Steve Jobs eventually made me Think Different

Steve Jobs eventually made me Think Different

Summary: I despised Steve Jobs and Apple for the balance of my career. And yet it is a testament to his life that he was even able to make someone like me Think Differently.


At the end of August, when Steve Jobs resigned from Apple as CEO and handed over the reins to Tim Cook, I said that I would not give into the pattern of eulogizing a human being while they were still alive. And I also promised that when he passed, I would write something that was heartfelt and honest.

That time is now.

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A lot of things are going to be said about Jobs over the coming weeks and months. Over the next several years books about him will be published, including the many chronicles of his achievements, and also the personal stories from those who worked with him that I hope will actually separate the myth from the man.

He is a person who without a doubt had a tremendous hand in the industry in which I participate in. And for that I am very grateful.

However, I didn't like Steve Jobs very much. In fact, for most of my life, after Woz left from having an active role at the company, the hackerish, open culture of my beloved Apple ][ disappeared and the proprietary, closed Mac was released in its stead, I despised him.

Indeed, I projected my own perverted anthropomorphism onto the Apple he transformed and the products that swept away the early Apple I grew up loving as an impressionable young adult.

I hated Jobs and the "new" Apple so much that I pursued computing interests as well as a career that mostly kept me away from the products he influenced and helped to create.

It is relatively easy to eulogize someone you love or admire. It is much more difficult to do this for someone you really don't like.

Jobs was a repelling force that caused me to become an actual technologist as opposed to an end-user. And for that, I thank him.

I don't want to repeat many of the things I have said in the past because now is a time of mourning and catharsis. But I'll leave them here for you to read because I feel that they are just as important as the glowing praise for the man you'll read elsewhere.

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None of this should surprise anyone who has been reading my column for any length of time.

It should be noted that not all of these things which I have written are from the sheer and vast ideological differences in how Jobs and I think about computing.

I've actually had several in-person interactions with him during my college years and the early part of my career that have helped me form actual impressions of what Jobs as a human being was actually like. He was... unique.

I'm not going to relate them here because I think they would simply come off as selfish and anecdotal, and frankly, they would only represent a very tiny snapshot of the man who successfully re-invented himself several times.

It would not be fair to him. But now that he is gone I consider myself lucky to have interacted with someone that brilliant, if only briefly and intermittently.

That being said, in the last year or so, I've mellowed out quite a bit when it comes to Jobs and Apple. Heck, I bought an iPad. No, two iPads.

I even did the unthinkable: I bought a Mac.

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And then I bought an Apple TV. I even bought an iPad for my mom. In a short year, I've become a vast consumer of the objects born from the man I loved to hate for most of my life. As Peter Cohen, the spiritual ringleader of the Angry Mac Bastards has said so eloquently, "Perlow is now drinking it straight from the tap."

In fact, in any number of my own posts in which I have actually complimented Apple, I've been accused in the TalkBacks of being a fanboy.

Can you imagine? Me? An Apple fanboy? Seriously? After all I have said and done? After all the bile I have spewed against this man?

Perhaps this is Steve Jobs' ultimate achievement. Not that he was able to make so many people idolize him and extol the products and ideas he helped to create, but that he and the company he re-created in his own image have even been able to turn around dyed-in-the-wool naysayers like myself.

It took him the better part of 30 years to do it to me, but he eventually got me in the end.

I don't think you can give anyone who you can't stand a better compliment than that.

Goodbye Steve. Please don't give the Almighty too much of a hard time about his design choices. And thank you for making me challenge my own perceptions and notions of computing and technology. Rest well.


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Topic: Apple


Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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  • Honesty

    I respect that Perlow was honest in this article. A lot of people would simply call him disrespectful for not giving the same old type of speech about him after his death.

    RIP Steve Jobs.
    Not an Apple fan myself, but I would be foolish to ignore his effect on this industry for the better.
    • +100500

    • ideological differences

      "ideological differences", jason? that's probably the main difference between many wintel pundits or open advocates and steve jobs. i don't think he ever cared about ideology. he just wanted to make beautiful, easy to use tech products. that's all. and for some reason, that i will probably never understand, that made a lot of people angry. more so the more successful he became.
      • RE: Steve Jobs eventually made me Think Different


        Well stated. When I first saw a Mac in 1983 (my professor was an Apple consultant), I laughed and called it an Atari, but within the year I had purchased my own Mac and written my senior project on it because it made programming with graphics so much easier.

        Apple has always presented products that are designed with the end user taken into consideration first -- and part of that consideration is how "nice" the products and what you can create with them look. No one complains about car companies that make cars that look and feel nice -- that you can't repair on your own anymore.

        Jobs was certainly a salesman, but at least what he was selling really did make computing easier for the vast majority of end users. What's wrong with that?
      • RE: Steve Jobs eventually made me Think Different


        Agreed, yet he was also a master Technologist. His understanding and grasping a true object oriented system with Objective-C for his NeXT system is proof of that.
    • RE: Steve Jobs eventually made me Think Different

      @fenzo@... I also think that JP was drinking straight from the tap. I have to admire a man like Jobs for what he accomplished, BUT in the real world he was just one of the best snakeoil salesmen ever. I have never drank the koolaid personally because I have always thought his products sold on just hype.
      • RE: Steve Jobs eventually made me Think Different


        And you are 100% wrong. His products did not sell on hype. His products sold because they allowed people to get their work done, to accomplish their goals, without getting too much in the way. Because they sold well, the hype followed.
      • RE: Steve Jobs eventually made me Think Different

        That's true for ipads, iphones and iPods (though for years the latter suffered from less than great audio).

