At his job, definitely, and he does seem to have inspired a lot of admiration from people who are pretty good sorts, like the two Stevens, Colbert and Fry.

Bill Gates might be giving away a lot of money, but he built that through some rather obnoxious business practices. Evil is not made acceptable through compensating good. He may not have killed anyone, but Microsoft cast a dark shadow over personal computing for decades, and the true cost of that, multiplied over hundreds of millions of computer users, is impossible to determine.

Give me a choice between Gates and Jobs and I'll pick Jobs. It's not hard to decide.
posted by JHarris at 4:07 AM on October 31, 2011 [11 favorites]


Pfft. Who cares about malaria anyway? Besides, Steve Jobs gave us all these wonderful toys!
posted by crunchland at 4:22 AM on October 31, 2011 [25 favorites]


Look, the guy hated throwing around his wealth. I figure he's been quietly supporting some causes (in accordance with his beliefs, which support anonymous charity); barring that he may have left the issue to someone else like his wife, who he clearly loved and trusted.

Just because you don't see something doesn't mean it's not there. Besides--it's frankly none of my business.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 4:35 AM on October 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


I wasn't affected either way by Jobs' death, beyond general sentiments of "that's sad for his family" and "I hope he wasn't in pain" that apply whenever anyone who wasn't actually evil passes on, but right now I have a couple of tears for the guy. I thought this eulogy was sweet and sad. A sister celebrating the life of her brother. It got me.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 4:43 AM on October 31, 2011 [4 favorites]


Bill Gates is giving away all the money he made thanks to Steve Jobs.
posted by humanfont at 4:46 AM on October 31, 2011 [6 favorites]


I loved reading this yesterday and it deserves all the recognition it's getting today, and I've been a life-long Apple computer user. So I don't say this to disparage anyone. But isn't it slightly disingenuous to say that "oh wow!" were Jobs' last words before he died? I guess it's less clumsy than saying "last words he spoke before he was unable to speak, a few hours before he actually died." It romanticizes his final moments which, if you read the end of the editorial closely, were actually pretty brutal.

But I don't know, maybe all "last words" moments actually happen like this.
posted by emelenjr at 4:54 AM on October 31, 2011


I would really like to flip through those sketch pads she mentioned. I guess we'll just have to wait for the next 50 years of Apple products first.
posted by humanfont at 5:07 AM on October 31, 2011


I had no idea they were related either; I really loved reading Anywhere But Here. What a fascinating family. The piece is beautiful; we should all have novelists eulogize us
posted by bluefly at 5:29 AM on October 31, 2011


But isn't it slightly disingenuous to say that "oh wow!" were Jobs' last words before he died?

Not really. I'm pretty sure a lot of famous "last words" occurred hours prior to death. Unless you're on a battlefield, the process of death doesn't really lend itself to a movie moment like this:

"Remember me!" (immediate death)

This was so moving. Thank you for posting.
posted by glaucon at 5:51 AM on October 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


a lot of famous "last words" occurred hours prior to death. --- Even more probably occur after death.
posted by crunchland at 6:01 AM on October 31, 2011 [11 favorites]


“We all — in the end — die in medias res. In the middle of a story. Of many stories.”

I loved that line. How beautiful a remembrance from a loving sister.
posted by inturnaround at 6:02 AM on October 31, 2011 [7 favorites]


I really loved reading Anywhere But Here

She wrote a book about him and his daughter.
posted by empath at 6:05 AM on October 31, 2011 [2 favorites]



It's a very nice eulogy. It's also largely independent of what he did. It's about who he was and how he felt. We can all have a eulogy like this one.


I was struck by this, too. It is mostly an eulogy about him as a brother, father, husband, and friend.

Honestly, I think it's too early to be castigating him over the question of charity. Most people I can think of who turned to philanthropy (including Gates) do so at least somewhat later in life; that same period for Jobs was consumed by his illness and cut short by his death. And because of his intense privacy, we simply don't know enough to really even speculate -- had he already made plans? Will his wife or children?

