Steve Jobs is dead. I know you’ve all heard about that. It was big news. Nerds cried, people who maybe didn’t even know they were nerds cried, the Onion had a headline that said “Last American Who Knew What the Fuck He Was Doing Dies” and generally, the whole thing was very sad. In what’s gotta be the most brilliant crosspurposing of a death ever, the new iPhone also just shipped, and it actually speaks to you, which, well, if you were the kind of person that thought of Steve Jobs as a father figure, there’s gotta be some sort of creepy comfort that you get from his last great gift to the world having a personality and voice. I heard Howard Stern this morning asking the new iPhone where he could get a handjob in Manhattan and the phone seemed to be happy to help him figure out where to go. That’s a good final bit of a legacy: a handjob providing, talking phone.
There’s no doubt about it, Steve Jobs was an important dude. Even if you dislike him or apple his footprint is gigantic. Ambitious people often set out to change the world, completely change an industry, and most of them don’t end up doing that at all. Steve Jobs revolutionized not only personal computing but also telecommunication, the music industry, the retail industry, publishing, turtlenecks, the whole deal. Like him or not, he was a visionary guy who shaped the world he lived in and it will likely be quite a while before someone else with that kind of vision and acumen comes along.
I have an iPhone. It’s got a broken screen. It’s kind of slow and it has, in no uncertain terms, destroyed my ability to just sit there and relax. I can’t just sit (or walk or even [and this is totally fucked up] drive or be on my computer) without having my phone right there just in case I need to check Twitter or get an email or a text or read an article or avoid doing pretty much anything that doesn’t involve staring into a tiny cracked screen. I no longer need to remember directions, phone numbers or to grab a camera, notebook, walkman, a watch or a personal gaming system (not that I fuck with video games, but you get the idea). I don’t need to talk to my friends because texting is so much more direct and requires less commitment. I’ve been in full on fights via text messaging, just because it’s less emotionally draining than talking on the phone to someone (and WAY less taxing than standing in a room together, yelling and punching walls and shit). You’ve got to imagine that the emotional numbing that these little devices provide is gonna have some twisted ramifications on humanity, right?
And that’s also the legacy of Steve Jobs. The personal phoneputer thingy that he so brilliantly put together is a marvel of human isolation. It’s also (and this is something that people tend to never discuss when they talk about the Steve Jobs legacy of invention, though it’s one of his most profitable ideas) built to break after a little while.
When the apple store in Chicago first opened I remember being shocked that they had recycling bins for ipods. Signs above the bins said something to the effect of “it’s been good to you, recycle it.” This was at a point where the oldest iPods in existence were about 2 years old. That’s fucking INSANE! I don’t want to sound like a grandpa or anything, but it used to be that if you paid hundreds of dollars for a device, that shit would last your lifetime. That was sort of WHY you paid that much for it. The notion that someone would sell you something designed to break after about two or three years (which is what iPods were [are] designed to do) so you, as an addicted consumer would have no choice but to upgrade to the newer version, is an insidiously brilliant strategy. And it’s no accident. We’re talking about a brilliant businessman and strategist and inventor. He invented disposable technology and, just to make sure that really careful people didn’t slip through the cracks, he built obsolescence into his devices as newer models appeared (changing the interface for the laptop power cable, for example).
So there you go. Before Apple, and the ipod and all these amazing, life changing devices, I believed that if I bought something for a lot of money, it would last forever. I also used to just sit there and look out the window of the bus. I don’t know if I was happier because I was just younger and more excited to exist than I am now, or if my new life full of things that are designed immerse me in a culture of information overload and ultimately to just up and break is just a darker, slightly sadder place, but one thing’s for sure. Things done changed. And until the Chuds come out of the sewers and/or the earth cleanses humans from its skin and we’re reduced to nomadic cannibal tribes (and that’s gonna suck balls), this is the life we got.