Steve Jobs the movie: A port in a (snow)storm

Did you really think about bread and toilet paper when contemplating the latest snowstorm? Or course not. You made sure all your devices were charged in case the power went out. I spent a few hours interacting with Apple products, and at last, watched the “Steve Jobs” movie. Jobs, is after all, one of the people who helped make battery powered devices something of an obsession.

Events like snowstorms drive the connected people to stay...

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Did you really think about bread and toilet paper when contemplating the latest snowstorm? Or course not. You made sure all your devices were charged in case the power went out. I spent a few hours interacting with Apple products, and at last, watched the “Steve Jobs” movie. Jobs, is after all, one of the people who helped make battery powered devices something of an obsession.

Events like snowstorms drive the connected people to stay connected. We share a snowblower with two other neighbors. Since nobody ever answers a landline phone any more, snowblowing duties are worked  out by text message. People spring out of their chairs or reach out from under the covers when text messages come in. So worse than losing the stove is losing the use of battery-operated devices.

In my household of two people, we had a total of five devices charging all Friday afternoon, expecting the typical fail from Pepco. Two iPhones, two Verizon hotspots and a MacBook. Thanks to lower-than-expected winds, our ‘lectric kept going, meaning we could watch a stack of DVDs of the Screen Actors Guild aware nominees. That’s a yearly benefit of being a voting member of the SAG-AFTRA union. I’d neglected to charge to two PC notebooks in the house that have DVD drives.

My wife and I took the opportunity to watch “Steve Jobs,” the more recent one where the Big Apple himself was played by Michael Fassbender, his alter-ego assistant by Kate Winslet. I was lukewarm about whether to watch the movie. In a film like this, it’s hard to know fact from fantasy. The movie seemed like a play suggested by the life of Jobs — that is, almost all fiction but depicting it with real people. I could easily envision it taking place on a stage. I don’t think this movie was a big hit.

Although I buy Apple products, I never did have much personal interest in  Jobs. The great CEOs of American history make up a ceaselessly fascinating bunch — Henry Ford (and his grandson), Juan Trippe, Roberto Goizueta, Jack Welch, Larry Ellison — they all make great reading. Movies, though, not so much. Jobs’ official biography I put down after a while because it was boring. The right book will come along. I wish the late David Halberstam was around to write it.

Apple makes nice-looking hardware with above-average software, but they’re computers, and all computers have their frustration-producing quirks. I’d never really thought about Jobs much until the short-lived frenzy after he died.

But the movie did seem to get certain technological details right (although it depicted the original Macintosh as a failure, when in fact it was the Lisa that failed to catch on). For instance, Jobs insisted on only a few ports. My current MacBook has exactly one port, not counting the headphone jack. It’s a little tiny slot incompatible with anything except its own charger. Strangely, I’ve so far not felt the need for any more ports. The advent of cloud software and storage, streaming media and fast home WiFi have rendered ports generally obsolete, for portable computers anyhow.

Jobs didn’t care for styli, one reason he disliked the Apple Newton project. Styli are sort of a klugy annoyance. In the peak years of Palm and Treo devices, styli were big business. You had to buy three-packs of replacement styli because they were always getting lost. Jobs is said to have also disliked buttons, thus the pioneering of the all-software keyboard for the anti-Blackberry iPhone.

It’s also true that Jobs valued the physical appearance and what car people call the fit ‘n’ finish of products. But that came to fruit only later in Jobs’ career and life. Ever see an Apple II or worse, Apple III ? One was a best seller, one a dog, but neither broke from the beige molded plastic dreariness of the first two decades of computers. The early, steel-encased IBM PCs were more functionally handsome, in the same way a Komatsu bulldozer is good-looking.

The movie also got right that Jobs came to not want people opening up their machines and hacking them. When I get rid of a PC, I always the take the hard drive out and drill through it a couple of times with a quarter-inch bit. I’ve never encountered a PC from which I couldn’t remove the drive as though I was about to replace it. When my iMac G4 eventually croaked, I had a devil of a time removing what, clearly, Apple never wanted anyone to get near.

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