Oct 7, 2011

Jobs' Demise Bares the Digital Divide

Steve Jobs is no more. 56 is definitely not the age to head heavenwards, but even the supposed 'Greatest Inventor' since Thomas Edison, could not really persuade God to listen to some more music on iPod before descending down on earth to take him away. Technology, after all, can not alter the inevitable.

The global mourning over the death of Apple co-founder has highlighted some very interesting facts. The event has divided the global population in three distinct chunks or bites (we may say so with reference to 'Apple'). The much talked about Digital Divide was on full display yesterday as the news of Steve's death trickled across various media.

One, most aggrieved people are those who are the beneficiaries of Jobs' revolutionary vision on technology. They belong to the 'elite' class, the tech-obsessed generation, the ones who sleep with their iPods on. Two, close on the heels of this section is an even larger pool of people, which aspires to make it to the first category. They are quintessential 'middle-class' with their eyes set on the 'elite'. This section might not have used any Apple product till date or may not know much about Jobs but would behave as if his death is their personal loss. These people would wail and whine, mostly online, pay glowing tributes to the erstwhile Apple CEO, using creative expressions such as iMiss and iSad. Before you, as a reader make any wrong impression about me and think I am belittling Jobs' contribution or making fun of people who paid tribute to him, let me make two things clear. I, myself, belong to the second category and I have greatest respect for the man who was the best CEO of our times, to put it in the best possible way.

Lets talk about the third category of people now. This is the largest chunk of human civilization that knows only one apple and that is red in color (sometimes green). They do not know who Steve Jobs is, they do not have access to the internet, they do not know whats 'trending'. As netizens churned out one creative status updates and tweets after the other, this section was busy in its own world. After all, most celebrations, mourning, revolutions and war are, now a days, formulated and fought online. The 'elite' takes up the subject, the 'middle class' cashes on it and the media generalizes it as thumb rule or 'pulse' of the nation. Take up today's leading Hindi and English Dailies, the glaring Digital Divide, that the genius Jobs so wanted to bridge, would stare you in face. A TOI would dedicate two full pages to Jobs' death other than the front page, a 'Nayi Duniya' would sum up Jobs in a box.

Yes, Jobs was a great entrepreneur, an unparalleled CEO and an extremely talented technocrat. But saying that he was the greatest inventor since Edison, is taking things too far. All that Jobs invented in his lifetime was a touch-enabled music pad, a phone and a tab. All these three Apple products are more of innovations than inventions. Do we pay similar tributes to those who invented phones or music systems for that matter? Do we know who invented the Walkman? Apple, after all, is a billion-dollar firm that makes consumer products. iPod, iPad and iPhones are consumer products, may be better than their contemporaries, but certainly do not qualify as inventions that revolutionized the world. Having a thousand songs in your pocket is cool but nothing changes if you have say just 80 songs! Apple makes luxury products, products that make our lives easier. But, these products do not change our lives. It's understandable when Obama pays tribute to his nation's leading innovator or Zuckerberg and Gates say good things about their rival, but that online frenzy over Jobs' death is, well, a little baffling.

Steve Jobs was a visionary, a hard taskmaster and an able CEO. With a life & career full of ingredients of a Hollywood Potboiler, Jobs was and will be part of the popular culture. His ultimate goal was to bridge that huge Digital Divide in which he succeeded to an extent. But he is no way near the Edisons and the Newtons. Bulb and gravity are far more deeply embedded in our lives than Apple products. 

Kudos Steve for making a difference, taking that first step. Hopefully, one day our sorrows and joys would not be divided. The world would be unanimous in identifying and hailing the genius.



