Saturday, December 26, 2015

S. Jobs Biography by Walter Isaacson

Old good Marxistic method is that one should know his enemy. Being a good pupil in the Titoistic times of former Yu, I am definitely a purest of Marxists. I am certainly a promoter of Open Source and I chant with Richard Stallman in praise of free software, following the thorny path of St. IGNUcius: "There is no system but GNU, and Linux is one of its kernels."

This means I am also taking freedom to go and get myself informed on one of the arch-enemies of everything I believe in, and do in practice. The fat Biography of Steve Jobs then becomes a must-read book.

You will guess that I write this not on an Apple machine, but some Linux. I did not pay for the book, either: I got it for free from my corporate friend, in e-pub format. In fact, the book is available for free online, I do not know how is this possible, that it is not protected as an Apple product, hard-wired to read in Apple gadgets only, with buying of a small addition connector...? Weird. Someone should be fired!

The book was with me for quite a time, it is a lenghty read of some 750 pages. Even in such a hefty volume, a praise for the author: it is a very readable biography. It was rather known that nobody would believe "Jobs, a nice guy" story, given all the leaked stories through the years. To find a good measure, and to present enough of a "complete asshole" part of the Jobs personality, but to leave, still, enough space for something else, was not an easy task.

If you ever worked for a complete asshole, then you know why. Such people rob you of your peace of mind, of your motivation for work, and of your will for a balanced life between your work and private life. You just wish to get to Antarctica, Arctic, Equador or any other remote place, and farm cockroaches or bumblebees.

And the subject of this book was PROUD of himself being an asshole, thinking that he gets the best out of people that way! Oh yes, sure, but for what a price? The guys were not paid enough, even if he would pay them ten-fold. But shit he cared about that! You know, slaves also worked better when you would whip them...before they would collapse.

The simplest cut through the biography of this troubled young man who, from a long-haired creature of a dubious personal higiene and behavior, came to be a creator of one of the richest company of today would be: an orphan, a child whose parents were not in position, or will, to care about him, who was lucky enough to get adopted into a good, caring family.

Since I am writing this in the midst of the Sirian "migrants" crisis in
Europe, and Jobs father was a Sirian, let me add something what is
appreciated, among the others, by those who love Jobs: Banksy recently created a nice piece of art in Calais, with Steve Jobs in the main role. A nice work, my praise to Banksy for this point.

So, the child is clever and, as it happens all too often, not really
fit for the regular education system. I think the system is at fault here, not him... So, he drops out of college, busy about tinkering with some integrated circuits in his dad's garage. He has a pal, who is a real genius for such things-you guess, it is another Steve, Wozniak. The two go to make the most incredible piece of electronics in that garage, and the rest is history.

Sure not! We are not speaking about Bill Gates! You get his story up to now, if you take out the orphan and Sirian part! But after the garage there is not much before Gates eats (=buys) all the small companies around, and he retires from bussiness as The Richest Guy of Them All, switching to charity work with his dearest wifey.

In fact, I always thought I do not like Bill, the same as I do not like his company, Microsoft. No real reason, simply I do not like such behemots which eat all the others. But reading about Jobs, I understood that I was wrong: Gates is a proper one, a good guy. An industrial magnate, and it is all what is to say about him. That said, it still does not mean I switch to MS Windows! So, this biography made me change my opinion not on Jobs, but on Gates!

Thanks to Jobs personality, he experienced many twists and turns in his work and life story. He was kicked out of the company he himself created, he re-created himself through the other company, even made good movies, and good moves. And then, when he re-took the company with which he started, he made an icon of it. For how long it will last without him, it remains to be seen.

In difference to Gates, Jobs never retired. He was producing new gadgets one after another. Obviously he did not have better ideas what to do with his life, and he needed to spend his energy somewhere.

Even Jobs' death of pancreatic cancer is in large part the result of his own personality. He stubbornly delayed the proper medical procedure and went, instead, for "alternative methods"-he was Californian enough for that. Until he noticed that cancer is not a cold, that alternatives do not work, it was too late, even for one of the richest guys around. His "reality distorsion field" unfortunately did not include powers of healing.

Apple became synonymous with Steve Jobs, but what is it that, exactly, that makes the phenomenon? Economically, they did not sell so many computers as there were sold PC's, but they earned more than others per unit on what they sell. Marxist would say that Apple created value by something else, not only the technical aspect of their machines. Jobs would probably be satisfied with the
assesment that it is the holistic, or even artistic aspect, which adds the value to Apple's products.

And this is where his esthetics and his preferences in the ways of producing and selling the product, was definitely the driving force. It is what distinguishes him from just a good salesman. He sold you a piece of vision.

There IS something convincing in Jobs' approach that a customer wants a perfect product, comfortable, reliable and easy to use. It definitely worked with the legion of graphic designers at times when Mac was really The Machine for them. But when the same vision was sold to just anyone who wanted a machine to work on, trying immediately to force on such unhappy a person the machine to listen the music, the machine to use when not using the main (Mac!) computer, the phone to became an unhealthy opsession. I do not know if Apple started producing vacuum cleaners, but I suspect it to be an item in the list of follow-up products, if bad times come.

Recently I often hear a complaint, from Mac users in Science, that it
became useless crap, with its sticking to obsolete formats and drivers, or not accepting some generally used ones. Such things could mean that the clicque of self-satisfied salesmen in Apple abstracted themselves away from the base, from the users. It is usually the fore-teller of the disaster for the company which started delivering beautiful, but useless boxes. People will need to switch to maybe less beautiful boxes, but with which they will be able to get the job done. And, oh yes, those other boxes are cheaper, too!

One of the beauties of the Capitalism is that it is utilitarian: if
something does not work, you go and buy something that works. Even if Apple is Made in China, you are hopefully lucky enough that your preferred salesman is not your one and only Party chairman, and you can decide to ignore him and go to the other company's shop.

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