So fun as it is to cast aspersions like that, I wish we could wait a little while until we actually know enough to be able to do so in an informed fashion. Jobs had many imperfections; whether or not this is one of them remains to be seen.
posted by Forktine at 6:06 AM on October 31, 2011


Reading his biography now, I'm struck by the fact that he didn't seem to at all be interested in the money when he took over Apple (of course he was a billionaire from Pixar by then, so he had that luxury). He turned down a hostile take-over bid of Apple with Larry Ellison, he worked for free when he came back as interim CEO and turned down opportunities to buy stock multiple times when Apple was at a low. He sold all his stock in Apple twice -- once when he left the first time, the second time after Apple bought NeXT (and he just wanted cash for NeXT, not stock). He just wanted to turn Apple around and make good products, money was secondary.

I think he genuinely thought that he was doing good for the world just by running Apple, and that charity would have distracted from that.

(He also comes across as a narcissistic sociopath.)
posted by empath at 6:12 AM on October 31, 2011 [4 favorites]


Steve Jobs died with around $6 billion and no reputation for philanthropy

"And, of course, it is very possible that Mr. Jobs, who has always preferred to remain private, has donated money anonymously or has drafted a plan to give away his wealth upon his death. (There has long been speculation that an anonymous $150 million donation to the Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of California, San Francisco may have come from Mr. Jobs.) His wife, Laurene Powell Jobs, sits on the boards of Teach for America and the New Schools Venture Fund, among others, and presumably donates money to those organizations, though neither she nor her husband are listed among its big donors."

I don't actually know if he gave money or not. I'm not going to judge him based on my own ignorance. Some give privately or anonymously.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 6:26 AM on October 31, 2011 [5 favorites]


(He also comes across as a narcissistic sociopath.)

But he was our narcissistic sociopath.
posted by glaucon at 6:30 AM on October 31, 2011 [9 favorites]


I don't actually know if he gave money or not. I'm not going to judge him based on my own ignorance. Some give privately or anonymously.

Conceptually, yeah, I suppose. But he had six billion dollars, right? So we know he wasn't giving a substantial amount to charity, not in terms of his actual wealth. For each of us here there's probably some cost to being generous. Not to him - would his life have been any different if he'd given five billion dollars away? Now, think how many charities would have been glad to get a tiny fraction of that. Think how many people's lives would have been saved, deaths eased, children fed. But Steve Jobs is portrayed as some kind of ascetic saint while Bill Gates is described as "evil ... cast[ing] a dark shadow ...".

I will cheerfully agree that Bill Gates (and all of us) could be substantially better than he is, and I can still say this: Steve Jobs was not fit to wipe Bill Gates' feet.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:44 AM on October 31, 2011 [4 favorites]


I've always been terrified of death. My brain absolutely quails at the concept of nothingness, erasure, end,

Me, too. Jesus, nothing scares me more. Nothing.
posted by grubi at 6:44 AM on October 31, 2011


"Steve, who generally disliked cutting in line or dropping his own name, confessed that this once, he’d like to be treated a little specially."

Cough.
posted by availablelight at 6:50 AM on October 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


He also comes across as a narcissistic sociopath.

I think you may be misunderstanding what narcissism actual is. He had a strong personality, was rude, passionate, pushy, and even horribly mean and cruel at times, but I don't know what exactly is narcissistic about Steve Jobs.
posted by grubi at 6:52 AM on October 31, 2011


Have you read the biography?
posted by empath at 6:54 AM on October 31, 2011


OH WOW. OH WOW. OH WOW.

what else could he say upon learning God runs Linux?
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 6:55 AM on October 31, 2011 [5 favorites]


God runs Linux
That would explain the duck-billed platypus, certainly.

I honestly don't care if Steve Jobs gave to charity or not. If he took his wealth, a million dollar bills at a time, and made it into paper maché sculptures of cartoon characters I don't care. It's none of my business. That's what being a private individual is. If some astonishingly wealthy people decide to give away a portion of their astonishing wealth, again it's none of my business.

