Young Steve Jobs and why 2010 might be like 1984

Young Steve Jobs and why 2010 might be like 1984

Summary: On April 3, 2010 Apple will introduce iPad. And you'll see why 2010 will be like 1984.


On April 3, 2010 Apple will introduce iPad. And you'll see why 2010 will be like 1984.

Does that sound familiar? It should. It's a riff on the original launch statement for the Apple Macintosh, where the announcer famously said, "you'll see why 1984 won't be like 1984."

Although Ridley Scott's brilliant 1984 Apple commercial is the stuff of legends, it was shown 26 years ago, probably before many of you were even born. Given our recent discussion about how Apple seems to be limiting what we all can read and do on the upcoming iPad, I thought it'd be instructive to revisit the original commercial and see what lessons might be learned.

What I found was even better. I found a six minute segment (displayed at the end of this article) with a very young Steve Jobs introducing his famous take on George Orwell's 1984.

In the video clip, you'll see the young Steve talking about our freedoms in his introduction to the commercial, then you'll see (and hear) the actor David Graham in his role as Big Brother. When you juxtapose both the young Jobs and the commercial itself over today's realities, the contrast is disturbing.

Jobs describes Apple, "... as the only force that can ensure ... future freedom." He then asks:

"Will Big Blue dominate the entire computer industry, the entire Information Age? Was George Orwell right about 1984?"

Why are we making such a fuss about this?

As a society, we may be at a cusp, a point where we're transitioning away from a mixed print/digital world to one that's predominantly digital.

Book publishers, newspaper publishers and magazine publishers are experiencing unprecedented revenue compression and are looking at transforming their businesses away from print as a factor of mere survival.

If Apple's iPad has the effect on our print reading matter in the way iTunes did on our music consumption, Apple could wind up the dominant channel by which we get published "print" information.

That's why the issue of Apple picking and choosing what we can and can't read is so disturbing. If they're forcing magazines to edit their contents in order to get distribution, then whatever Apple's then-current (and thus far completely arbitrary) rules would determine what you get to read.

It might even determine the political, religious, or ideological slant of what you're permitted to read.

Because Apple has indicated that it intends to censor published works that it distributes digitally and because Apple has been absolutely non-forthcoming about any details, we as members of the press are, essentially, obligated to point out what's happening.

Also Read: Apple iPad Adopters, Prepare for Content Punishment

That's also why we're talking about this in ZDNet Government and not just in the Apple-related columns. Censorship, rights, freedom, and tyranny are all important issues that relate to us as Americans, and as a global society.

The coverage we're providing isn't just about another product announcement. It's also a possible red-flag alert, letting the technical readers of this site (and, by extension, the people you all influence and advise) about a possible threat to our freedoms, not through government mandate, but simply by the overwhelming power of the market force of one company, playing Big Brother to us all.

Up until this point, no other mass-market computer has so restricted what you can run on it. Vendors have always picked and chosen what software they'd sell through their own stores, but consumers could always make their own choices and independent developers could always produce products not approved of by the computer vendor.

The iPad is a computer where everything you see and do must be pre-approved by faceless, gray-suited, unreachable drones at Apple. You can argue whether the iPad is a small computer or a big phone, but it really is a general-purpose computing device. It is a computer.

Apple is not only dictating what software you can run, but they've apparently decided to filter every single piece of content you view on it, whether purchased from Apple or through another source, like Amazon or Zinio.

Bashing Big Brother

That brings us back to Anya Major throwing her hammer into the works.

Big Brother's words are a little hard to hear, but if you read them, they'll give you chills, especially in light of the censorship we're exploring with Apple and the iPad. Here are those words, courtesy of Wikipedia:

Today, we celebrate the first glorious anniversary of the Information Purification Directives. We have created for the first time in all history, a garden of pure ideology. Where each worker may bloom secure from the pests of contradictory and confusing truths.

Our Unification of Thoughts is more powerful a weapon than any fleet or army on earth. We are one people, with one will, one resolve, one cause. Our enemies shall talk themselves to death and we will bury them with their own confusion. We shall prevail!

Is Apple promoting a Unification of Thoughts? Are they purifying information? Is the iPad going to be a garden of pure ideology?

I had a sociology professor once who told me to be careful what I choose to fear, because many of us become what we fight most against.

In the video, Jobs talks about being the only force protecting us from Big Blue. But instead of protecting us from Big Blue, has Steve Jobs turned Apple into Big Brother?

Video note: This old piece of classic video isn't broken, but the first 25 seconds are dark and silent for some reason. Once you reach second 26, it's a fascinating look at what was then and what is now.

Has our young, idealistic Anakin been seduced by the dark side? Has Steve Jobs become Darth Vader? You be the judge.

Disclosure: the author derives a small personal income from Apple iPhone applications.

