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Not a tribute to Steve Jobs, just a sad note. Nicola Tesla or Thomas Edison?

I’m more than a reluctant adherent to Apple technology, and am personally saddened at the death of Steve Jobs. Was he only 56? I assumed by his accomplishment that he was decades older. But my sadness is probably selfishly motivated, as a suspect of Apple acolytes, believing that Apple’s fruitfulness was owed chiefly to its larger-than-life leader, so a return to Jobless Apple means no more candy. But Jobs wasn’t larger than life really, he seems to have led less than a life. The fact that Steve Jobs was unable to discuss his cancer for fear of rocking the markets and hurting his company’s stock value, betrays the preoccupation he had with the bottom line. One of the richest persons in the world, who’d influenced so many lives in an incredibly personal way, went to his death a mystery. And while convention may hold that’s it’s too early for heresies before the wake, accelerated Twitter lag means a post mortem enforced deference for Steve Jobs has probably already expired.

Was Steve Jobs a visionary? Only for business models. He appears to have been a workaholic dedicated to the singular goal of building a better mousetrap. I suppose to give him his due, he built some swell ones, even as we catch on very slowly that the promise of computers enhancing our productivity has resulted in compounded labors, not savings, the mouse in question was us.

The sum of Apple’s product line was basically a self-enforced electronic ankle bracelet.

Steven Spielberg probably meant to honor Steve Jobs by comparing him to Thomas Alva Edison. Interesting, because those of us more familiar with history know that’s probably accurate for reasons Spielberg did not intend. Edison was not an inventor, instead he jumped on the scientific discovery of electromagnetism and maintained a sweatshop of scientists to innovate applications. It’s well known that Steve Wozniak invented the first personal computer, his friend Jobs simply marketed it. The Woz went on to invent the universal remote, so we have to credit Jobs for having a vision beyond the barcalounger. No disrespect of Wozniak intended.

If the Woz had an Edison contemporary, it was Nicola Tesla, renowned mad scientist, robbed of the credit and profit for inventing Alternating Current. He was Edison’s nemesis actually, and Edison lobbied against AC for a national power grid in favor of his patents for Direct Current. Probably by now everyone has heard that Edison would rush to circuses when they had to publicly execute an elephant for insubordination. Edison would electrocute the animals to demonstrate the lethal properties of AC.

So how does all this relate to Steve Jobs, the secrets of whose proprietary technologies we have yet to explore? Whose industry record high profit margins were dependent on cheap Chinese labor, factories which suffered high rates of suicide? Even the most ardent Mac addicts had a hard time championing Apple’s iTunes direct attack on peer to peer file sharing.

Let’s be honest. Steve Jobs was a Hamiltonian elitist when it came to Open Source. The Mac was never intended for everybody, it was trickle down technology and where software designers gave you what they knew was good for you. Hard to argue with much of it, including Jobs’ personal crusade to free his users from porn. But the business model also resembled a table top jukebox, where users paid, through the nose if you figure the charges compounded, for every ounce of content. The Apple became a virtual parking meter bluenosed into your bank account. Following the Java model meant Jobs got you to pay for the apps themselves.

Imagine if Steve Jobs had applied his visionary acumen to the $99 Laptop Project to fight poverty and lift the third world into the information age. Yeah, hard to imagine. Maybe after his death secrets will leak out about a philanthropic visionary Steve Jobs. Too bad we never knew him.

As innovative as Jobs appeared, compared to PT Barnum innovation-retrograde Bill Gates, Apple technology may likely prove to be the DC that has holding the internet back from open source radical transcendence.

2 thoughts on “Not a tribute to Steve Jobs, just a sad note. Nicola Tesla or Thomas Edison?

  1. We live in passing thoughts and sorting gas. And vice versa. Here in Happy GUI-land, what was once green hope quickly became pod pile. Neither Apple nor Wall Street could find the formula for progress, only the patents for the landfills of tomorrow.

    An old joke by now…. 10 years ago we had Steve Jobs, Johnny Cash and Bob Hope. Now there’s no jobs, no cash, and no hope. (Terrible joke, makes me want to Gaga).

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