A Few Ways To Look at the Steve Jobs Legacy

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Alexis Madrigal, technology editor for The Atlantic, talks about Jobs' tech legacy and his surprising counterculture origins; then, Jad Abumrad, host of Radiolab, on Jobs' influence on music and radio.


Jad Abumrad and Alexis Madrigal

Comments [54]

How many new, seductive gadgets do we really need and how often???

Steve jobs elevated consumerism to unprecedented new heights. Apple disciples fetishize these objects with zealots' fervor.

There is something strangely pagan and Orwellian about the devotion.

Come, worship at the alter of the friendly prophet bearing transcendental gifts...

"Apple® technology changed my life"...

"I owe my life and career to Steve Jobs™..."

Incredible accomplishments, yes but, in the end it's all about seducing consumers, selling loads of widgets, elevating stock price and making stock holders happy and rich whilst outsourcing and under-paying.

Cynical perhaps but, the the other side of a complete picture.

Typed on a Mac Pro!

Oct. 07 2011 09:05 AM
Edward from NJ

@illfg, the fact that Apple controls both the hardware and OS allows them to make sure that the hardware has the power to support the software. If you compare $2500 Mac Pro to a $2500 Windows desktop, you'll get a similar quality. Of course, when you've been forced to work on a Windows box, your boss probably paid $500 for it. It still works okay -- not great but that's not Microsoft's fault. It's not even Dell or HP's fault, since the $500 PC was intended for web surfing and emailing not professional design work.

Oct. 06 2011 12:04 PM

Edward NJ - " I've used Macs for almost 20 years, and prior to OSX, they crashed plenty."

So you agree OSX is superior to windows too. lol, Thanks again.

By the way, my last Mac Laptop lasted 5 years before finally dying. My iMac at home is 5 years old and running strong, without any hardware upgrades. Best 3k i ever spent.

If I used PC, yes they are cheaper up front but I would have had to at least upgrade it and then buy a new one buy now.

Oct. 06 2011 11:59 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

To RUCB alum

Sure, Macs are pricey, but quality costs! If you don't need quality, buy junk. I can't afford a Mac either, but then I no longer need one to make a living with. My PC that I'm typing on is "good enough" for my routine needs. ANd if it crashes, big deal. I don't have a project that has to be handed in Monday morning or my head will roll.
But if your livelihood depended on it, you'd know the difference.

As for Apple's consumer products, I don't own nor care for, nor have any personal need for any handheld devices. I don't even own a cell phone, nor need one. But if my livelihood depended on it, I'd get the best, which usually means Apple.

Oct. 06 2011 11:52 AM

Edward from NJ - "On a contemporary, well-powered Windows machine".

So you agree, the average PC is inferior. Thanks.

Oct. 06 2011 11:47 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

TO Evan

No, neither Bill Gates nor Steve Jobs were saints. IN a way, both were knights of technology, only Bill Gates was the Black Knight and Steve was the White Knight. Both have blood on their hands, but Steve was the man of honor. He didn't have to whitewash his career by suddenly giving everything away in public. The true philantrophist gives anonymously without looking for headlines.

And you say that Jobs is using Chinese "coolie" slave labor, while Gates's Microserfs were such happy elves? I don't think you really know that much about history of this business. I've been an avid follower of both careers since the late 1970s. And if you think those Chinese "coolies" are eager to go back to their former communes or be dirt farmers again, just ask them yourself.

And ever hear of the saying, it is better to teach a man to fish than to give him a fish? I think that misplaced philantrophy has in some ways retarded African progress than helping it. Yes, if someone is starving, it is good to give him a fish to eat, but then teach him how to catch the next one himself.

Oct. 06 2011 11:45 AM

May be too soon for a reality check on the jobs hagiography but here goes...Anybody else remember that Apple nearly went under in the late 80's under Scully? Apple products were ALWAYS overpriced compared to similar or more function from Wintel products. What happened? MFN with China which gave Apple a place to manufacture goods at a cost consumers would accept. Seems to have created a mini-Hell in Shenzen though.

Simple and easy to use was always an Apple mantra...Anyone else remember the ad were the pile of books to support your PC would drop onto a desk and then the single, thin Apple Guide book would plop down in front of a Mac? Makes the cost of learning to support a Mac kinda high.

Oct. 06 2011 11:45 AM
Sandra from CT

Brian asked who we are forgetting when remembering the legacy of Steve Jobs. I would suggest Jonathan Ive and the innovative Apple design team.