  1. Ignore grammar and spelling mistakes in the above comment, if any. Jaldi jaldi me likha :P

  2. Ok, I will..:P But where is the comment :O?

  3. Superficial. Lacking Facts. :(
    Sorry Ashish, but all through this article, I could see that you were out of your comfort zone. You started well but you kept running back to your forte (mentioning newspaper articles and online posts). I totally back your that portion of Digital divide (except for the fact that I don't believe Jobs ever wanted to bridge that divide. He was the one making the most of that divide). All I can say is it is well written but the matter is not there. You seem stuck with iPods and iPads and iPhones. You deifinitely belong to the 2nd category (:P). Come on man, where the hell did u mention Macintosh? Macbooks? iMacs? They are the things that have made Apple. I agree he is not the greatest inventor (i doubt that he even invented or co-invented anything except Macintosh). Half of the technologies were borrowed or stolen and then worked on to make it better. I would rather call him a visionary, an entrepreneur and a shrewd businessman. I guess we should have had a discussion in this regards before you wrote this. Itna lamba comment nahi karna padta. :P :D

  4. In short, I feel that you had plenty to write about and with your writing abilities, you could have made it such an enlightening plus entertaining read. But in ur hurry to strike while the rod is hot, you didn't put enough research in it. I would love to read your article even about Harappa Civilization. So take your time. :)

  5. Mera comment gaya kaha? :O I have to type everything again! :|

  6. Okay, so I admire you for putting all your thoughts which are not in sync with most of the people out there.

    When you say Steve Jobs was not an inventor and just an innovator, I completely disagree. Yes, Walkman was actually a revolution a dream gadget for many when it was released, but creating a gadget as small as a pebble which can store 10000 times more songs than a walkman can play is something out of the box. Sure, he derived the idea from walkman, but then if you take it this way, walkman was also not an invention and was derived from Tape Recorder.

    Again, when there was a time when Nokia 3310 and 6600 were famous among middle and elite classes respectively, Jobs came up with iPhone when the idea of touch screens only existed in Speilberg's movies. If you don't call that invention, then mobile phone will also be called innovation.

    Et cetera. Et cetera.

    There can be an endless discussion on this, but I gave my opinion.

    I admit, I feel amazed by the way you have given your views so confidently and convincingly, but I only liked the way you wrote, not your views.

    PS: Out of the blue is and will always be one of the best blogs in India.

  7. @ Shantanu: Wow, My Job(s) is done ;) Few things:

    I knew most of the readers would not like the post. Specially people like you, who have considerable interest in gadgets. (no excuse)

    i know lil about gadgets, so i have not tried to pretend. The post never intended to explore Apple or what all things Jobs invented.

    When you say Jobs stole half of the technologies, i say cant comment..i never ventured into that zone..visionary, shrewd businessman thing i have repeated in almost all paras..

    I agree macintosh should have been mentioned. But would not built my argument over it anyway. Just a comma before ipad and the word macintiosh thats it..coz the whole premise of the post does not talk of apple products as such..

    It can be a long discussion..My idea was bring out the contrast in responses to Jobs' death..(thats why going back to TOI and FB was required)..and bust the myth that Jobs was the greatest inventor since Edison..I had a problem with this statement..

    and yes, the post was definitely meant to cash on the current mood..this event had news value..could not afford stale post..:) and hugs for the last line. thanks for making the post lively. It was meant to grab eye balls and pleaded some brickbats ;)

  8. @Lebnox: I have now two comments of yours in my mail box..I find the first one (which somehow did not appear here, more appreciative);)..

    anyways..First thing, please dont say again what you said through the last line..its embarrassing and way too flattering :P *blush*

    I agree with your walkman and taperecorder comment..I tried to say the same thing..didnt I? Innovation aint invention..U remember Jobs, do u remember the Walkman guy..

    and your line 'I admit, I feel amazed by the way you have given your views so confidently and convincingly, but I only liked the way you wrote, not your views.' does the trick for me. Thanks ;) I never expected anyone to completely agree with everything I said here..Not even Gurman :P..Thanks for reading :))

  9. Yes. But the inventor or innovator has not died recently, the inventor of iPod and Iphone has. So people are lamenting over his death. Makes sense.

    I bet you don't know the name of the person who invented TV, but the day the guy who has created LCD, LED etc etc dies, people will mourn over his loss and not on the inventor of TV.

