We Need More Jobs

I have always loved Apple computers. Since turtle graphics on an elementary school Apple IIe, to high school journalism on a Macintosh. Since a physics teacher wowed me with the Newton (an ancestor of the contemporary iPhone). Since a desktop Performa got me through my college years like mom got dad through his.

Out on my own, I turned not from my childhood training and purchased a sleak Powerbook. I later sold it like a fool at a Denny’s in the middle of an ill-fated afternoon. My employer had provided a PC laptop, so I thought the Mac superfluous. Oh, the folly of youth.

A year later, I begged my wife to drive 180 miles for the Cube, a model Apple soon put on ice. Luckily, the episode did not permanently chill our love.

I saved for an iPod and soon downloaded my first iTunes. Hit songs for 99 cents made plenty of sense to me. All the pleasure of organized music, even obscure tracks, with none of the Napster guilt.

The “lamp shade” iMac soon joined our family, not long after our no-less-precious firstborn son. He surfs PBSkids.org on that cool computing creation to this day.

It was on that iMac’s 20-inch flat screen that I first laid eyes on the magic that re-made mobile communication: the iPhone. Against better judgment, I did not quickly buy the mesmerizing touch screen and accompanying $40 monthly data plan.

After a year in the purgatory of a black and white Blackberry, I graduated to the iPhone 3GS. I still feel so bad for only paying $199 for it. I would have mortgaged the house.

You could “ride the river” with that device, as they say in North Dakota. In fact, I did ride the river with it. It now rests in peace on the bottom of the Guadalupe.

I’ve had mac.com and me.com email addresses. I type tonight on a black MacBook. I’ll call tomorrow on an iPhone 4. I own no iPad only because of the rise in diaper prices.

Why all this nerdiness? Why the Apple lovefest? Because the man who invented all this stuff stepped down last week. He was the biological son of an unwed college student; the adopted son of a high school dropout; an historical figure, regardless.

A master of design, he left out that which everyone thought sacred to include that which might become magical. He did away with floppy disk drives, removable batteries, USB ports to make way for more efficient storage, App Stores and user-friendly interfaces. He sacrificed standard for extraordinary.

In other words, he took risks. Some products flopped (hello MobileMe); some were leaked (iPhone 4); all were noticed; most succeeded.

More passion lies in his frail, liver-replaced, pancreatic tumor-surviving body than in most problem-free frames. Unconventional, he loved what he did. But not so much that he shrunk back in fear.

He told Stanford grads in 2005 to drop out of what people expect of you that you do not love in order to drop in on what you do. He dropped out of college and dropped in on calligraphy. (An irony: his biological mother released him to his adoptive parents because they promised to put him through college.)

Oh sure, the sun of modern technology would have risen without Apple, but what a cold morning it would have been.

With every report of unemployment rates and first-time jobless claims, the talk of recovery generally centers on jobs. We need jobs, but we also need more than jobs. We need innovation and imagination. We need passion and dreams.

We need more jobs, yes. But we also need more Jobs, as in Steve Jobs.


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