Oct. 06 2011 11:43 AM
John A. from 2011

"get the name of the hippie magazine"...
Your question is garbled, but could it be "Mondo 2000"? 'Wired' was about use of tech, Mondo was about making it.

Oct. 06 2011 11:41 AM

J from Manhattan -
First of all not all WNYC listeners are the same, think the same, etc..

Secondly, Gates is a philanthropist now. What about all the companies Microsoft out out of business so he could gain those billions? Microsoft's business practices rival those of the old monopolies that Roosevelt was busting over 100 years ago.

Third, No one is perfect. That includes Jobs. Maybe he should have been more of a philanthropist. He will be remembered for his innovations as he should.

Oct. 06 2011 11:41 AM
Julie Houston from Brooklyn, NY

As a five-year pancreatic cancer survivor, this has been a hard week for me with the loss first, of Nobel Winner Ralph Steinman, and now Steve Jobs, both to different forms of pancreatic cancer. Had they had earlier diagnoses, these two brilliant brains might have had decades more of discovery for all of us. I am proof that early diagnosis of pancreatic cancer is the key, and I make this comment in hopes that public awareness and funding for early screening of pancreatic cancer will increase. Please everyone, put pressure on our government to support the early screening process!

Oct. 06 2011 11:39 AM
Edward from NJ

@illfg, I've used Macs for almost 20 years, and prior to OSX, they crashed plenty. While I prefer Macs, I've had jobs where I needed to use Windows, and I didn't consider trading my keyboard for a tractor. For graphic design, I use mostly Adobe products. On a contemporary, well-powered Windows machine you can't really tell the difference once you're in Photoshop, Illustrator or inDesign.

Oct. 06 2011 11:38 AM
Evan from New York, NY

JGarbuz - So Bill Gates is a hypocrite because he's giving away his money (not "ill-gotten gains" - he didn't steal to get them, he made a product and, by creating a more open-source system than St. Steve, got them on more machines) to help humanity, but Steve Jobs, who employed virtual slave labor to make iPods, etc, and has not exhibited any philanthropic instincts, is not? I would imagine if I were in a poor school or sub-Saharan Africa and was benefiting from the Gates Foundation, I really wouldn't care what his reasons were.

Also, I'm sorry your boss wouldn't buy you a Mac, but that's not Bill Gates' fault.

Oct. 06 2011 11:35 AM
Reno Dakota from Brooklyn

Although this is a time to reflect on all that Steve Jobs accomplished, I feel a sort of fear for the future of our culture for all the things he won't do. (Will Macs devolve into ordinary, ugly PCs?) This man's ideas were unique. He was THE leader in the advancement of technology in our lives in so many ways.
America's biggest problem lately has been a lack of jobs and now we will suffer ever more greatly from a lack of Jobs.

Oct. 06 2011 11:35 AM
Meg from CT

I saw a video/film in while working at a tech company (Lexis/Nexis, Dayton, Ohio) in 1992/3 about a consortium of electronics companies from all over the world. Think it was "General Magic". They predicted the invention of a 'wallet-sized device we'll use in meetings and come to rely on every day. I've never heard anyone talk about it and Jobs was not part of the film but I think of it every time I see a blackberry or iPhone.

Oct. 06 2011 11:35 AM
bella from brooklyn

Whole Earth Catalog, published by stewart brand

Oct. 06 2011 11:35 AM
G from NJlottery

Jobs did not invent the mac or mouse. He saw them at xerox PARC in palo alto. The mac was originally called Lisa (graphical user interface) . Jobs just commercialized it first.

Oct. 06 2011 11:33 AM

did anybody get the name of the hippie magazine and the person bringing it out from CA stewart brwon was it? Jobs mentioned it in his 2005 commmencement speech as well?

Oct. 06 2011 11:32 AM
R. Franck

Ralph Steinman, the most recent Nobel laureate in medicine, also died young from pancreatic cancer. His discovery will likely produce drugs which will save or improve the lives of millions. Not talk show material?

Oct. 06 2011 11:32 AM
J from Manhattan

illfg: Not that Gates is a social justice hero, but it least some of his billions of dollars fund some essential social goods. Steve Jobs has done nothing in the way of philanthropy. He's completely apolitical—something that I didn't expect politically informed WNYC listeners would choose to ignore.

Oct. 06 2011 11:31 AM

Because of Apple and Steve Jobs' creations I successfully started two online shops on Etsy selling iPad and iPhone cases. My shops couldn't have taken off without the demand for these Apple products. Thank you Apple and Steve Jobs. I will forever thankful for your impact in my life - both creatively and personally.

