Thursday, 6 October 2011

An Inadequate Homage to Steve Jobs

With the death of Steve Jobs yesterday, after a long battle against cancer, an era has come to an end. My sympathies go to his family and friends.

The fact that Steve Jobs started Apple out of his garage in 1976 has become a legend. My personal experience of a borrowed early Apple II in the late 70’s confirmed that I was not destined to write code, but it was a proper piece of kit that could have become the IBM pc of its day.

In the early 80’s he was in charge of the Apple Lisa project, which pioneered the graphical user interface. I saw it at an exhibition and was fascinated by what it could do with windows. It was, however, expensive and the graphics taxed the power of its Motorola 68000 processor. Steve Jobs moved on to head the Macintosh division of Apple and the Mac became the first commercially successful computer with a graphical interface. After he resigned from Apple in 1985, following disagreements with John Sculley CEO, the company continued to sell hardware and ring fenced their operating system.  If at that point, or even earlier, Apple had licensed their operating system to all and sundry, Microsoft and possibly Intel would never have become the dominant forces that they are today.

Following a short pre-Windows spell with pc’s I was an enthusiastic user of Macs for several years in the late 80’s and early 90’s. They were just so much easier to use.  You weren't restricted to eight character filenames and, in a very simple way, you could set up a network and share data.  Even today Windows 7 home networks are still much more complicated to set up than those of the early Macs.

On changing jobs I went back to pc’s and I've lived with their faults and limitations ever since. Typically I have had to rebuild my 64 bit version of Windows 7 twice in the last six months due to Microsoft’s sloppy testing of its updates.

Steve Jobs came back to Apple as CEO when his company NeXT was bought by them in 1997. This launched the second and most productive phase of his career.  Starting with the iPod and its intuitive touch interface, followed by the iPhone, he led Apple to success after success.

I don’t have a need for either of those consumer orientated items, but I may not be able to resist buying an iPad 2 for long. Of all of Steve Jobs' creations that have changed the world it’s the iPad which might finally persuade me to buy back into Apple technology. Seeing my four year old granddaughter easily use one has convinced me that computing has finally come of age. If it wasn’t for Steve Jobs personal dislike of Flash, which the iPad doesn’t support and which I use occasionally in this blog, I would buy one straight away. Perhaps in time HTML5 will get rid of that issue.

And here is the kernel of my homage, which is incomplete and inadequate because I am not qualified to talk about the personality and character of Steve Jobs. He had an enormous impact on the world of technology. He had an ability to conceive new ideas about the usability of hardware and operating systems, which he combined with an eye for design that was un-matched by anyone else. He was certainly an exceptional visionary.  He also had the means and personal determination to put his concepts into practice, but he was human, and in his second period at Apple he had full control of his creations, so there was always a little quirkiness hiding somewhere amongst the brilliance and perfectionism.

Thank you Steve, rest in peace.


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