I'm old-fashioned enough to think that public works of any value should be enacted from the public purse rather than begging for crumbs and scraps at the tables of the rich. If we feel the rich ought to contribute more to that, then we should tax them more. If not, not.
posted by Grangousier at 7:01 AM on October 31, 2011 [18 favorites]


RikiTikiTavi: "Besides--it's frankly none of my business."

I was with you up until this point -- I don't think it's okay to have a referendum on a person's life and philanthropic efforts immediately after their (premature) passing.

However, if we are to accept that individuals are allowed to accumulate billions of dollars -- an order of magnitude more money than will pass through any of our hands in a lifetime, I think that society does have an obligation to make sure that that money is put to good use.
posted by schmod at 7:13 AM on October 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


Have you read the biography?

No. Do you have anything that specifically points to narcissism?
posted by grubi at 7:24 AM on October 31, 2011


I think that society does have an obligation to make sure that that money is put to good use

Then tax them more.
posted by Grangousier at 7:29 AM on October 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


Which only goes to show you, That it pays to advertise.

The Gates Foundation is doing wonderful things, but Bill Gates is not exactly giving his money away in humble secrecy.

Nor is it fair to compare what Gates does in his retirement with someone who didn't live long enough to do anything in his retirement .

(Although to give Gates his due, he started his foundation all the way back in 1994).
posted by straight at 7:29 AM on October 31, 2011


Bill Gates might be giving away a lot of money, but he built that through some rather obnoxious business practices. Evil is not made acceptable through compensating good.
He may not have killed anyone, but Microsoft cast a dark shadow over personal computing for decades, and the true cost of that, multiplied over hundreds of millions of computer users, is impossible to determine.


Really? Making a mediocre OS and productivity suite while at the same time making personal computing cheap and accessible for people who weren't already into computers is evil?

First of all, Jobs may have made computers to be sexy, but it was Gates who made them able to be used by anyone. Second, there's very little light between Jobs and Gates in terms of obnoxious business practices. For someone who made the point that Gates never killed anyone, overlooking the direct line to Apple in the suicides at the Foxconn factories to point out how bad Gates seems in bad taste. And speaking of which, it's fairly shocking that you feel that Gates' making personal computing annoying for first-world countries is somehow vile enough that helping to wipe out or stem the tide of major diseases like cancer and AIDS or improving education and living standards for people worldwide isn't even compensation for that.
posted by zombieflanders at 7:31 AM on October 31, 2011 [7 favorites]


But he had six billion dollars, right?

Not really. He owned (and now his estates owns) roughly $2.2B worth of AAPL stock and $5B worth of Disney stock.

It's not the same as cash. Sure, he could sell in a controlled manner over time but he (like Buffett) probably did the calculation that told him his money would go MUCH further in the future if it were allowed to compound now while these companies are generating value.
posted by mullacc at 7:33 AM on October 31, 2011


it was Gates who made them able to be used by anyone

what
posted by grubi at 7:35 AM on October 31, 2011 [4 favorites]


grubi: Do you honestly believe that, on balance, Apples and Macs were selling for cheaper than PCs through the 80s and 90s, and that businesses bought into Apple for enterprise use? Because that's how the PC spread.
posted by zombieflanders at 7:40 AM on October 31, 2011


How is that making "them able to be used by anyone"? That's making them purchasable by almost anyone, not usable.
posted by grubi at 7:41 AM on October 31, 2011 [4 favorites]


Availability is a prerequisite to usability. And yes, they were usable, just annoying, at least for most people.
posted by zombieflanders at 7:45 AM on October 31, 2011


Blah Blah Blah. He had a rarely curable form of pancreatic cancer, but wasted nine months fiddling around with cali-stupid alternative medicine until it was incurable. Then he used the influence of his position to secure himself a transplant when mere mortals like you or I would have been denied.

He was a fool and a pig with a sharp sense for marketing: the most despicable of human professions. He sold fools luxury junk built by slave labor, at five times above market value.

