Damascus

I promised that I would write this, so I feel I really should, and I’ve severely neglected my blog of late. When I was going to write this, it felt pretty topical; it’s about Steve Jobs. Now it’s not topical at all, so you’re just going to have to forgive me.

It’s a really weird thing to say that you’re affected by the death of someone that you’ve never met. I know that I personally was weirded out by the public reaction to the deaths of Princess Diana, or Michael Jackson, and I’m usually not too bothered by the deaths of billionaires, either.

I think that what got to me was that Jobs did that rarest of things; he changed my mind.

One of the principles of logic is that some propositions are axioms; they are not derived from other propositions but their truth is deemed to be self-evident. Everyone has their own set of axioms; e.g. I take it to be true that the universe which I can see and taste and touch is real, and not an illusion that is indistinguishable from being real. I have no way of proving the truth of this assertion, but the alternative is somewhat solipsistic.

It used to be that I was really rather anti-Apple. I believed that Macs were too expensive, that the iPod/iTunes ecosystem was inherently corrupt. Now I have an iPhone, I’m typing this on an iPad, my work machine is a Mac Pro, and I’m seriously considering buying a MacBook Air. What the hell happened?

Honestly, I’m not sure. Every step along the road feels like it made sense; the iPhone 3G was so obviously superior to all the other phones on the market at the time that buying it felt like a no-brainer. The work Mac Pro has POSIX underpinnings without the bullshit that using Linux demands of you. The MBA is not only an object of mouth-watering beauty, as well as being stupidly thin and light. But all, together it represents an enormous shift in what I had come to believe about technology and gadgets.

So that’s why I think I was affected by Jobs’ death; I recently read his biography and it’s plainly obvious that he was not an easy man to work with, or to know. To put it plainly, like many great men, he was often a dick. But, sometimes, by sheer force of personality, he made things happen that were insanely great.

It’s a debate to be had if history is guided by the inevitable forces of economics and technology, or if it’s kicked forwards in great screaming leaps and bounds by great men and women. It’s hard to say; would personal computing as we know it exist today without the original Mac? Would smartphones and tablets have taken off? Would all these things still exist but actually just sort of suck?

I don’t know, but I have my suspicions. And my younger self would probably massively disagree with me.

23 thoughts on “Damascus

  1. Hah, I’ve been looking at the MBA recently too. There’s no rational reason for me to get one (I don’t really use laptops much, to be honest), but it’s such a nice bit of kit that it’s really hard not to be tempted…

    “It’s a debate to be had if history is guided by the inevitable forces of economics and technology, or if it’s kicked forwards in great screaming leaps and bounds by great men and women.”

    I think it’s a little from column A, a little from column B. Yeah, the onward march of technology would, on its own, bring great stuff. But it helps to have people around who can take a step back and say “hey, wouldn’t it be good if…”; to look at the technology and to re-think how its used, to think about what new or better things we can do with it.

    I mean, people have been trying to make smartphones and tablets that don’t suck for years. In part they were held back by technology; you probably couldn’t have made an iPhone in 1990, the technology just wasn’t there. But in part they were also held back by having the wrong vision of what a good smartphone or tablet would look like. I think that Apple (under Jobs’ influence) defocussed on the technology and went back to the question of “what should this thing actually do?”, and then designed the product which they felt best filled that brief.

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