Oct. 06 2011 11:31 AM
Konrock from Roosevelt Island

I've thanked Steve Jobs at least five times a day for years. He changed my life for the better and I will miss him.

Oct. 06 2011 11:31 AM

I never want to work on a Windows® machine but, J from Manhattan has a very poignant point.

Oct. 06 2011 11:28 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Job's rival, Bill Gates is a hypocrite who naturally wants to save his soul by giving away his ill-gotten gains to build up either "treasure in heaven" or just fake a good name so that people will forget his earlier misdeeds.

Jobs was no hypocrite and never claimed to be a philantrophist. But his gains were not ill-gotten ones. He was uncompromising in creating and building the best, most beautiful, most humanly compatible products he could. And that is his legacy: uncompromising excellence.

Oct. 06 2011 11:28 AM
Stanley in Ditmas Park from Brooklyn

This comment may be too soon, but the ongoing canonization of Jobs in the media needs a bit of moderation.

For instance, as such a powerful leader, why was he not able to (or why did he not try to) improve the conditions of the workers in China that make all the wonderful gadgets. Even moreso, why didn't he lead his acolytes (as many Apple users seem to be) to see the value of paying perhaps a few more dollars for each item, and have them made in the United States.

Just asking.

Oct. 06 2011 11:27 AM
Melissa from Union City, NJ

My first computer was the Macintosh SE in the late 80's, early nineties and for the first time in my life (back then) I didn't feel like a complete idiot. The DOS prompts on the IBM computers always left me cold. Apple taught me that I could do anything. I'm an artist and every artist I've ever come across has or uses a Mac even the one I married. For the visual and performance artist, Steve Jobs had an impact in bringing our work to the worlds attention.

Oct. 06 2011 11:27 AM
sheldon from Sheldon

Martin - because Steve Jobs actually earned his money.

Steve Jobs is a perfect example of someone not allowing capitalism to take away his individualism. Unlike the spineless MBA - types that only care about the next quarterly report.

Oct. 06 2011 11:25 AM

Also, the reason American/Western media fixates on Apple (or Amazon and it's new Kindle) is because they're American companies. In contrast, does anyone follow innovations by Sony, Samsung, or LG? Much less the name of their CEOs?

Oct. 06 2011 11:24 AM

David McGlynn from Manhattan:
From the moment I wake up to my iPhone alarm, to the moment I fall asleep playing my dorky word games on same, and all the hours in between that I spend on my MAC while at work and play, there is hardly a moment in my life that is not touched by the crazy genius of Steve Jobs. What a life well spent!

Oct. 06 2011 11:24 AM

As much as I respect SJ and enjoy Apple products I still remain skeptical of rampant tech-worship.

Try to get out of the subway behind a device-adled idiot checking his FaceBook®!!

Unplug! Tune In!!

Oct. 06 2011 11:24 AM
Amy from Manhattan

On educational tech access in 3rd-world countries, how easy is it to recharge devices in places where the electricity isn't reliable?

Oct. 06 2011 11:24 AM

J from Manhattan - consider the monopoly that gates created and why every PC has windows on it. why do you think he is all the sudden a philanthropist? remeber the lawsuits?

Oct. 06 2011 11:23 AM
Xe from Roselle Park, NJ

Poor poor Woz,. Yes Steve was charismatic, and a visionary, blah, blah, blah. But, would any of those adjectives be ascribed to him if not for S. Wozniak? BTW if you can't accomplish the same tasks on either a MAC or PC with the same relative ease, it speaks to you, not the machine.

Oct. 06 2011 11:23 AM

Brilliance can never be over shadowed by mediocrity. Steve Jobs brought class to computing. His vision of simple, usable consumer products was only rivaled by his sense of design and his relentless drive to be true to himself. Unlike other tech companies, Apple inspired people's imaginations. As a graphic designer, working on a Mac has been a pleasure. Anytime I get stuck on a Windows machine, I realize how brilliant he really was.

Steve Jobs is the tech icon of the computer age. Bill who?

Oct. 06 2011 11:22 AM
Laura from UWS

Correction: democratize is not what Steve Jobs did; mass production is the correct term. Democratizing the product would be letting us all decide...and surely we would have decided to eschew planned obsolescence, mistreatment of workers, environmental problems, etc. which Apple is responsible for.
Also, pricing. I'd love to see more democratizing!!

Oct. 06 2011 11:22 AM
J from Manhattan

Consider Steve Jobs dreadful, non-existent philanthropic legacy. When Bill Gates dies, he'll leave an enormous legacy outside this supposed "transcendent" consumerism.

