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iQuit

It’s a sad day for the technology industry: one of its most charismatic figures, a genius in an industry filled with brilliant minds, has stepped aside.

I wouldn’t go that far. Nothing against Jobs as such but there are some right numpties in the computer trade. Our own dear Alan Sugar springs to mind. Not that he is in that trade anymore – thank God!

Anyway is Jobs charismatic? He wears a black polo-neck well but quite frankly he is hardly the life and soul. He is moderately more interesting than Bill Gates.

I have a love/hate thing with Apple and Jobs. It’s in the little things and the big things. It’s little things like putting an “i” in front of everything and the one button mouse and keyboards designed to be looked at rather than typed on. And it’s big things like the sense of entitlement Apple seems to feel. Recall the war of the trashcan? Or the recent appalling persecution of Samsung over the Galaxy pad? And the way Apple fans are so, well, fanatical. You see it in the TV adverts for iPhone 4 and the iPad 2. A Martian could be forgiven for thinking Apple invented the internet. The ads are that smug. They are basically saying, “Can’t afford this you pleb – well bugger off!” And it annoys me because they do make some nice kit. I wouldn’t find Apple so annoying (is perplexing a better word?) if this was not the case.

Don’t get me wrong. I wish Steve Jobs all the best and hope he gets well. It would be mean of me to gloat over the ill-health of the chap. But… Apple are legends in their own lunch-time. They are not actually anywhere near as important technologically as they like to think they are and relentlessly tell us. In terms of marketing though… Different kettle of fishes. They figured out how to sell computers to people who don’t like computers. They also figured out how to seem “anti-establishment” whilst being the establishment and that is a hell of a trick.

10 Comments

  1. john in cheshire says:

    Quite so. And even my 13 year old nephew is beginning to see through the Apple hype.

  2. Peter Risdon says:

    “They figured out how to sell computers to people who don’t like computers.”

    And also to people who do like computers. I’ve seen grey-beard UNIX Gods use Mac because it’s the best Un*x desktop.

    Apple have had more influence on the development of modern computers than anyone else. Even my Ubuntu desktop is heavily influenced by them. Sure, they stood on other people’s shoulders and, for sure, they’re a commercial enterprise with everything that goes with that. But I can’t think of another company that has so influenced our living environment, from the graphical paradigm they popularised (and that was copied), through tiny MP3 players to the smartphone.

  3. NickM says:

    I seem to have upset people.

    DK, Peter,
    You ask me. Jobs and Wozniak’s greatest hit was the Apple II. The GUI didn’t make the difference. What made the difference was the idea a computer was something that a ten year old kid could own and not something tended by fit birds with clip-boards in the lair of a Bond villain. In the space of a few years in the early ’80s computers went from being space-program stuff to playthings for kids. And yes, Jobs played his part there. As did Clive Sinclair and Jay Miner a little later on. Peter, OSX is Unix. Who borrowed from who? Apple didn’t invent the MP3 player. It just made it cool and over-priced. All of us owe everything we are to the Ataris and Amigas, Speccy’s and 64s, Acorns and Apples. What we don’t owe much to is phones as designer objects, the iPod Shuffle (an MP3 player with no screen!), eMacs with no writeable drive (but that’s cool because they looked like a throat lozenge), the current iMacs that look like TVs (and I like ‘em in many ways – screen rez is gorgeous) but that is a kinda living room computer yet ships with a corded keyboard and mouse. It is stuff like that ad nauseum. Recall the early ’90s ADB standard keyboards. To make ‘em look neater they didn’t have an inverted T cursor keys. Jobs himself with the first Mac didn’t even want cursor keys at all… You had to use the mouse.

    And yeah, I don’t mean you guys. DK, I appreciate that if I was in the graphics game… But there is some stock of twats who are Apple nuts. And they just come over as so fucking superior.

    I once owned a Mac. I bought it for no apparent reason because it was going for 30 quid. Mac Classic – 1999. Let me tell you about it. OS7 and lots of good things. And lots of bad things too. Lovely Sony Trinny screen but B&W – not even shades of grey. Stereo sound mind! I gave it to my girlfriend (now my wife) and she wrote her BA and MA on it. Thirty quid well spent! A lovely machine in so many ways but like so many Apple products frigging annoying.

  4. Sam Duncan says:

    So. They’re building a flash new HQ, and Steve’s quit. Not to mention Google getting hold of Motorola’s patent portfolio. The only way is down.

    “the iPod Shuffle (an MP3 player with no screen!)”

