Science & Technology

Steve Jobs "Made Business Cool Again"


Former Reason Editor Virginia Postrel eulogizes Steve Jobs as the man who "made business cool again":

Apple's rapid success, by contrast, made quite an impression. Before long, the ideal of the loyal company man working his way to the top was being replaced by the ideal of the brilliant, arrogant college dropout conquering the world before he was 30: the entrepreneur as Alexander.

Business became more like sports or fashion: a topic of social conversation, a source of rooting interest and an expression of personal taste. The cultural, or even religious, war between Apple and Microsoft devotees would have been as inconceivable in 1981 as a "brand evangelist" or a corporate chieftain who appeared in public without a tie.

Now, by contrast, people far removed from the executive suite, working in entirely different companies or even completely different industries, have strong opinions about what strategies Apple or Microsoft or General Motors or Wal-Mart or Amazon should pursue.

"Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work," Jobs said in a 2005 Stanford University commencement speech, which has been much quoted in recent days. "And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle."

Jobs and the new raft of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs that got big in the 1980s redefined work as something more akin to artistic struggle - the building over a lifetime a body of work that grew and took on some sort grand narrative shape like Balzac's Human Comedy.

This view upended far more conventions than what bosses wore or whether the Foosball table was a standard part of the corporate HQ. Postrel again: "The aspirations for pleasure and self-expression that the sociologist Daniel Bell had condemned as the cultural contradictions of 'capitalism' turned out to be its fuel." Nobody, Postrel reminds us, wonders why Jobs kept working after he'd made a pile of loot: He liked to create and work was a way of pursuing his passion.

All of us who work in less-punishing literal and figurative office spaces than our parents owe Jobs something on that score. And I say that as someone who lost interest in Apple pc products for the most part after writing a Master's thesis on a Apple IIe and working at an early job on a Lisa and then the first generation of true Macs.

Read the whole thing at Bloomberg

Read this: "John Markoff, author of What the Dormouse Said: How the 60s Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer, told a D.C. audience at a December [2005] event hosted by the Copyright Clearance Center, both [Steve Jobs and Bill Gates] have acknowledged the formative effect of dropping acid, with Jobs going so far as to call it "one of the two or three most important things that he'd done in his life."

And read Nick Schulz's recent appreciation of the role of epic failure in Jobs' long-run success.

Last night's open thread on Jobs.

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  1. The guy was really part artist.

    Imagine bringing out a computer product in the 80's - and being obsessed with the fonts your computer would use.

    Creative compulsion FTW.

    1. No question, he was a design genius and a master capitalist. For that alone he deserves recognition.

      Innovator? Visionary? Not so much. I was playing with tablets in '99 at COMDEX and the concept was present in sci-fi for decades. He didn't originate nor invent any of the products that made Apple huge, but he designed them masterfully. I'd label him a re-packager of ideas, if anything.

      1. I would say that his biggest success was turning ideas into products.

        Steve Wozniak on his own would never have gotten beyond the garage in Sunnyvale.

        1. No Steve Jobs biggest success was turning geek technology into fashion statements.

  2. His greatest accomplishment of all may well have been to make Rush Limbaugh and the average liberal hipster doofus love something in common.

  3. Well, as someone else aptly put it, Jobs was a combination of Henry Ford and Walt Disney. His eccentric, creative genius was matched with an undeniable mass marketing skill. BTW, some of you may have already seen this, but here is a really cool piece of art that now serves as a kind of tribute piece to his "crazy", capitalist, risk-taking genius (based on the 90's campaign "Here's To The Crazy Ones):

  4. I was never a Mac fan. I spend half my life right-clicking. I favor the Droid instead of the iPhone. I refuse to use iTunes. But kudos to Jobs for pushing the industry into some very good directions.

    1. you are aware you can right-click on a Mac?

      1. ....before you couldn't. That particular PC innovation probably saved business and industry 100s of billions of dollars in increased productivity over the years. There were good reasons why Macs were not the original business-grade machines.

        Not to put the knock on Apple or anything -- I wish I bought some AAPL stock 5 or 6 years ago DUH!

      2. Next you'll be telling me the battery on the iPhone is customer replaceable.

        1. Only for customers who can solder.

  5. "the ideal of the brilliant, arrogant college dropout conquering the world before he was 30: the entrepreneur as Alexander."
    so jobs woulda occupied wall st too !

  6. The problem is that he didn't make business cool again. He made HIS business cool. If I drafted his bio, replacing Apple with a generic widget company, and discussed his egomania, his alleged securities fraud, his monopolistic tendencies, and his incredible wealth (which, unlike Bill Gates, was not accompanied by a massive philanthropic campaign), 99% of Apple worshippers would say the guy is a complete fucking scumbag. He never made business cool again; he made cool toys and people then projected their happiness with said toys onto him. If he actually made business cool again, there wouldn't be a shitload of protestors on Wall Street tweeting from their iPhones.

      1. What Frank said.

        1. ...."Chinese Slave Labor...." Get it all outta your system now, Ho Ho...

        2. I agree with R C

    1. exactly. Perhaps we ought to stop the hyperventilating and set aside the idea of a national holiday. I am sorry for his passing; 56 is relatively young. But, the fawning is a bit much.

    2. He never made business cool again; he made cool toys and people then projected their happiness with said toys onto him. If he actually made business cool again, there wouldn't be a shitload of protestors on Wall Street tweeting from their iPhones.

      Bingo. May I steal this?

  7. Steve Jobs, perhaps the most productive person in the past 30 years, used drugs. Imagine the loss to humanity if he had been caught and sent to jail.

    1. I'd love to see somebody ask a drug warrior that:

      "Steve Jobs admitted using illegal drugs. Should he have been arrested and locked up?"

      1. He was white and created jobs, so of course he shouldn't.

    2. He got caught trying to rip off the phone company with some long distance cheating gadget. Not sure if he did jail time.

  8. Can anyone remember the last time a businessman was eulogized this widely outside the trades?

  9. Long before there were Apple loyalists, there were Ford families, and Chevy devotees, and guys who just had to buy a new Cadillac each year.

  10. Now that VP is back, things can be normal around here.

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