Oct. 06 2011 11:22 AM
Jeff from Bronx

Stewart Brand is alive and active, particularly with the Long Now Foundation, looking 10,000 into the future.

You and Jad talked about Brand in the past tense.

Oct. 06 2011 11:21 AM
Kathryn from Brooklyn

You know that a technology is transformational when it's hard to remember what it was like before the technology existed. The iphone is that for me. It's only been a few years, but I have to think hard to remember what it was like.

It's like the car, the telephone, the telegraph...

Oct. 06 2011 11:20 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Any graphics professional who needs to meet a "drop dead" deadline will happily pay 3 times as much for a Mac than a PC. I never owned a Mac,and was forced to work on a PC writing technical manuals back in the '80s, and it was a horror, but my boss wouldn't spring for a Mac. He preferred rather to see me struggle and suffer to get the graphics and all right just in time.

He was a sadist, forcing me to use a PC when a Mac would have made short work of it in no time.

Oct. 06 2011 11:19 AM
Nan Doyle from brooklyn

Steve Jobs' greatest legacy is that he made good design available to the world. Yes, the technology is amazing. But the fact that Apple products are beautifully designed - pretty to behold, delicious to handle - is a gift. Good design is not for the elite or "in-the-know." It's just the intersection of beauty, simplicity and intelligence.

Oct. 06 2011 11:18 AM
rich from nj

I have always held that the value of any tool was unlimited creatively. I resent that by controlling the tools, ie, the operating systems, Apple actually constrains my creativity.

Oct. 06 2011 11:18 AM
John A.

Most fun you can have remembering him...
Noah Wylie as Steve Jobs, "Pirates of Silicon Valley", 1999.

Oct. 06 2011 11:17 AM
Karen from NYC

The thing about Jobs is that, when youheard that he had died, you thought not only -- "wow, think of all that he's created" -- but "also, "gee, we can't even imagine what he'd have created had he survived." He had that kind of imagination and was that special. It's like reading Jane Austen's last novel and thinking, what have we missed because she died at age 46?

Oct. 06 2011 11:17 AM
antonio from bayside

I think design-wise, from the apple sites, to the products, to the commercials all have that aesthetic that just works!

Oct. 06 2011 11:16 AM

Well, I'm not ready to make him St. Steve and the mayor's comparison to Einstein is WAY overblown.

Jobs was just about the best surrogate for focus group testing that there was but Jobs himself really was not an inventor or even a first wave innovator. He usually failed when he tried to be NeXT, AppleTV, etc. He was a great 2nd and 3rd wave guy.

I hope his lasting legacy is NOT collecting a third of sales for permission to play in the iDevice playground. This was a step backward, in my opinion.

Oct. 06 2011 11:15 AM

brilliance is never over shadowed by mediocrity. There are computers and then there are Macs. My Mac never crashes.

Oct. 06 2011 11:14 AM

eCAHNomics- The only apple product I've ever bought was an ipod. I hate it. I would never buy another product from that corp again

I work in graphic design and have been using Macs for over a decade. I would be a farmer rather than work on a windows machine.

Oct. 06 2011 11:13 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

My first personal computer was the Apple II, which I purchased back in 1981, and was the most fun computer I've ever owned. I had to be dragged kicking and screaming to transition to the PC in the mid-1980s by the powers that be. Never cared for the Wintel PC, but finally got used to it. I loved my Apple II. The PC is just a tool.

Oct. 06 2011 11:13 AM
John A.

Steve Jobs was about the 1%. The best products you could get (design x simplicity x quality) for your money, typically about 2X the bare necessary cost.
Since we're talking about things of a certain medium total price (IE Not cars, houses) it didn't kill people to reach up and get them.

Oct. 06 2011 11:12 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

It's interesting how this very rich guy escaped the venom of the Left and never became, as Truth from Becky might phrase it, just another greedy white man.

Oct. 06 2011 11:12 AM

"Computers attached to dream"????? Seems like a sorry excuse for a life.

Oct. 06 2011 11:11 AM

The only apple product I've ever bought was an ipod. I hate it. I would never buy another product from that corp again.

Oct. 06 2011 11:09 AM
BobbyK from Brooklyn

Not Steve Jobs related, though the answer to:

"If E=mc^2, what is the value of i?"

is, the square root of negative 1.

Oct. 06 2011 11:05 AM
Jayr from queens

The outpouring of emotion over Jobs's passing is evidence of a rare phenomenon: how a tech CEO "reached through the walls" of his office and formed an INTIMATE connection with his audience, by providing products that re-designed their lifestyle.

Oct. 06 2011 10:20 AM

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