Stop sucking the pap of his meticulously-branded personality cult and lionize someone who deserves it.
posted by clarknova at 7:47 AM on October 31, 2011 [16 favorites]


Yeah, no.
posted by grubi at 7:47 AM on October 31, 2011


Whatever. It doesn't make my argument vis-a-vis "evil" and the compensation thereof any less valid.
posted by zombieflanders at 7:49 AM on October 31, 2011


He sold fools luxury junk built by slave labor, at five times above market value.

The Foxconn suicides say just as much about us as consumers unwilling to pay for first world labor as they do about Apple. Where were your pc components made? An alternate reality?

grubi: Do you honestly believe that, on balance, Apples and Macs were selling for cheaper than PCs through the 80s and 90s, and that businesses bought into Apple for enterprise use? Because that's how the PC spread.

Not to get drawn into a microsoft/pc war, but you could also say that, had the PC not gained traction by producing a junky system on cheap hardware, we'd all be better off because the Mac would have penetrated farther. I might say that Microsoft set the industry back by YEARS through this business practice and subsequent monopolistic BS. One thing you can say about Apple is that push things forward a lot more than they hold things back.

Regardless, what's amazing about Microsoft and Apple is that they acquired wealth fair and square. Jobs was no saint, and Apple plays hardball like other corporations, but Jobs/Apple are not out there cheating the system. Most of the big industrialists of the 19th and 20th centuries made their money on products that required a lot of government handouts/assistance. The big shot financiers and real estate people tend to work the same way.

The monster tech companies grew out of nothing and were driven almost entirely by creative brilliance. There were plenty of cutthroat business practices (especially on Microsoft and Apple part) but that doesn't bleed over into society very much. It's remarkable how few externalities we've all suffered for all the wealth creation we've seen. About the worst you can say is that they stifle competition through bullying and IP lawsuits, and that they take full advantage of cheap global labor that essentially *every other manufacturer* taps as well.
posted by pjaust at 7:58 AM on October 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


He was a fool and a pig with a sharp sense for marketing: the most despicable of human professions. He sold fools luxury junk built by slave labor, at five times above market value.

Stop sucking the pap of his meticulously-branded personality cult and lionize someone who deserves it.


He was a father and a son and a brother and a husband and a friend. That's what this post is about - his eulogy, at his funeral. Because he died, and all those people (and a lot more people) miss him, and wish he hadn't died so young.

You think you're being cool by being dismissive of his contributions to your world? Guess what - you're not. If you really think that *marketing* is the most despicable of human professions, perhaps you'd better look around again.

Is there a time and a place to debate his contributions and his philanthropy? Sure. But you know what - there will be time for that. Debate on those topics isn't what this post is about.
posted by anastasiav at 8:16 AM on October 31, 2011 [19 favorites]


Fuck cancer forever and ever Amen.
posted by word_virus at 8:17 AM on October 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


What the fuck is wrong with you people? Turning a thread about a heartfelt eulogy from a guy's sister (which is really only incidentally about the guy's job per se, and not at all about anybody's charitable activities) into another Microsoft/whatever vs. Apple fight? I could respond to the position with which I find fault, but really, this shouldn't be about that. Learn some fucking manners. Jesus.
posted by lackutrol at 8:17 AM on October 31, 2011 [28 favorites]


I don't really understand what's behind this good/bad deeds accounting happening over here and in other similar situations, when people discuss one person. Jobs did good, Jobs did bad, possibily at a scale that was amplified by the wealth he commanded: he put togheter the ipod and other hardware/software combos, + 1, but he possibily skipped the line in getting a liver, -1.

What? Does that make any sense? Isn't that like saying Mussolini was evil but the train were on time when he ruled Italy? What does that add to my understanding of Jobs?

Anyhow, I don't really know shit about Jobs except the generalities everbody has heard and his 2005 speech on youtube somewhere; it was a fine speech, it felt like it was heartfelt ... I have seen many quotes from the speech, but I don't remember seeing the line that seems most interesting to me..."you gotta find what you love [..], and if you haven't found it yet, keep looking and don't settle" ...which I read as a plead for self-introspection, getting to know oneself, which is quite hard.
posted by elpapacito at 8:32 AM on October 31, 2011


There's nothing more tedious than somebody who once heard Bill Hick's marketing monologue -- by far one of his weakest -- and think it applies everywhere, every time, marketing is mentioned.

