Friday, October 14, 2011

Death App: Steve Jobs Powers Down for the Last Time. Recollections of a PC User

On October 5 2011 Steve Jobs, the king of Apple, downloaded his final app.  Apparently he finally succumbed to the pancreatic cancer that had plagued him in recent years.  But unlike most of his loyal subjects -anybody who has ever owned an iPod, iPhone, iMac, Macbook Pro, Macbook Air, iPad, or one of those shitty Mac computers in the 90's- Steve Jobs' legacy will live on at least for the indefinite future.  Before I go on I must confess (profess?) that I am not an Apple guy.  The company, not the fruit.  I really dig Royal Galas.  So sweet and crunchy... But anyway.

I never dug Apple computers.  I suppose this dates back to high school when one of those tiny Macs  (I think the Mac Classic) deleted a whole shitload of my schoolwork at a time when I completed precious little work as it was and cost me precious marks in chemistry class (that I took for some reason) that I could ill afford.  Plus it was so small, and for some reason I remember the output on the screens as only in black and white.

This dislike and distrust of Apple products followed me into university where one of my roommates and good friends Dave seemed dedicated to Apple products.  He had not one but two computers at a time when I still didn't own one: an iBook and an iMac.  I distinctly remember the iMac because it was completely lacking in the requisite tower that accompanied other PC's.  It was tower and screen in one.  Plus the back half of the casing was translucent blue so you could see the inner workings of a computer which, admittedly if you're not a computer guy are pretty fucking boring.  I started university in 2000 and at the time DVD's were just, just starting to come out, and DVD players were a rare, expensive commodity.  But the iMac had a built in DVD player so we ended up hauling it out to the living room so we could gather around its 15" monitor.  If memory serves, the very first DVD I ever watched was AMERICAN PSYCHO on an iMac in my university residence.
Give me your soul

But I never really dug the Apple hardware and it wasn't until years later I realized I wasn't supposed to.  This was the first part of Steve Jobs legacy.  Apple computers weren't marketed to guys like me.  They were expensive off the get go and due to their lack of upgradability they would need to be replaced at a startling rate.  Plus they had software and operating systems that I -as a layman and starving student- had absolutely no knowledge about.  This was not by accident.  On one end of the spectrum Apple created an air of elitism unparalleled in the consumer market.  Even now Apple computers are associated as much with pretentious douchebags as much as they are with, say, editing software which everybody seems to acknowledge is one of their strongest points.  Even more so, I'd say.  Even the Apple retail outlets seem elitist and condescending.  You can't enter one unless you're a Mac person and you can't become a true Mac person without entering one.  But you can't, because they're like exclusive clubs and somehow just getting close to one makes you feel small and dirty and unworthy somehow.  Like you're not good enough.  I've heard that sometimes Apple douches will just go into these places just to hang out and talk about their computers.  Dicks.

This pretentiousness really came off in those annoying commercials in the early 2000's with the Justin Long and John Hodgman "I'm a Mac / I'm a PC" commercials.  I know the point of the commercials was to illustrate the supposed benefits of buying and owning a Mac as opposed to a PC, but to me the Mac always came off as kind of a dick.  And the whole ad campaign -while funny at times- left a bad taste in my mouth because they seemed more like political attack ads you see during an election: the kind that don't actually address any real issues, but just attack your opponent making you look like the bigger douche in comparison.      

This sometimes blows my mind because the other half of Steve Jobs legacy seems diametrically opposed to this cultivated elitism.  Arguably the product that has really captured the public's consciousness and has become most associated with the Apple corporation is the ubiquitous iPod.  And unlike Apple's line of computers which foster a sense of hierarchical separation and class distinction, the iPod seems to be the unifying thread in the electronics world that breaks down barriers and fosters a sense of equality and the kind of classless society that would make Marx vomit in joy.  It has permeated Western society from the lowliest grade 5 student to the most hard-nosed businessman.

Apple -under the leadership and direction of Steve Jobs- singlehandedly altered the entire music industry from production to distribution to consumption.  Not only did the iPod decimate its competition in the MP3 player market (yeah, nice try Zune) and go on to replace the discman and become the dominate technology in the way we listen to our music but the online store iTunes helped shape the music industry on every level.  Because of the pervasiveness of the iPod all of the big labels (and the small ones) had to pass through the hallowed gates on iTunes.  You could buy entire albums or just a single track.  Apple set the (originally) standard price of 99 cents a song.  The great equalizer.  Now "releasing an album" probably means "releasing an album on iTunes" what with the apparent slow but steady death of physical media like CD's.  Apple made music more available more affordable and more mobile than it ever had been in the history of music.

Then came the app craze which is still in full effect and the iPad which is apparently revolutionary in ways that I -as a non-Mac guy- cannot comprehend or fathom.  Perhaps the consequences and effects only Steve Jobs alone knew, and now the secret is gone with him to his grave.  It was only in recent years that I became of the person Steve Jobs and that in itself says something.  How many other CEO's of multi-billion dollar companies could you name off the top of your head (that haven't been popularized in the media like Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg)?  And how many could be characterized as "visionary" or be attributed with being the driving force behind a culture-altering company?  How many seem to be such a positive approachable guy as by all accounts Steve Jobs was?

I don't know much about Jobs' personal life, and I'm not going to do any research right now.  I'm waiting for the movie, the rights for which are already in negotiation with a major studio.  I can only speak to his paradoxical legacy of cultural elitism and unifying community.  And watching my first DVD on that cold fall night some eleven years ago huddled around the glow of that 15" screen watching Christian Bale mutilate and kill dozens of people in digital clarity.

Thanks Steve Jobs.          


  1. Nice.

    The deconstruction of classes is interesting: you're buying the exact same device that everyone else is. Movie stars get YOUR iPod in gift baskets when they visit the Academy Awards or whatever.

    Eleven years ago we were watching American Psycho on Dave's Mac?! Remember the audio was out of sync too...the pure genius of the movie and a little audio problem couldn't stop our enjoyment of it.

  2. Yeah, I seem to recall the audio being slightly out of sync as well. I thought maybe it was just my memory that was out of sync. Good to know I haven't totally lost my grasp of reality yet. I know, 11 years fucking flies by.