Monday, February 08, 2016

The Legend of Steven Jobs

We have two Jobs: One, the magical creator of iPhone, and even more, of the whole iGeneration, whose life story is one of a visionary, one that stayed steadfast through various failures and ultimately prevailed. The other is, of course, much more human, with all the failings, tempers and tantrums, who refused to accept parenthood of his own daughter and made life miserable for his colleagues at Apple so much that he managed to get fired from his own company. This latter story makes him no less visionary, but just a bit less perfect! The perfect millennium man, the first story eventually overshadowed the second story at the turn of the century, as the second coming of Jobs - his very successful return to Apple and making it the most valuable company in the world - played out, helped no less by his Cancer survival and finally, death.

One can say I was watching Steve Jobs, a very good movie with Michael Fassbender as the lead. I am slightly weary of hero worship, and therefore, would usually avoid such movies, particularly because, I believe, that we have not had sufficient time, belonging to a generation shaped by Mr Jobs' action, to be objective about him. The previous attempts at biopics, even with all the dramatic material, came up short, primarily because the legend of Steven Jobs was far too ubiquitous to leave any opportunity for any new story to be told.

The current attempt, in contrast, goes further. It revolves around the second Jobs, the human one, centering itself to very human failings of the hero. It brings in the hate figures of the Jobs legend, John Scully, who had become the dumb-witted villain in the tale of Jobs. It restores Steve Wozniak in all his affability: That the Creator of Apple computers gets restored from his usual place - a footnote - makes the movie remarkable.

For me, however, it is not the story it tells, but the one it hints. I am not sure anyone seeing the movie would agree with me, but it is worth blurting out: I thought the movie hints the transformation of Jobs from one who did not listen to one who finally did. And, this is not just about recognising his daughter or being truthful about Scully or Wozniak. Jobs, in his second coming, started listening to the customers. He did abandon some of his earlier positions - the Macbook that I am using to write this has Intel chips and runs Microsoft office - and became more flexible. And, by combining his ability to listen, alongside his great genius of fusing Form and Function, he eventually became what he is.

Regardless of what has been told, Steve Jobs may end up having a mixed legacy in the long term. He may have done, partly through his work and partly through his legend, more than most people to turn computers into a consumer device, but, with time, we may also discover that he, along with Bill Gates and a few others, also closed down the Open Computing, built walls around the Internet, created a money machine that would eventually kill the golden goose of ideas. But, we are too close to pass such judgement - right now, too blinded by the brightness of genius! However, figuring this out would need a revaluation of the Second Coming of Steve Jobs - less of the humiliation and more of the humility that eventually floated his boat!

 


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