Thursday, October 06, 2011

Insanely Great - Goodbye Steve Jobs. AND Bert Jansch

I got home from work last night a little after 10 and booted up my Mac, only to read that Steve Jobs had finally passed away from his pancreatic cancer. This was not unexpected; after all, the man had been ill for years and had recently resigned from his position of CEO of Apple for health reasons. We knew it was coming. Still, it's a sad day, and his death literally exemplifies the old cliché "the end of an era". It truly is.

I've been using Apple computers since the pre-Macintosh days of the Apple II. Yes, children, I'm an old ancient from the days of the Apple II and the Commodore 64 (both of which I've used). Remember the old days of Kinko's, when it was more a funky printer with computers on site so you could design your flyers and pamphlets right there and send them directly to the printer, instead of the soulless corporate giant merged with FedEx that it's become now? Ah, those were the days! And they used Apple computers exclusively; they didn't add Windoze PCs until well into the '90s (at least that's when it happened in Newport). That's where my love affair with Steve Jobs' brainchildren started, and I've never looked back.

And let's not forget that Apple actually fired Jobs back in 1985, only a year after he launched the Macintosh. Steve went on to found NeXT computers, which didn't do so well, and then on to lead and develop Pixar Studios, which did very well indeed. Meanwhile, Apple computers had degenerated into generic beige boxes not much different, except for the Macintosh operating system, from most of the other personal computers on the market.

Jobs came back to Apple when the company bought NeXT in 1996, and by 1998 Jobs was back in the CEO seat. He re-energized the place, ending the generic era and reintroducing creativity, innovation, and uniqueness with the iMac and the new slogan: "Think Different". And from that point Jobs and Apple never looked back. Now, in addition the the regular Apple computers running OS X, we have the iPod, the iPhone, and the iPad, all industry standard-setters.

I've been using the results of his genius since pretty close to the very beginning, and I'm using them still. I'm putting this post together on a Powerbook G4 running OS X 10.5.8. This is borrowed, and when I'm back on my own I'll be working on my eMac again (G4 1.4 GHz processor). I have an iPod Shuffle, and while I don't own an iPhone (only because my wireless carrier doesn't carry them yet), I have an LG Optimus S, which wouldn't exist if the iPhone hadn't been created. And I'm surrounded my Macs here. Mt sister-in-law uses a Powerbook (although my fuddy-duddy brother still uses a Windoze laptop), and there are two iPad 2s here in the house. And when their Verizon contracts end later this year they'll both upgrade to iPhones. And since the new iPhone 4S is now running on the Sprint network, and since my own carrier - CREDO Mobile - uses the Sprint network, I'm sure I'll be upgrading to an iPhone in about a year and a half when it's time to renew my contract.

Added to all that, my late Dad was a dedicated Mac user. What makes that interesting is that he was a microelectronics engineer; he created computer hardware systems for the aerospace industry, including many of the systems used on the Apollo missions. The myth goes that engineers use IBM/clone computers while artistic airhead hippie types use Macs; PCs are for serious computer users while Macs are for dilettantes. Obviously Dad busted that particular myth!

In any case, here are some videos included as a tribute to one of the great innovators of the 20th and 21st centuries, the man who literally changed the way we interact with the world. The first is the great TV commercial announcing the Macintosh in 1984:

And then there's the "Here's to the crazy ones..." to push the "Think Different" campaign; this one moved me profoundly when I first saw it. It still does.

And then after I read about Steve Jobs' passing, I also read about Bert Jansch. For those of you not familiar with the man, he was one of the great guitarists out of Great Britain's folk revival of the '60s and '70s. Born in Scotland, he mastered the finger-style playing style by listening to recordings of Big Bill Broonzy and Brownie McGhee. He teamed up with fellow guitarist John Renbourn for gigs and a record - "Bert and John" - and then added singer Jacqui McShee and formed the group Pentangle, which was the premier group of the British folk revival movement. On his own he was sometimes referred to as the British Bob Dylan. He was a talented man and a great musician, and he'll be sorely missed.

An old girlfriend introduced me to Pentangle back in '74, and I've been a fan ever since. The first video is Pentangle on BBC in 1970. Bert's the acoustic guitarist (John Renbourn plays electric) and the guy who announces the song.

And here's Bert on his own in 2008 with "High Days". Goodbye Bert; we'll miss you!

Text © 2011 by A. Roy Hilbinger


  1. "The myth goes that engineers use IBM/clone computers while artistic airhead hippie types use Macs; PCs are for serious computer users while Macs are for dilettantes."

    He may have dented the myth, but it's not quite broken. In the robotics lab here, where VERY complex software was created at lightning speed, there were some dozen PCs, a couple of Sun systems and one Mac. The Mac was literally used as a doorstop.

    Which isn't to work against your basic premise. Steve Jobs changed our technological world around us in ways many of us don't realize. If he didn't invent the PC, the GUI interface was obviously emulated (poorly). He made mp3 players de riguer, put functionality in our phones that even (sort of) impressed the tech-heavy Japanese and actually made tablets in. The world of computers and technology would not be anywhere near as accessible to regular people nor as user friendly if it hadn't been for Apple and Steve Jobs. And that's a fact.

    If the software is inflexible, it is reliable and intuitive for anyone wanting to do a large range of standard things. Graphics programs for Macs are still among the best, including drafting, which might explain your father's fancy.

    I don't like working with Apple software because it's too rigid, requires proprietary everything and is designed for profit only, *but*, it's the most reliable software out there for the very reasons many tech-savvy people find it frustrating: amateurs can't screw around with the important bits. If I wasn't so arrogant as to insist on doing everything my own way, I'd likely own a few Apple devices. The devices I do own owe their inspiration to Apple products (mp3 player, Droid phone and tablet). And yes, the bug-ridden monstrosity called "Windows" on my several PCs.

    And I would (and have) recommended Apples to my friends who are looking for specific types of functions only. Some things Macs do better and they are designed intuitively.

  2. wonderful tribute to two remarkable humans.

    and thanks for the head's up on bert's death - i hadn't heard. he's been a fave of mine since the early 1970s - i've worn out numerous lps of pentangle and had a whole slew of cassettes i copied of him (with various artists - the collaboration with renbourn still makes my hear go pitter patter thinking of those dulcet tunes) - of course having moved on to cd's lp's and cassettes of bert have long gone....i did add pentangle cd's to the house library.... and i should go farther....

    still a neanderthal when it comes to digital downloads, etc. maybe one day...i will call on the spirit of steve to help me through my basic luddite-ism

  3. Bert Was A Wonderful Musician.I Am Shocked.(I Heard It First Here).Here Are Some Photos I Took Of Him In 2007 in Manchester.
    Rest In Peace Bert.

  4. A great post Roy, saying what I am thinking but saying it much better than I could.