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The Cult of Steve Jobs
How the maverick with the 'reality distortion field' became one of the world's most powerful men
David Wilson (bambo1)     Print Article 
Published 2006-06-17 22:56 (KST)   
I have a love/hate relationship with Apple. My experience of its outwardly rugged titanium laptops has been dire.

But Apple fascinates me and I don't want to antagonize the company in case I need to seek protective custody. Apple storm troopers are fiercely devoted to the firm, which in sync with its boss, has made a comeback, defying the critics.

Not so long ago, a writer in a leading tech organ wrote off Apple, saying something like this: "My Apple Macintosh is a source of embarrassment because I know that, soon, the parent company will be obsolete. Apple is quaint but its products just do not cut it. Hopefully mine will have sentimental/scrap value."

More like religious relic value. Apple seems to have evolved from a mystery cult into a booming faith whose high priest must rank as one of the world's most powerful men, given that he also finds time to manage the animation firm set up by George Lucas, Pixar. Via cartoons such as "Toy Story" and "The Incredibles," Jobs has led Pixar to glory.

Writers portray him as a Woodstock-influenced profound-and-terrifying-genius you do not cross or inconvenience. In Jeffrey Young and William Simon's biography, iCon Steve Jobs, the visionary turns his fury on Pixar founder Alvy Ray Smith for writing on his whiteboard. "Ray Smith, who promptly resigns, describes the incident as "ugly."

Ugliness is, however, forbidden in Apple design where the hard line gives way to curves and the striking use of sheen, color and tone.

In a gesture towards the mainstream, Apple is now using Intel microprocessors, which make the firm's machines Windows-friendly. The long-running success of a particularly dinky MP3 player you may have heard of has raised the profile of Apple and Jobs a touch higher.

Indeed, now Jobs seems more interesting than the devices he manufactures -- as close as the "participation age" gets to the dead seer Marshall McLuhan. Now everyone wants to know what makes Jobs tick.

Born in 1955, he was adopted by Paul and Clara Jobs, of Mount View, California. Working with Stephen Wozniak, Jobs helped spark the personal-computer revolution by introducing the first Apple computer in 1976. Jobs later established Apple's line as a splashy, user-friendly alternative to the IBM-Microsoft personal computer.

He quit in 1985 after losing a corporate power struggle. That same year, he founded the NeXT Computer Company and in 1986 bought Pixar. When Pixar went public in 1995, Jobs became a billionaire. In 1997, he returned to Apple as interim chief executive and kept moving forwards.

He is supposedly surrounded by "a reality distortion field," which apparently enables him to pursue outwardly wild ideas successfully. The classic example is the keyboard.

"It turns out people want keyboards," he's quoted saying. "When Apple first started out, people couldn't type. We realized: Death would eventually take care of this."

Right as usual. Try to think of one person you know incapable even of stabbing a keyboard using the hunt-and-peck technique.

Now Pixar has merged with Disney, driving The Independent on Sunday newspaper to ask: "Could it be that everything which has happened so far in Jobs' professional life has been a mere prelude to the creation of the 21st century's first real media giant?"

It may well be that we have only heard half the Steve Jobs story -- unless Death thinks different.
©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter David Wilson

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