Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Magic Goes Away?

Steve Jobs is dead. This is but one of probably thousands of "reaction" pieces that will appear in the wake of his passing. Hopefully it's one of the shorter ones, too.

I never knew the man so I don't have any cute stories to relate. And until recently I really wasn't a big fan of Apple products.

Everyone seems to think of him as a Creative Genius, and maybe he was. A fair number of people who knew him also say he was something of a jerk, and maybe he was that, too. What impresses me the most about his career was his ability To Get Things Done. I have some small experience with what it's like to work within a corporation and when I look at some of the things Jobs pulled off, like getting the music companies to cooperate on iTunes, or the iPad -- what makes my jaw drop isn't the technical or creative aspect so much as the fact that he somehow worked his way through what must have been truly unbelievable amounts of politics, red tape, and bullshit and, in the end, hammered out something that a) everyone agreed with that b) was also not a huge steaming pile of compromises. People would joke about his "Reality Distortion Field" but I sometimes wondered if he really did have some kind of mutant Stephen King "push" psychic ability to make people agree with him.

I am saddened by his death for what are, frankly, very selfish reasons: the man was arguably responsible for making the world we live in a lot more fun and interesting. CGI, portable music players, smartphones, the iPad ... we're talking about multiple instances of technology that's had a long-term global impact on human culture. No, he didn't personally invent this stuff, but he was a strong force in making a lot of it happen. Maybe he was done, out of ideas, willing to coast on by on the strength of past glory. Or ... maybe he had a few really good ones left in him. We'll never know what they were, what could have been. And that is what makes me sad.

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