    People appreciate revolution more than any invention. Why only Edison is remembered for inventing bulb and not anyone else for invention CFLs? Because bulb was first of it's kind.

    The same way, Steve Jobs made everything possible which we all could only dream. He certainly did not bring anything new but he made us believe there are no limits and nothing is impossible.

    'You dream of touch screen, I will give it you. You dream of lots of songs, I will give it to you.' was his motto. So now people are innovating his ideas by copying or innovating his technologies in touch screens, music players and laptops but still are far behind him. So in a way he did bring a revolution.

    So in future too, people will not lament the way are doing now, on the death of any different CEO as Steve Jobs was the first.

    He has made himself immortal.

  10. Correction, *Inventor and Innovator of walkman.

    And also it is the effect of generalization. Jo abhi mara hai log usi ke baare me baat karenge.

  11. @Lebnox: hmm..Good points :)I have no issues with lamenting Jobs' death. The question is how much can you lament? When he is compared with Edison and NEwton, I have a problem..and the two examples u gave, contradict each other..TV-Led and Bulb-CFL..I believe Jobs is a genius, partly his own, partly a virtual creation..The creation by his loyal consumers and..their followers :)

    and let me assure u, he may be the first CEO, whose death is being lamented..but trust me..there are many more to come..god forbid, not any tym soon..i am sure u know who all i am talking about..the problem is we, the netizens, have this great Great GREAAT ability to create icons..of our choice, of our type and as per our comfort :)

  12. :) Finally I was able to make myself clear! :P Sigh.

    And yes, you may be right in your own way and I am right in my own.! :)

  13. @Ashish Anant: If you had problem with the statement, first you shoud have known what all did Steve Jobs invented(or rather co-invented). It started with one of the 1st computers then came his own operating system for his computers(which was a first). Then he went ahead and used Xerox' research to develop a MOUSE and an OS which suited its operation(which was again a first). Wahan se Apple shuru hua tha... aur aaj iske jitne chhote chhote inventions hain which comes as 'just another feature', they are innumerable. But of course, Apple created all that not Steve Jobs.

    So my point is: Call him all you want. I may agree with you or I may not. But I am just an individual. Your part is to provide proper facts in support of your argument which may enable even a lay man to decide and pick a side. That's what makes a good article.


  14. Secondly, Your point about the Divide. All I would say is Steve Jobs named his company after the Forbidden Fruit, made sure that people feels that way about his products and then go ahead and risk everything just to have a bite of it.

    That's what made the divide and he banked on it. :) Smart He Was. Respect. ♥ ♥

  15. @Shantanu: Call him what you want to? I will not call him names. Coz I too respect the man! The article was not Anti-Steve or JOurney of Apple or Ten great inventions of the Great Steve..and I guess, you are getting too much into the technical part of his 'inventions'..the mouse, the OS..I told you macintosh was a miss, i can still put it there along with a comma..but it does not change the argument..each one his one :)

    and as per facts, I did not give facts coz i dont know them! Why should I give the facts, one can find them at n places..my idea was to give some fodder for thought..specially to the 2nd category people, the first ones will stick to their base anyway..;) I knw the post did not meet your expectations..Will try next time..and interpretations of logo can be varied..so lets not gt into it :)

  16. okk ... post se jayda comments main mazaa aa raha hai ... shahi... bhai tu genius .. i accept it :) ...btw ashish thnks for not putting any technical stuff .. ur observation made the post worth reading ... appla of steve ke baare main information hoti toh boring ho jaata ... btw even i belong to 2nd category ppl :P

  17. I second with Anubha! Comments are more interesting than the post itself :-p
    I liked the post in a way it has been written. I agree with Ashish's argument that this post was not for the technical part or the products of apple. But somehow I still feel (for the first time) that few more things could be added and it could have done wonders!
    I always appreciate your writing and this tym is not an exception again :-)

    keep writing....keep blogging :-)

  18. Hey thanks Mansi..:) I understand what u trying to say..Will keep in mind..Thanks for reading :D