    A 2GB Shuffle costs more than an 8Gb Sansa Clip+, which has a nice OLED screen, a MicroSD slot to increase its memory, and mounts as USB mass storage. Sounds good, too. There’s one born every minute (Jobs is, of course, the PT Barnum of the tech industry).

    “Jobs himself with the first Mac didn’t even want cursor keys at all… You had to use the mouse.”

    ‘Cos that was the future. I never use the mouse if I can help it. Especially on my netbook: pretty much everything is mapped to hotkeys, including web browsing, because a touchpad and pointer on that titchy screen is just too fiddly. It makes a nice scrollwheel, I’l give it that.

    And I’m beginning to think touchscreen phones will go the way of the digital watch. We’re still at the stage of thinking they’re a pretty neat idea, but having had one for 18 months I long for proper buttons that click when you press them.

  5. ian says:

    Still got my old Amiga 500. Multitasking before apple or PC, good for games, good community of users and a developing community of third party developers. So why did Commodore fail yet Apple’s overpriced products sell?

  6. Tosh says:

    Rejoice PC users! Apple is gone, so it’s back to Windows for us all! No more attempts at innovation from Dell, etc… It’s going to be just like the good old days!

  7. Simon Williams says:

    Sam,

    I’ve got a BlackBerry Torch. It’s got a touchscreen and buttons to press. I just use what feels right at the time. And, yes, I prefer using the keypad to the touchscreen keypad for writing texts and emails. However, sometimes it’s easier to just touch the icon on the display to get where you want to go in an instant.

  8. Sam Duncan says:

    I’ve said it before, Ian: Commodore couldn’t sell fire to eskimos, or run a piss-up in a brewery. They thought the A1000 was so far ahead of its competition that it would sell itself (which is almost forgiveable: Apple thought the Mac was toast too until they saw the virtually non-existent marketing campaign). Apple had the famous 1984 Superbowl ad, Commodore-Amiga had… nothing. Well, Andy Warhol and Debbie Harry praising it to the skies at the launch event, but no follow-up.

    Then they put the low-cost version into a one-box unit that saw it categorized as little more than a games console. For the sake of saving $5 or something on each unit, they left out MIDI, handing the music market to Atari (which pretty much lived on that for the next 10 years). The Commodore people spent a fortune on developing a successor to the C64 – which in the public’s eyes, the Amiga 500 was – starving the Amiga division of development cash, so when AGA and the A1200 came along it was too little, too late. Yes, it had a faster processor – an ’020 – but Apple had been using ’030s for four years by then.

    Its successor, the Advanced Amiga Architecture, which started development – I think – in 1988, would have been amazing, the original 1984 Amiga all over again – Dave Haynie released some of the internal design documents about ten years ago, and it was impressive even then – but never saw the light of day, largely because the brass were more interested in the C65.

    It’s a sad story. Amiga fans don’t really lament the demise of Commodore much (indeed, some of us would argue that the platform’s best days were after its demise, when a sort of blitz spirit set in*). As the easter egg in an early release of Workbench has it, under the names of the original Amiga Corp. team, “We made it. They fucked it up.”

    Simon: That’s what I was thinking of when I wrote that. I don’t see touchscreens going away (in fact, I suspect that in a few years, it’ll be odd for a screen not to have touch capability), but the current gee-whiz enthusiasm for them will settle down, just as it did (as Douglas Adams obliquely predicted in HHGTG) with digital watches. The physical keyboard is one thing I think RIM has got absolutely right.

    *In fact, the way the user community rallied round and kept things going was an important factor in my growing understanding both that top-down direction by a central authority is unnecessary, and that this new “open source” thing might have something to it.

    (Yikes. That was more of a post than a comment.)

  9. NickM says:

    Commodore was run by a lunatic and they never really had any idea what the Amiga was for. Games machine or biz computer? What they did was invent a multimedia computer before multimedia. They also utterly shot themselves in the foot with the 2000. Way too expensive and it’s USP was that you could get a PC bridgeboard. Think for a moment Commodore! What does that say to customers, to developers? Oh, and Sam is right. Not just the C64 and it’s deranged follow-ons but didn’t they keep the PET line going way too long. And what was the point of the C16? Commodore did what BL/Rover/whatever did. They simply didn’t have a coherent range of machines. The company looked like competing fiefdoms. Now look at Apple. There are millions out there with multiple Apple devices that complement each other.

    “As the easter egg in an early release of Workbench has it, under the names of the original Amiga Corp. team, “We made it. They fucked it up.””

    Yes, and you know what. When the high command found that out loads of machines were junked. Like anyone cared!

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