Thursday, October 6, 2011


R.I.P. Steven Paul Jobs (1955-2011)

I usually stick to the standard MLA format and use the Times New Roman font, sized 12, to type stuff out. I am more of a formal conformist when it comes to such matters anyway. But I decided to go with the Californian FB this time, breaking tradition. After all I have set out to try and pay my eulogy to a man who broke free from all conventionalities, and in doing so created an urban legend the kind which the world has never known. The life of Steven Paul Jobs, aka Steve Jobs is fascinating enough to put the best of fairy tales out of business. From being a college drop-out, to going from a garage store owner to the CEO of the world’s biggest innovation franchisee, Steve Jobs lived a life no less controversial and certainly in no way less enticing or less revolutionary than the gadgets he designed so passionately, which in their own right, one can justifiably claim, have blurred the line between technology and aesthetics. Here was a man who believed in transforming, transcending and rising out and above the commonplaceness of everyday life, and last night when he finally called it a day in his years-long duel against cancer and passed away, Steve transcended life and transformed into the stuff of myth and legend! And perhaps it was somewhat justified too, that it all ended where it had all began, almost four decades back, Silicon Valley, California, the technological Neverland from where the tech-Houdini worked his miracles. As thousands of mac fanboys, Macintosh users, techies, students and others who have avidly followed Jobs’ every move, hung on to his every syllable crowd the streets in front of his residence, and the world marvels at the life extra-ordinaire of this indisputable genius who excelled in fusing art and technology, the man shall quietly lie in his last abode, and his spirit shall no doubt look down from the heavens above, amused at all the uproar he has caused even in dying, and perhaps be even pleasantly irritated at the sheer lack aesthetics of it all- the crowd, the mess and the funeral. I think he will find it quite amusing that a certain mac fanboy undertaker has designed a special aluminum coffin in steel gray, with the Apple logo on it, and christened it ‘iDied’! While the more conservative will perhaps frown at such attempts, Jobs would no doubt have been appreciative of the innovativeness of the idea. He was, after all, all about innovation.

Steve Jobs began his career from a garage, walked over the heads of monopolistic corporate giants like IBM and Xerox, whom he had dubbed ‘dead gods representing a dead culture’, and came out on top. Had an affair with a hippie girl he never married, had a daughter he didn’t accept for a long time, married another woman, had three children, took in his first daughter into his new family, named his first computer LISA after her, took Apple Inc. from being a newbie to the world’s largest and most innovative computation enterprise, got fired from the company he founded, quarreled with his contemporaries including Bill Gates, was brought back to Apple Inc. through the backdoor, designed gadgets that seems to be pleasant hybrids of Picasso and Babbage, had his liver transplanted, appeared in iconic product launches that have become entertainment events in themselves, and created a cult that has grown beyond all extents of imagination, save perhaps his own. From ‘iMac’ which killed the CPU cabinet and packed everything from the motherboard to the optical drive inside the monitor, to the ‘iPhone’, the ‘iPod’ and the ‘iPad’, he came close to almost trademarking that letter of the English alphabet. From the ‘macbook pro’ which pioneered unibody designs, chiseling laptop computers from solid blocks of aluminum, to the ‘macbook air’ which showed a world in awe that a full-fledged laptop can slide inside a standard envelope, the world never could stop marveling at what Steve Jobs kept rolling out of his backyard. INNOVATION: Something Wonderful In Your Hands, held in Apple headquarters annually, transcended the status of a mere tech-expo, and became an altar for worshipping art in technology, where the veritable God and his army of angels, would unveil miracles and proclaim prophecies that would entice and charm disciples spanning three generations. Over a period of almost over three decades Steve Jobs lived a life one can only dream of, and in doing so created a company only he could have built and transformed personal computing beyond science fiction. When news of his moving on broke out, President Obama hailed him as ‘one of the greatest American innovators’, as friends, relatives and rivals mourned the loss of a visionary. And quite honestly, and without epitomizing the man, and he would have been least happy if he were epitomized, Steve Jobs indeed was one in a million. A ruthless corporate shark, a charming hypnotizer, a billionaire playboy… the world had seen it all before, in forms of businessmen, entertainers and politicians. But never before was that man also an artist! And that is what, perhaps, made him such an icon. A college drop-out, a rude arrogant youth dismissing existing Giants, a young entrepreneur making things that were outrageously innovative, bending rules, breaking norms, setting a new trend and bringing in a fresh breath of air into an industry that had long acquired the tag of being the conventional and the geeky. In his first press meet, Steve Jobs said that he wanted the people in Apple Inc. to be more than scientists, he wanted them to be artists. Here was a man minting money, selling computers and calling himself an artist, and the world seemed to love it! Who ever thought computers could be sexy? Well, Steve Jobs did, apparently. And he was determined to show us that he was right. A colossal Picasso hangs over the entrance to the headquarters of Apple Inc. in California, a constant reminder of the artistic that makes Macs so very much different from other computers. It shall now serve as a sign of the legacy left behind by its founder- beautiful computers that deserve their owners and blend in with the subtle and sublime without standing out as some sort of crude machines. It was a commitment to making things more than just efficient, making them beautiful and pleasant, that perhaps drove Jobs towards risking a dual venture, developing hardware as well as the software that would run the hardware. Never before had a company single handedly done both, and done it so well. Over the years editions of the Macintosh Operating Software version 10, or the Mac OS X, has evolved as the most powerful, crisp and aesthetically appealing operating software in the world, besides having had the privilege of being the first operating software that used a GUI (Graphical User Interface) and allowed people to navigate around their computer using gestures, instead of complicated sets of command strings. Steve Jobs also gave us the modern mouse as we know it. Jobs’ old partner Wozniack recounts, “Every time it was the same story. They would laugh at Steve and ask him whether next time he will try to market something called ‘a dead rat’! It was like, they were Eskimos and Steve was trying to sell them an air conditioner.” But Steve Jobs chopped away at the trunk of the decaying tree that was IBM, removed the handicap that was preventing the growth of the field, and burned down the palace of ‘dead culture’, as he called it. And out of the ashes rose Apple Inc., transforming personal computing like never before, bringing computers within the grasp of people who didn’t have a Harvard degree in computing, and for once computers were as fascinating as TV. Jobs transformed the image of the computer, in the lay man’s mind, from an expensive box that lights up to a machine that does your work and talks right back with you! It was your TV, only smarter and you could suddenly interact with it! As time passed Apple computers got sleeker and prettier, and became more and more efficient. By the late 90’s the Mac had become a symbol of sophistication and taste, and could be spotted in the artist’s theatre and the scientist’s lab! These were the days of the chic engineer! The world marveled, and Steve Jobs reveled, while those that had termed him insane slowly faded into oblivion as evolution sided with the fittest.

