Early Apple & Jobs: I sad too

(Thanks to Jackie Taylor for the pictures, which she took in Palo Alto, outside of Steve Jobs’ home.)

Gish Jen in Saturday’s opinion pages of the NY Times:

IN 1980, Steve Jobs went to a brown-bag lunch at Stanford business school, looking for summer help. Other Apple executives were busy explaining what a personal computer was when he sauntered in; they stopped mid-sentence as, dressed in a vest, jeans and Birkenstock sandals, he settled himself, cross-legged, on top of a desk. He looked as if he were about to hold a yoga class. Then he began to talk, instead, about revolutionizing the world.

Some four or five students heeded his call, including my husband-to-be, David O’Connor. This was less than half the number who signed up to work for Hewlett-Packard, but never mind. That summer job became a full-time job when David graduated, and a kind of dream. Apple, back then, had a hot-air balloon. It had a race car. When the second “Star Wars” movie opened, Apple bought out a theater so the whole company could go. A friend’s father called a job at Apple the worst possible thing that could happen to a young person, as everything that followed was bound to be a disappointment. And perhaps that was true.

But, of course, it was exciting in a way even an onlooking writer could understand — strangely familiar, too, as if it were being run by a cousin. Apple was, for example, antiestablishment, as all writers are. It was anti-DEC and anti-I.B.M, a harborer of an anti-acronym acrimony that writers, naturally, shared. What’s more, Steve Jobs’s perfectionism made perfect sense to people like me: Of course, he sweated every detail; of course he drove others mad. He was a J. D. Salinger who, weirdly, knew computing

For a lot of us who had read Salinger and thought that everything could be rethought, Apple and Jobs were strangely familiar indeed.

The writing says, “Thanks for being the best boss ever.”

8 thoughts on “Early Apple & Jobs: I sad too

  1. Let’s not forget that Steve Jobs and the Apple that he ran weren’t the best boss for everyone. How about the workers who faced such horrible wages and working conditions making iPods that they committed suicide by jumping off the roof the factory? It would be nice if their deaths had also been commemorated with a fraction of the grief that has accompanied Jobs’s death: http://newsthump.com/2011/10/07/tributes-continue-to-pour-in-for-dead-iphone-factory-worker/

  2. Sorry, I thought that the facts behind this were well-known enough that the satire at the link would be comprehensible to people.

    So, yes, in fact, about 20 workers at factories owned by Foxconn, which manufactures iPads, iPods, and iPhones, have committed suicide rather than continue working. The most infamous incidents occurred in 2009 and 2010; the suicides were frequent enough that one factory literally installed a net on the side of the building to catch people jumping off. This story was the cover of Wired Magazine in March: http://www.wired.com/magazine/2011/02/ff_joelinchina/all/1

    Yet another suicide occurred in May this year: http://www.tuaw.com/2011/05/27/foxconn-worker-from-chengdu-factory-commits-suicide/

    Those are all the depressing facts. Steve Jobs and Apple always refused to take any responsibility for the conditions under which these products were produced. I’m sorry that my previous link confused people, because everyone mourning Jobs really ought to know about this. If you want to do something about it, I suggest supporting the work ofChina Labor Watch: http://www.chinalaborwatch.org/index.html

  3. It is wrong to say that they took no responsibility. All this has been covered in our earlier post on Jobs. Could I note that this post is deliberately about EARLY jobs and EARLY apple?. Let me also suggest that everyone who thinks it is important to point out the problems in China in the last part of his life, which he did try to ameliorate, apples says, should get off the web and stop using computers. We are all guilty here of exploiting the poor, feeding ourselves when so many are starving, etc, etc.

  4. anonfemphil, thank you for directing me to the earlier thread; I had not read all the comments there when I posted (there’s a reason why I posted under the name “occasional lurker”). However, I see nothing in the earlier thread about Jobs or Apple taking responsibility, unless you mean to refer to the fact that it began issuing annual reports claiming that its plants had good practices in 2007. Note that that means the terrible conditions and suicides at Foxconn began after Apple instituted that particular PR practice.

    But look, I understand that you want to memorialize Jobs and I don’t object to that. My post said it would be nice if some small portion of the grief that people expressed for Jobs was also expressed for the less prominent workers who gave their lives to bring you your iPod.

    As for your claim that people who care about improving wages and working conditions in electronics production should “stop using computers,” that’s a total non sequitur. I said very clearly in my post that, if people wanted to do something, they should support China Labor Watch. I never called for a boycott of Apple products, so I don’t see why I’m obliged to stop using them or other computers.

  5. We went to the Dallas Apple store tonight and there was a nice little shrine, with messages from lots of people (several “iSad” messages). The gratitude and sense of loss are simply due to the fact that Jobs made things people use constantly and dearly love. In the same way, people felt gratitude and loss when Michael Jackson died. No objective, all points assessment is involved, just “thank you very much, and sorry to see you go so soon.”

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