        For Macs, they've always been a distant 2nd place. Through those other successes, they've slowly built Mac into a distant 2nd place OS in the U.S., with an 11% share. Worldwide, however, they're at roughly 5%, which is down from their peak.

        The reality is that OS X doesn't have the Apps (except for in specific fields), while the iOS clearly does. Maybe the Mac will take over the world like the iPad, Phone and Pod seem to have taken over their respective markets (so far), but my guess is it won't.
      • RE: Steve Jobs eventually made me Think Different

        @bvonr@... You are just drinking a koolaid of a different flavor is all.
  • RE: Steve Jobs eventually made me Think Different

    I'm also not a big Apple fan boy in their recent years on how they have become an isolationist. However, one does have to give Steve credit for his vision, his drive, his demand for prefection (in his mind), and his ability to bring the best out of the people who work for him (even though some are driven out that way). Regardless of whether one agrees with his vision or not, one has to take his hat off for a man that is truly the come-back kid.

    RIP, Steve.
    • Definitely agree

      After meeting him a few years back, I came away with the following impression:
      Rule 1 - I (SJ) am right
      Rule 2 - In the event you think I am wrong, see Rule 1 until I say I am wrong

      This let him drive his vision and become the success he was.

      Then again, just my opinion.
      • RE: Steve Jobs eventually made me Think Different

        @rhonin <br>That describes every person in the world. So you are basically saying he either calls himself right or he calls himself wrong. Or am I missing something?
  • RE: Steve Jobs eventually made me Think Different

    Perlow, I agree. I also used to hate Steve Jobs and Apple and would badmouth both and working in the I.T. industry I would quite often knock Apple, but he eventually made me ThinkDifferent about computing and technology and now I own an iPhone, iPad, and a Macbook and will soon own an iMac. I'm not a fanboy but a techie who thinks differently. He will be missed.
  • Well said Jason.

    I think many of us who played with soldering irons and calculators, find ourselves in your camp. Apple was more Fifth Avenue than Silicone Valley.
    • RE: Steve Jobs eventually made me Think Different


      As someone who played with soldering irons, and who carried a calculator in my pocket for many of my school years???

      Apple was more human over technology.

      Apple was not fifth avenue, it was just that good technology was expensive up until recently. Bad technology for it's own sake was cheap.

      Apple is now turning out Unix supercomputers, and they are it's most popular product, the iPhone. What has changed is that Apple has added more polish and fancy fifth avenue design than ever and the cost of production has dropped.

      Computers could only afford to be badly designed and disposable whilst people believed they were not worthy of the technology.

      Mobile phones were the tipping point because a phone is considered to be something people should understand, and should work well, and should not require an expert to keep running.

      Apple's design met a market expectation, and the blinkers came off the people.
    • RE: Steve Jobs eventually made me Think Different

      @recurvebowyer <br><br>Yet underneath the exterior, you find pure silicon valley soldering irons. Adopting Objective-C and its runtime, and creating the Foundation and AppKit and lots of other *Kits is pure engineering and "hacking" and all the good get your hands dirty stuff and was a real visionary type of move by Steve back in 1985.
  • RE: Steve Jobs eventually made me Think Different

    one has to seperate the myth from the man and the truth from the falasies. Steve Jobs was great at what he did. And I truly appreciate what he did because I am sure that without him, we would not have access to some of the technologies that we take for granted today. However, he is credited with much that he doesn't deserve credit for. Last night on CNN he was credited with creating the mouse. He did not. He was credited with envisioning and creating what we call GUI. He did not. He was credited with creating Object Oriented Programming while at Next. He did not create that. And I think that Steve Jobs believed that he did these things as well. That doesn't mean that I don't respect Steve Jobs for what he did, and for most, what he did would be more than enough. But I think in life and in death it is important to be truthful. I like to think of Steve Jobs like the old BASF commericals. Steve didn't make the things we use, he made the things we use BETTER.

    For the naysayers out there I would like to acknowledge that his genius brought us the iPod, but mp3 and mp3 players existed, but none in the form he created. The iPhone was simply an assemblage of technologies and functionality that already existed, but he put it together. Even the iPad was nothing new. I had used a Samsung Ultra Mobil PC running Vista a few years before the iPad was released, and from a technology point of view, I could do all the same things, or at least most of the same things that I can with an iPad, but once again, Steve Jobs saw what was out there, identified what was missing, and he refined it. Nothing was really new in the iPad, but what he assembled from the parts was new.

    And, many of you Apple fanboys may think that I'm being insensitive, and the man was great, but I think it's unfair to his legacy to credit him with things that he didn't do, because at some point his contributions will be challenged if we do that.

    I wonder if Bill Gates will be eulogized the same as Steve Jobs, because in the end, I think Bill Gates was even a greater man. (his Philanthropy which is a great deal more than Jobs; the number of people his products have touched which is also greater than jobs; )

    Anyway, RIP Steve Jobs, and thanks for all you've done to make our technological lives better.
    • No, Bill Gates is not a greater man

      @mgrubb@... he lacks the vision Jobs had, didn't make the awesome products Jobs did. He was a one trick pony.

      His philanthropy is admirable however.
      • RE: Steve Jobs eventually made me Think Different

        @HollywoodDog However, everything OP said about Gates is correct.
      • RE: Steve Jobs eventually made me Think Different

        Lacks vision? His vision was to have a computer in every home. Mission accomplished.