Now, years later, when the days of toil and glory are a thing of the past, and Jobs himself has ascended the throne he once rebelled against, and perhaps been guilty of propagating the same monopolistic attitude he had once accused IBM of, one thing still hasn’t changed. Unlike IBM, and other corporations in the IT domain, Apple Inc. never stopped innovating, and never failed to surprise people with each product they launched. One only needs to think about the week long queue in front of Apple stores when the iPhone was launched, or the iPad announced! Now, some would ascribe that to crazy mac fanboys, and to certain extents they would be justified too. But no corporation can report 1.2 billion dollars of profit above the expected margin at a time when others were more than content with minimizing their losses, simply based on fan boys. The fact of the matter is, Steve jobs revolutionized computing, and designed gadgets that were cutting edge and aesthetic. And people loved him for that. He claimed to be an artist, and never failed to back up his claims with actions. The sheer beauty of his designs fascinated a generation that was bored beyond redemption living in a world of mechanical existence, where all that mattered was getting the job done. Steve Jobs got it done, and he got it done in style. Love him, hate him, you just can’t ignore him! And now that he is no longer with us, we will miss his charming smile on stage at all future Apple expos. The man seemed as fascinated with the gadget that he would play with on the stage, as the thousands of people who would gather to watch him. And looking back he was as much the reason as the gadgets themselves for people to flock to these expos. Steve got people excited beyond sanity about all things Apple, because he himself felt that way. You could see that in his eyes, as he fondled and pampered the product while he held it in his hands so the world could meet another one of his creations. Mark Zuckerberg aptly quoted, “We will ever be grateful to Steve Jobs for showing us that what we build can change the world.” Steve Jobs was all about change. And his changes were always for the better, the smarter and the simpler. Rightfully has President Obama hailed him as “One of the greatest American innovators.” But it was his onetime compatriot, and his arch-rival Bill Gates who had the most earnest words for the man, when he said, “We all have rivals. But every once in a while you meet someone who you compete against because you want their respect, much more than you want to beat them. Steve was one of those people.” As Apple mourns the loss of its father, Steve Jobs has left behind hundreds of milestones in technological designing and a company only he could have built. He is gone, but his legacy will live on, and his life will continue to have an impact on generations to come. No, not in the same way Mother Teressa, Florence Nightingale or some other philanthropist would do. But by the sheer amount of inspiration his story would hold up to anyone who comes across it, or watches the movie that documented his and Gates’ rise to fame; ‘The Pirates of Silicon Valley’. Steve’s life is vindication of what Einstein quoted a long time back; “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”

So, farewell then, Steve! You have been an inspiration to us all. You will be missed for your innovative ideas. You will be remembered for your revolutionary gadgets. You will be looked up to for upholding aesthetics in technology. The products you have given us will fascinate the world for years to come. And generations yet to come shall marvel at the cult that could have formed only around you. In a world where contemplating is viewed as a waste of time, and aesthetics has been reduced to phrases like ‘in-your-face’ and ‘cool’, you will be sorely missed. But beyond all that, Steve, I will miss the person who so vehemently dreamt, and showed the world just how much innovation and success can stem from and just how many paradigms can be shifted by sheer passionate imagination! For reasons entirely personal, and having nothing to do with computing, that is most important to me in remembering you. That is why you will always be a hero to me.

Goodbye, and hope you have fun converting Heaven to Mac! I can only feel for those you have left behind, who knew you personally and called you ‘family’. I am sure God was desperately in need of groundbreaking ideas. Or you wouldn’t have left us so early.

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