You may not realize it, but you're marketing yourself when you do that. And when you do it in an obit thread, you're marketing yourself as a boor.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:34 AM on October 31, 2011 [9 favorites]


Is there a time and a place to debate his contributions and his philanthropy? Sure. But you know what - there will be time for that. Debate on those topics isn't what this post is about.

I actually think the comment you're replying to is needlessly cruel and combative, but this is now the 3rd open Jobs obit thread. Are critiques allowed in any of them?
posted by kmz at 8:47 AM on October 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


Are critiques allowed in any of them?

Yes. There is one open in MetaTalk right now.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:49 AM on October 31, 2011


Then he used the influence of his position to secure himself a transplant when mere mortals like you or I would have been denied.

but he possibily skipped the line in getting a liver, -1.

FWIW, the context of him "skipping the line" also includes his awareness of his own luck and predicament to be fortunate enough to afford special medical treatment, a private home in another state for recovery, and a way to find a donor list outside of California that was more beneficial for his survival. And then he reached out to suggest a bill for Californians that make it simpler to volunteer as organ donors through an easy checkmark on their license renewal forms.

In Steve's own words:

Thank you, Governor Schwarzenegger. Last year I received a liver transplant. I was very fortunate, because many others died waiting to receive one. Last year in California there were 671 liver transplants but last year there were also over 3,400 people waiting for a liver and over 400 of them died waiting in California.

I was almost one of the ones that died waiting for a liver in California last year. I was receiving great care here at Stanford but there were simply not enough livers in California to go around and my doctors here advised me to enroll in a transplant program in Memphis, Tennessee, where the supply/demand ratio of livers is more favorable than it is in California here. And I was lucky enough to get a liver in time. As a matter of fact, this coming week is my one-year anniversary.

So why aren't there more organs available in California? Because in California, like most other states in the nation, you must specifically request to become an organ donor at the Department of Motor Vehicles when you're there to get or renew your driver's license. No one asks you if you want to become a donor. And there's no marketing campaign to make you aware of this opportunity, either, so unless you know about it and unless your specifically ask, nobody is going to ask you, nobody is going to give you this opportunity. And yet even with this obscure procedure over 20 percent of Californians have signed up to be organ donors, which is fantastic. But imagine what it could be if everyone knew of this opportunity.

And that's what the Governor's bill will do. It will simply require the DMV to ask you if you'd like to become an organ donor. That's it. Asking this one simple question may double the number of transplant organs available in California -- one simple question. And that's a very high return on investment, especially for the over 20,000 Californians currently waiting for an organ transplant.

So Governor, thank you for your leadership on this bill. And now I'd like to introduce Senator Alquist. Thank you.

posted by skidknee at 8:51 AM on October 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


[seriously, if from this point forward you feel that your only worthwhile contribution to this thread is a "keeping it real" rant and you have not read the link nor are you responding to the other comments GO TO METATALK and quit threadshitting. That is your option. Thank you.]
posted by jessamyn at 8:51 AM on October 31, 2011 [6 favorites]


digaman wrote a great piece on Jobs and Buddhism which I posted in the other thread, but I'll put it here too in case anyone missed it:

What Kind of Buddhist was Steve Jobs, Really?
posted by homunculus at 8:59 AM on October 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


it was Gates who made them able to be used by anyone

I graduated from high school in 1979, I watched this whole industry take shape, and I don't believe that this position really stands up to scrutiny.

Microsoft had made something of a name for itself as a language vendor by the time the IBM PC first appeared: the Apple ][+ shipped with a Microsoft BASIC interpreter, as did the Commodore PET, the Tandy TRS-80, the Exidy Sorcerer and the Hitachi Peach, and Microsoft BASIC 5 was also pretty widespread on the CP/M-based business machines of the day (the NorthStar Horizon, the Kaypro and so on). But there were other BASIC vendors (the Apple ][, the BBC Acorn, the Timex/Sinclair ZX-80 and Texas Instruments's TI-99/4A all had their own BASICs) and Microsoft didn't have anything even resembling a lock on the small computer marketplace.

