Steve Jobs: The visionary pirate

Steve Jobs while introducing the iPad in San F...

Image via Wikipedia

Steve Jobs, one of the men who has most influenced the world we live in today, has decided to retire as CEO of Apple Computers.

In the aftermath of this news came a lot of articles and links about the man of which one was to a film that I had never heard of called “The Pirates Of Silicon Valley“. I followed the link and found myself hooked in watching the whole film in ten sections of about 9 minutes each on YouTube.

This film is a drama documentary of the early days of Apple and Microsoft and in particular looks at the two central people in their development namely Steve Jobs of Apple and Bill Gates of Microsoft. Of the two characters portrayed I felt that I got much more into the complex and frankly quite extreme and driven character of Jobs than the somewhat geeky Gates.

I was particularly taken by the way that he saw the development of his products as a revolution (which they were) and was concerned with style as well as substance. His treatment of his employees was absolutely awful at times and he seemed to make an art form out of being some kind of commercial Stalin who was worshipped in great meetings as some sort of demigod.

He did though have an immense vision of what he wanted to produce and was the consummate salesman of the products. All of this is somewhat strange when you realise that he same from a very San Francisco “flower power” “hippy” student background (there is an interesting and well shot sequence in the film where Jobs is high on some drug and is imagining himself conducting an orchestra in a beautiful field somewhere), a culture that had turned its back on the material things of life.

I think the turning point in the film is where Jobs shaves his beard and then dons his suit and becomes a part of the corporate norm that his past culture had  rebelled against. He did though take many of the ideas about beauty and art into his thinking as a corporate megastar and this can be seen in the design of the Apple products… the iPad doesn’t just do good things .. it feels good and is Jobs’ idea of a work of art.

So, as the day has come when this driven, complex man steps down as CEO of the company that he created, led, which fired him only to take him back and go onto greater glories, what  does this tell those of us in education?

Jobs, although a harsh individual and an unpleasant one a lot of the time, had the kind of skills that we talk about that the student of today will need in order to succeed in the future. He had vision, he was creative, an innovator and  a problem solver. There is a lot that today’s students can learn from Mr Jobs. I only hope that they can also learn humility, concern for fellow human beings and to beware the dangers of the cult of personality.

I never met Steve Jobs and am probably pleased about that, but like so many people out there, I do admire him and am appreciative for the innovations that he pioneered (and sometimes pirated). I know that he has well publicised health problems at the moment and wish him well for the future.

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