Topics: iPad, Apple, CXO, Hardware, Mobility


David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

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  • No doubt about it

    the person who said take control is now telling everyone to give it up.

    I guess he needs the money to buy his way to the front of the liver transplant list!!
    Ron Bergundy
    • He doesn't need that.

      With all the money he has he can buy all the organs he needs in the black market.

      Steve will never be in a transplant list.
      Great Kahuna
      • "Repo Men" :) (nt)

    • You are right there is NO doubt about it

      you are an uninformed idiot with an anti-apple agenda. Steve Jobs has repeatedly said he was in a waiting line for a liver... he didn't jump the line or get a black market organ.

      While I do not agree with the restrictions on what can be run on the devices - a reason I jailbroke mine - the attacks like the one you made are senseless and uncalled for.
      • Steve Jobs Liver

        You are right in that he did wait in line, but not entirely correct in the spirit of things.

        Each state has its own line and you can theoretically enroll in all of them, though the time/cost prohibits most people from doing so.

        With unlimited budget, your own private jet, and people to do the legwork for the odds in each state, you can seriously increase your odds without doing anything illegal or going outside the system.

        So no, he didn't "wait in line like everyone else". He used wealth to exploit a loophole in the system. Note that I don't necessarily have a big problem with him this (heck, I would), though I do think this loophole should be closed down.
    • extremely unpleasant

      I think some people are showing their true colours. A personal attack on someone who is ill. Really low.
      The Star King
      • But not surprising.

        The degree of hate has driven some people over the

        And why? Jobs runs THE all American company, the
        prototype for starting a company in your garage and
        building something that changed the world.

        If you don't like Apple's products, buy from somebody
  • RE: Young Steve Jobs and why 2010 might be like 1984

    Steve the beneficent is a true humanitarian. A utopia driven
    by Apple products and services. I think they call that the New
    World Order according to Steven Jobs. I'm an Apple investor
    and I'm all for it.
    • There ya go..

      Sell the soul for a few bucks. Whatever happened to think different?
    • "New World Order"? I call it AppSoc. (eom)

  • The iPad is a device

    Come on David,

    You know that the iPad isn't a Mac, or a PC. It's a device
    running the iPhone OS. That's like complaining that you
    can't run anything you want on Windows mobile. Sure you
    have to go thru the app store to get "official" apps, but
    like the iPhone, it's just a matter of time before you can
    jailbreak the device and load whatever you want on it.

    Apple does have a lot of issues with the process in how
    they approve and process apps in their store, but at least
    they are moving in the right direction. Are you upset that
    they banned porn and soft core stuff from the app store?
    Or that they banned Google Voice? What exactly is it that
    you HAVE to run that you can't run because of Apple.

    I think this is the same argument that was made about
    iTunes DRM not being able to play on other MP3 players or
    not being able to load other formats than the standard
    ones used on the iPod. People have found a way around
    this. Just like the people who are able to make their PSPs,
    Gameboys and other devices do what their manufacturers
    will not let them do.

    The consumers control the market, not the sellers in the
    market, and if the public doesn't like the seller or what the
    seller does, they buy from someone else. Microsoft knows
    this now and Apple has time to make sure they don't
    follow the same path.
    • Why should a PAYING customer have to?

      "it's just a matter of time before you can
      jailbreak the device and load whatever you want on it."

      Why should a paying customer have to do this? Oh yeah, Steve wants your money, and to control what you do, sorry I forgot.
      • Why?

        If I buy a device, be it iPad, Playstation or XBox, I won't want to hack it. I
        bought it to be the way it is. But even if I did have the notion to hack,
        that's my issue and I shouldn't be complaining to the device maker that
        it is hard to hack, or the problems associated in hacking it. It wasn't
        made to be used that way. If you want to be a hobbyist and hack away,
        more power to you, but don't whine about it.
        • Better Idea, buy a Win-7 tablet.

          And install anything you like without having to go through the stupidity of hacking your own machine. Your welcome...
          • Better Idea, Learn To Read Before You Buy

            That way you know what you are purchasing instead of buying it and pitching a No_Ax hissy fit.

            Reading 101...did you fail it?
          • Back to your trunk hiding little one.

            You had your chance and pussed out.
          • Agreed.... Windows 7 is the way to go

            With Apple being their usual 'control freak' selves in this.
          • Let us hope Apple does not sign

            any exclusive deals with publishers.

            If I feel I do not wish to purchase an iPad, then at least do not remove the ability to download my eBooks on another device.
        • You're asking too much.

          Asking No Axe "not to whine" about Apple is like asking
          a bird not to fly.

          Whatever Apple does, he's sure it's a conspiracy of some

          I really do wonder if he's getting paid by the word.
      • Why would you buy a device...

        That required you to jailbreak it or modify it to get it to do what you wanted? That just seems counterproductive and a little silly.