Technology genius Steve Jobs lost his life to cancer today at age 56. In surveying how that impacts the world of classic rock music, look at the logo on the computer through which you are seeing this story. Is it a MacBook Pro? Did the phone call you just took come through on an iPhone? Did you get a news alert of Jobs’ passing and read the full story on your iPad? Did you just make a move on “Words with Friends” on your iPod Touch? Yesterday, did you plan to soon back up all your computer data on the iCloud? Did you connect your computer to your printer wirelessly through the Apple AirPort?
A CNN.com report by Brandon Griggs noted that, as a teenager, Steve Jobs called the office of William Hewlett, then president of Hewlett-Packard, “to request parts for a school project. He got them, along with an offer of a summer job at HP.”
Now doesn’t that sound just like Steve Jobs? American industry and ingenuity at its finest? It’s a safe bet that most high school students cannot name the leaders of five foreign countries, but they know who Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg all are. That is the state of our nation at this time. We have elevated electronics and computing geniuses into icon status, part of our pop culture. It really is “Revenge of the Nerds” all over again.
Nerd. Geed. Brianiac. Sparkhead. All four terms that were likely once applied to a young man from Cupertino, California are long since forgotten, tossed out of the back of the car window and onto the information superhighway. Jobs is often identified as a brash creative genius who did things his way.
In the world of classic rock music, Jobs’ best efforts were realized, thanks to hundreds of talented engineers, craftsmen, electronics specialists and marketing masters. The music of bands you loved in the 1960s and 1970s might well have been lost forever on vinyl. Not that long ago, only selected albums guaranteed to sell big would find their way to CD. It was up to the record label to decide what would and would not be reissued in CD format.
That is until iTunes came along and the means of digital media delivery to your personal computer and electronic phone device became a reality. It’s not right to say it’s all “Steve Jobs’ doing” to have all of these creative electronic creature comforts around us 24/7, but he certainly did more than start the ball rolling back in 1976 when he and his cofounding partner, Steve Wozniak, rolled out their very first computer. They’d built it, literally, in Jobs’ parents’ garage.
Shaky people skills likely cost Steve Jobs more than a few friends and respected colleagues, but his creativity certainly did not stop when he was boosted out of the company he helped found. He just started another company, and began competing with his old one with the NeXt Computer, which he launched in the late 1980s. NeXt was not as popular as the software that was its basis. Apple eventually bought NeXt.
And, eventually Jobs wound up at the top of Apple, triumphant once again, heading the firm that next gave the world the iPhone, Macintosh Power Books, the iPod, the iPad and iPad2, and more.
Only six weeks ago did Steve Jobs step down as CEO of Apple, because his battle with cancer would not allow him to continue in an active role. Poignant, also, that yesterday Apple announced the release of its yet-most-powerful iOS5, “the world’s most advanced mobile operating system.” The Apple.com web site noted the new operating system had over 200 new features—and that the iCloud super-cyberdatabase ‘in the sky’ would be available on October 12. No more losses of data anywhere, on any machine plus the ability to sync up your phone, your computer (whether Mac or PC), your iPad, on and on. The new iPhone5 wasn’t rolled out but the all new “most amazing iPhone yet,” the Iphone 4S was announced yesterday and created one more media frenzy.
In 1968 at Hemisfair, the World’s Fair in San Antonio, Texas, Bell Telephone Company (before it became AT&T) had a display featuring two 12” x 12” TV screens and Princess-type speaker telephone handsets. You and a friend could sit across a paneled divider and each see one another on the screen before you. The sign on display said, “One day, in the future…the video phone”
It’s thanks in large measure to the brash, bright mind of Steve Jobs that a collection of researchers, workers, and marketers assembled so that you can hold a device in your hand that weighs about 5 oz. and measures 2” x 4,” and you can talk to a friend thousands of miles away using the iPhone “Face Time” feature. With the new iPhone 4S, you can make a full 1080 pixel high-definition video recording of precious moments in time.
In the world of classic rock music, a typical iPhone and iPod will likely contain at least 400-500 different songs, all downloaded through iTunes. Any song from your childhood can have all-new life on your phone; you can take it with you, plug it into a USB port in your car and hear your tunes through your car’s stereo system.
In November, 2010, more history was made when the sale of The Beatles song catalog was made available for the first time on iTunes. Billboard magazine reported that more than 450,000 Beatles albums and 2,000,000 individual Beatles songs were sold on iTunes in the very first week they were offered for sale.
Even more poignant is that The Beatles were tired of being at the mercy of accountants and attorneys in suits when they struck out and created their very own record label, announced at a press conference in May, 1968 in New York City. Their label? Why, Apple Records, of course.
Coincidence or not, the world of invention begins with a disenchantment with the status quo, a disregard for convention, and an internal drive that refuses to bend or acquiesce when calmer heads all around them were telling them “that’s not how you do things here.”
Firebrands, mavericks, ahead of their time, nonconformists, groundbreaking, and not always popular with the American masses. Such descriptors apply to both The Beatles and to Steve Jobs, who were unquestionably, equally, ahead of their time in so many ways.
It’s like, one can say, comparing apples to apples. Rest in peace, Steve Jobs, and thank you. We love you, yeah, yeah, yeah.