Friday, October 14, 2011

Steve Jobs and Apple: somewhere between bohemia and business - Andrew Coyne -

From mere number-crunching marvels, Jobs made computers into tools for the artistic imagination

"When I was growing up, the world was in the grip of what was then called the Computer Age. Computers, everyone knew, were where things were going. And so we were all given training in computer science to prepare us for the Jobs of Tomorrow, which as everyone knew were in computer programming.

To program a computer meant poking little holes in punch cards, stacks and stacks and stacks of them, which you then handed in to the computer lab. When your turn came in the queue, they would feed your stack of cards into the computer; you would get your homework back the next day in the form of a printout. If, as often happened, you had made some small mistake—somewhere—and the computer, baffled, had responded with a string of hysterical gibberish, you simply repeated the whole fiddling, nitpicking exercise.

And for most of us, that was that. The premise, that we were all going to be computer programmers, was false, and we knew it. Computers were for geeks, science fiction enthusiasts and others even further beyond the pale. Though in some ways my own mildly obsessive-compulsive nature made me a natural for it, my teenage identity was even then coalescing around the idea that I was actually some kind of artsie, or at least destined for the humanities.

And besides, programming a computer meant working for the people who had computers—business, mostly, unless you were desperate enough to work for the government. Business? There were two kinds of people who went into business: those who had a lot of money, or those who wanted a lot. All right for some, but it wasn’t something you’d do, if you, like, wanted some meaning in your life.

If you want to know the impact Steve Jobs and the company he created, Apple, have had on society, consider that not a line of the foregoing still applies. We did not all have to learn arcane computer languages, as we thought: instead, the computers became so simple to use that, for some purposes, a swipe of the fingers was all that was required. Computers themselves are no longer great printout-belching beasts, remote and fearsome, guarded by a kind of priesthood with occasional visiting rights for the rest of us, but are in every home, indeed in every pocket or purse."

Steve Jobs and Apple: somewhere between bohemia and business - Andrew Coyne -

No comments: