Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Steve Jobs: 1955-2011

Steve Jobs died earlier today.  I'm not going to link to a news story here, because the whole thing is kind of omnipresent right now.  There are people on Facebook absolutely losing their marbles over this, as though a friend or family member passed away.  This is where the whole thing turns a bit weird for me, because as you might guess from the general tenor of this blog, I'm not prone to be friends - virtual or otherwise - with flock followers.  So what gives?

I'm not much of an Apple-phile.   I've only owned one Apple product in my entire life: a 30GB iPod Classic, given to me by Rhea for Christmas back in 2005.  It's a great piece of equipment, I grant you.  I use it to this day, and it behaves just as it did fresh out of the box.  That's something in this day and age of shoddily manufactured electronics, seemingly engineered to implode three days after the warranty expires.  Should it ever begin to give up the ghost, I'd absolutely look to replace it with another iPod, or one of its descendants.

This durability gets to the heart of why I've never really climbed on the Apple bus, in a way.  Their marketing is something to behold: NEW MODEL!  BETTER THAN EVER!  UPGRADE NOW OR BE LAUGHED AT BY ALL YOUR LITTLE FRIENDS!  And why not: if you make electronic products that don't fall apart in three months, I guess you've got to come up with some way to encourage conspicuous consumption.  I begrudge them nothing: they've clearly developed a culture that works economically, which is no mean feat in the current market.  Still, there's something a bit vapid about it all that kind of turns me off.  "Yeah, I bought this thing that I don't actually need.  The other thing I already had that does the exact same thing still works, but oh my god - it's two years old."  Ever listen to someone talk about their new iPhone for hours on end?  It's been scientifically vetted as one of the ten most boring conversation topics under the sun.*

But here's where I go and interrupt myself: you know, Jobs may have been a genius after all.  In typing that last paragraph, it occurred to me that he figured out how to get your money either way.  Sure, he'll get more out of the NEWER IS BETTER crowd, but he'll also get curmudgeons like me at least once every decade or so: "Yeah, Apple sheep are kind of annoying - but damn, my iPod went through hell and back and worked like a charm."  Simultaneously catering to the Joneses and the I-want-quality-products crowd: what a concept.

Well, Steve, I'm sorry that you're dead.  I do really love my iPod.  You know what?  He did actually do more that affected my life than most of the dead celebrities folks shed crocodile tears over: he invented an item that actually does make my life better on a near-daily basis. I get it now.  Not in a way where I'm about to join the Facebook choir of tears or anything, but I understand much better than I did when I sat down to write this piece why people feel so strongly about Jobs' passing.

Sometimes, these blog posts just don't end the way you expect them to when you begin writing them.

* and, yes,  I am fully aware that by having typed these words, I will eventually buy an iPhone and become one of those people who can't shut the hell up about the stupid thing.  At least I'm upfront about my likely impending hypocrisy.

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