That all changed when IBM "legitimized" personal computers by making one, and happened to pick a Microsoft-supplied disk operating system for it. IBM's design was in no way elegant or clever; it was a fairly ham-fisted realization of Intel's own application notes for how to turn its ugly new 8088 processor and accompanying support chipset into a small computer. And it was this, I believe, rather than anything to do with DOS per se, which made the whole "IBM Clone" industry possible.

It was IBM's name, not Microsoft's, that drove the uptake of those computers by small business; and it was IBM's lack of anything approaching design skill in the small computer space that made it possible for other manufacturers to compete easily on price for compatible machines.

Personal computing was an idea whose time had come. Yes, Bill Gates understood the potential size of that market and yes, Bill Gates did indeed vow to put a Microsoft operating system on every desktop in the world. But the fact that he got so close to succeeding in that ambition didn't really have much to do, in my view, with the rise and rise of commodity computing hardware. All that required was something approaching a standard hardware architecture, and the IBM name made their reference implementation of Intel's PC design become that for long enough to get the snowball rolling.

For about the first decade, those commodity machines were universally referred to as "IBM clones". I don't remember hearing the word "Wintel" until well after the release of Windows 95.

We would still have had commodity computing without Windows. But we would probably not have had windows, icons, mice and pointers for anywhere near as long as we have without the Lisa and its successor the Mac. When Windows first appeared, it was absolutely clear to everybody that it was an attempt at a Mac clone for IBM clones. And it took until 1995 - eleven years after the release of the Mac - before Microsoft had a system that even came close to being in the same league as the Mac for useability.

Jobs was always a better marketer than Gates. The art of marketing is the art of creating demand for stuff the punters don't know they want and Jobs did that, over and over and over again. Gates didn't.

Nobody wants Windows; Windows is what you run because it came with your PC, it's what everybody else runs, and you value compatibility more than useability, reliability or security. The marketplace success of Windows owes almost nothing to marketing or engineering; it's basically down to the backroom deals that Gates stitched up early with the clone manufacturers, which gave them cheap access to the same software that ran on IBM in return for making DOS (and later, Windows) the thing that cheap hardware always came supplied with.

Jobs was a technological visionary in a way that Bill Gates just never was. Gates is a smart guy - of that there is no doubt. But Jobs, to my way of thinking, deserves a larger share than any other single human being of the credit for driving the way we interact with the devices on our desktops and in our pockets toward the shape it has today.

True, he didn't really make any of it work - the credit for that belongs to inspired engineers like Woz and software wizards like dmr. But he built and led an organization that gave many of the people who did make it work a place to turn their skills into a living, and that counts for a lot.

About his personal attributes I am absolutely unqualified to comment, as I daresay are most of the people so keen to pass judgment on him upthread. I respectfully suggest that doing that should be left to those who did know him personally. Further, for at least the next little while it seems to me that those who hated him should just shut the fuck up and wait their turn. Now is not the time for those who hated the man to dance, but for those who loved him to grieve.
posted by flabdablet at 9:00 AM on October 31, 2011 [19 favorites]


Complaining that Jobs got credit when the people who worked under him didn't is a bit like complaining that Scorsese gets all the glory as a director when none of it wouldn't have been possible without Thelma Schoonmaker.

Probably true. And yet, we know about Schoonmaker too. And we know about Woz. And the programs that used to come with my Mac had long, scrolling, cinematic-style credits.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:12 AM on October 31, 2011


[Folks?MetaTalk or MeMail at this point, thank you.]
posted by jessamyn at 9:42 AM on October 31, 2011


That was a wonderfully written thing. I do wish we all had the choice to go through 67 nurses until we found the right one(s), but I don't begrudge him that.
posted by Glinn at 10:05 AM on October 31, 2011


Fuck me. I didn't know Mona Simpson was Jobs' sister. How did I miss that?
posted by octobersurprise at 10:22 AM on October 31, 2011


Here is the MetaTalk thread. Please use it. You know who you are. Thank you.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:44 AM on October 31, 2011


Pfft. Who cares about malaria anyway? Besides, Steve Jobs gave us all these wonderful toys!

