Steve Jobs died today October 5, my late father’s birthday. My father, a machine tool maker, would have been happy to have kept a crank telephone in his home and never touched a personal computer, smart phone, iPod, iPad, or watched a single PIXAR movie in his eighty years. What Steve Jobs did in his 56 years will be recounted thoroughly and you will likely receive the story on one of the tools he brought to market, as President Obama remarked.
So, my personal Steve Jobs story goes like this.
In the middle 1990s I worked for Western Images, a cutting edge film and television post production studio with rooms each equipped with about a million dollars of investment capital boxed into state of the art technology.
Across the hall from our office was a new company called Macromedia, and the fledgling made relatively cheap tools for the “amateur” media makers in the desktop computer for the delivery by way of the fetal form of the World Wide Web.
One day the Macromedia employees massed in the shared hallway and blocked my access to my office. They were quivering in gleeful anticipation of a visit by Steve Jobs, then the owner of PIXAR, one of my favorite clients at Western Images.
The Generation X crowd were going to show Jobs their software product “Filmmaker”.
Jobs soon after went back to Apple. Apple soon bought Macromedia’s Filmmaker and turned it into Final Cut Pro, the ascending film and video editing application until a recent un-Jobs like failure of vision turned this tool into an amateur filmmaker’s toy.
Before I get too far down the road of mocking the current Apple toy chest I will say that in 2001 the once far-sighted Western Images sank into the quicksand of the Dot Com bust a few weeks after September 11, 2001. Industrial poets call events like this “the creative destruction of capitalism”. Macromedia went on to invent Dreamweaver and Flash and were acquired by Adobe in 2005.
Jobs put his creative fingers not to destruction so much as transformation. He picked the bricks that went into the headquarters of PIXAR in Emeryville. I recommend his Stanford University 2005 commencement address to hear him speak about connecting the dots of his Reed College calligraphy class with what guided his designer course forward.
Jobs invented tools inspired by his reading of The Whole Earth Catalog . One of their mottos was “Access to Tools”. The last message from their publication when it expired was “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish”.
Jobs made good re-use of these expressions. He made Xerox Parc’s graphical user interface work in a democratized technological model, with elegant fonts, in a design award winning box.
He turned a micro storage device into an iPod music player and transformed the music industry after that via iTunes in a way that may have saved that business from its demise.
The iPad may yet save news journalism from its technological cement shoes,the printing press, in a digital delivery business model where maybe the writer will actually get paid.
The cinema, too, has been digitally re-invented by PIXAR and their peers and it is photochemical Kodak that is next to meet the inevitable coup de grace of capitalism’s scythe as it approaches bankruptcy.
Just as Jobs returned to revive Apple from its near pre-mature death, I am rooting for Final Cut Pro to make it back to a pro tool. It will take a corporate visionary to fix that one. And they don’t make the likes of them, like Jobs, very often.
(Typed on an iPad: 2011.10.05)