Friday, October 7, 2011

New at PJM: The Man Who Sold The Future

I have a new column at Pajamas Media today, about the life and words of Steve Jobs. A preview:

Universities are always awash with bright (and, let’s be honest, not-so-bright) kids who claim they want to “change the world.”  Vanishingly few of them have the abilities to do anything of the sort, and still fewer have the innate drive and relentless, adamantine will to see their personal visions through to reality. Almost none actually succeed at changing even their own immediate surroundings, much less the world.

Steve Jobs was one of the infinitesimally tiny group to see that youthful ideal through. In the space of 35 years, Jobs, the on-and-off-and-on-again founder and leader of Apple, changed the way the world works, plays, communicates, listens to music, and watches movies — to say nothing of changing movies themselves, in his “spare time” job as CEO of Pixar.

Grasping the totality of Jobs’ life and accomplishments defies any short account. When Jobs started working in the tech field, as a teenaged summer hire at Hewlett-Packard (he got the job by cold-calling William Hewett, scrounging for hobby-project parts), personal computers weren’t even a blip on the horizon and the internet existed only as a crude, text-based network between defense bases and universities. Telephones were black, rotary, and run by a monolithic monopoly. Video games didn’t exist (Jobs was hired by the nascent Atari a few years later; he proceeded to design the seminal game “Breakout”), music came from vinyl records, and animation was something done laboriously by hand on endless sheets of plastic.

Not long after, Jobs founded Apple, and became the driving force in creating the personal computer, helping build out the massive industries supporting that technology and also fundamentally changing virtually every other industry on the planet. That alone would constitute one of the more impressive legacies in human history, but Jobs didn’t stop there, even after being ousted from Apple in a 1985 corporate coup.
 Here's the rest.

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