I find Apple polishing to be as distasteful as anything. (Power Computing NEVAR FORGET.) But Microsoft's harvesting of wealth from the world, and the practices that enabled it, prevented untold good from occurring. If that wealth, pooled together, accomplished some objective good, then that's okay I guess, but what could have been done with it if it hadn't been removed from the pockets of all those PC owners? As a thought experiment: if a thief had stolen all that money in order to cure malaria, would it have made it okay? I posit that the means Microsoft went through to forge and maintain its monopoly makes the comparison valid.

Really? Making a mediocre OS and productivity suite while at the same time making personal computing cheap and accessible for people who weren't already into computers is evil?

Oh, how soon people forget the deathly hold Microsoft had on PCs not long ago. Come to think of it, Linux doesn't have all that great a market share. Microsoft directly killed Netscape, and would buy companies just to kill them (they're not the only ones who do that, but that doesn't make it right), engaged in monopolistic trade practices ruthless enough that even modern antitrust regulators took their pathetic notice of it, yoked a legion of bright young programmers to extending its dominance, their pooh-poohing of security concerns for so long led to viruses, botnets, and the eventual malware glut modern computing is saddled with today, and through that indirectly the bilking for thousands of computer users through information theft, fake antivirus scams and other means, while real antivirus software runs on the systems of most people, which steals a good portion of the performance of a machine.

That effect is a lot more subtle than curing malaria, but if that money hadn't be taken out of the market, what else could have been done with it? It's impossible to know, and that's why I'm arguing for it, because if I don't I'm assuming that, in this case, the ends really did justify the means.

I don't think either Bill Gates or Steve Jobs is deserving of worship. They were men, rich men but still men, and luck played a large role in giving them their wealth. If Random Guy from Albuquerque had $28B, what would he have done with it? If he had done what Bill Gates had done to acquire it, would we feel any different about it?

First of all, Jobs may have made computers to be sexy, but it was Gates who made them able to be used by anyone.

Apple was on track for that too with the Macintosh. That was largely a matter of opportunity and the whims of the market.

Second, there's very little light between Jobs and Gates in terms of obnoxious business practices. For someone who made the point that Gates never killed anyone, overlooking the direct line to Apple in the suicides at the Foxconn factories to point out how bad Gates seems in bad taste.

I actually don't think Apple should be let off the hook for that. But as I chided a bunch of Apple users not long ago, perspective -- Apple is far from the only company to use those kinds of factories, it is an endemic problem and many companies are guilty of taking advantage of cheap Chinese labor. They were just the most visible at the time. I don't know for sure where they were made so this isn't a certainty, but, it seems likely that Microsoft used them too.

And speaking of which, it's fairly shocking that you feel that Gates' making personal computing annoying for first-world countries is somehow vile enough that helping to wipe out or stem the tide of major diseases like cancer and AIDS or improving education and living standards for people worldwide isn't even compensation for that.

ARGH! LOOK, that stuff is great, I'm just saying THE ENDS DO NOT JUSTIFY THE MEANS okay?! Never forget all those lost opportunity costs.
posted by JHarris at 11:25 AM on October 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


(Now someone is going to come in, and try to throw the Foxconn suicides up against my "ends not justifying the means" argument. Neither company is saintly, no huge company is. Please, please, try to remember it's a complex world, and all kinds of good and bad things may or may not have happened had things only been slightly different. And don't worship anyone with over a billion dollars in net worth -- Jesus was right about that "eye of the needle" thing.)
posted by JHarris at 11:33 AM on October 31, 2011


There is not a high rate of suicides at Foxconn compared to other companies of the same size. In fact, Foxconn has a lower than average suicide rate.
posted by empath at 11:47 AM on October 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


And, to respond to my own comment:

As a thought experiment: if a thief had stolen all that money in order to cure malaria, would it have made it okay? I posit that the means Microsoft went through to forge and maintain its monopoly makes the comparison valid.

This could also be taken as an argument to abolish taxes, which I DON'T think should be done, because government is for the good of us all, or ideally should be, not just what one person thinks is for our collective good.

Also: I don't know for sure where they were made refers to the Zune.
posted by JHarris at 12:18 PM on October 31, 2011


There is not a high rate of suicides at Foxconn compared to other companies of the same size. In fact, Foxconn has a lower than average suicide rate.

Foxconn also make Android phones, a fact often lost in the noise. But this is still a derail, guys.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:48 PM on October 31, 2011


Ack, I missed jessamyn's statement above while I was writing my first message and overlooked it when I wrote the second, sorry about that.
posted by JHarris at 4:00 PM on October 31, 2011


How is it, that someone who made such a contribution to all of us, dies and somehow the talk turns to his money? isn't that the point? His money? we really have no idea what his kids will do with it, but from what I read they are pretty good kids.

He did good works and made great kids. what more can you ask for? rather than his billions?
posted by Tech Historian at 5:14 PM on October 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't call what he did a "contribution." I don't care all that much about whether he gave to charity. I suspect the reason people are bringing this stuff up is disgust at the persistent attempts to make him out to be some kind of saint.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 5:29 PM on October 31, 2011


That was a well written eulogy, thank you for sharing it.

It would have been neat to have had a conversation with him.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:29 PM on October 31, 2011


Also the' What Kind of Buddhist was Steve Jobs, Really?' was very good and you should read it. Thanks homunculus.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:59 PM on October 31, 2011


Here's a thought about last words.

When my mother was dying of cancer, she wasn't dying in the way that we had all expected it to be. I think we, and she, thought it might be like those obituaries where the cancer patient "dies peacefully surrounded by family" but instead it was horrifying, frightening and scary.

I love hospice and I am forever grateful for the hospice nurse who talked to me outside my parent's home when I couldn't bear to go inside, couldn't even stay downstairs and hear my mother's labored noisy breathing choking struggling on the baby monitor.

I think my mother had an idea of what her last words might be. I'm not sure if she had anything planned, I wasn't expecting any kind of deathbed confession or apology. But I also wasn't expecting her last words to be some kind of morphine-induced hallucination about a horse in the bedroom. The lesions in her throat had already started to strangle her voice. After that, she was somewhere between sleeping and awake and there were no more words.

I'm glad Mona Simpson was able to speak with her brother before he died. I wish I had had just a tiny bit of lucidity with my mother before her body finally gave in to our begging wishes and granted her peace.
posted by Wuggie Norple at 6:35 PM on October 31, 2011 [7 favorites]


I thought Jason Kottke was spot on when he said the following:

Mona Simpson's eulogy for her brother is beautiful and moving; it's almost incidental that her brother was Steve Jobs.

It's also nice to get a view of Jobs from someone that actually was close to him. She might be more forgiving of his faults, but that's not unusual for a family member, and really, is to be expected.

Blah Blah Blah. He had a rarely curable form of pancreatic cancer, but wasted nine months fiddling around with cali-stupid alternative medicine until it was incurable.
posted by clarknova


I'll assume you're not a doctor clarknova, and just like to ramble with no idea what you're talking about. Keep up the good work.

I suspect the reason people are bringing this stuff up is disgust at the persistent attempts to make him out to be some kind of saint.
posted by Crabby Appleton


And of course you know what a straw man is, and you realize that no one in any thread or probably in any written or spoken form anywhere on the internet has Jobs been called a saint, and even those who have positive thoughts about him almost universally recognize his shortcomings. I suspect you know all that, but don't care, because you are disgusted, and need to vent, and it's better if you have a reason behind your vitriol.

I think we, and she, thought it might be like those obituaries where the cancer patient "dies peacefully surrounded by family" but instead it was horrifying, frightening and scary.
posted by Wuggie Norple


Yeah, I'm guessing it was a little romanticized. I've been through that, and it was somewhere in the middle between what seems like for Jobs was a peaceful death, to your terrible experience. I'm hoping people, especially those that might go through something similar, realize that.
posted by justgary at 8:11 PM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


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