Lifetime Apple user Domenico Bettinelli writes on the subject of Steve Jobs’ death.
I’m not going to write a hagiography of Jobs here or canonize him. I’m sure he was flawed and had his failings. But you can’t deny that he’s changed the world as we know it. In the past 30 years, he has completely changed four major industries: computers, telephones, music, and animated movies. And his influence has extended deeply into dozens of others.
While much has been written on the subject of his passing and the effect he had I want to add a Catholic take. The Catholic blogosphere has done fairly well with the pro-life aspect being that Steve Jobs was adopted. Umberto Eco had the famous essay “Mac is Catholic, DOS is Protestant” which I will expand upon. Eco also saw Windows more like “an Anglican-style schism.”
For the majority of my life the world of Apple was not one I paid any attention to much cared about. If anything I was a common Apple-bigot full of inaccurate opinions about Apple computers. I was also an early adopter of MP3s and the first players that came out and went through various makes and models. In addition I started listening to podcast early on and getting those podcasts on my mp3 player was a daily chore. It took some overcoming of bias to take a serious look at the iPod and so in 2005 I bough my first Apple product. Two years later I bought my first Mac.
Now as someone who makes a living writing Windows based software this was a bit like heresy to me. But there were serious reasons I moved into the Apple ecosphere other than just “new and shiny!”.
By all accounts Steve Jobs seems to have been not only a perfectionist, but a visionary in the area of design. In the past these qualities did not always mesh well with what was the state-of-the-art in hardware at the time. Many companies talk about user experience, but Steve Jobs really did seem to see that as an overriding focus.
So what are the Catholic aspects I see? It is Apple’s design philosophy that really drew me in. For one they talk about the philosophy of UI design and create specific guidelines such as the “Human Interface Guidelines.” There is a canonical aspect to how software designers and programmers are to write user interfaces. So often I find that when it comes to form and function one side of the equation is more represented than the other. For the human person aesthetics are not something that is just to be an afterthought. We have lost so much beauty for example when we design churches more like auditoriums than places of worship. The considerations seem to be more to the physical than with having beauty help your spirit rise up in worship. When it comes to hardware and software this is also quite evident. Sure a skin or a gloss might be added to something at the end of production, but it is something grafted on and not a coherent whole of form and function. There is something almost Gnostic about so much design. In Gnosticism the body is evil and the spirit is good and in design Gnosticism the material aspects are all that really matters.
What I discovered with Apple products and the Apple software development community is that they have a very Catholic both/and as a philosophy. Form and function both drive the end product. The attention to detail in their products is at a level I had never seen before. Sure they might constantly tempt us with the latest model, but there is no planned obsolescence built into their products. I never kept a computer longer than the Mac I am typing this on. Yet it still looks as aesthetically pleasing as the day I bought it and has not experienced any of the problems I have had before involving parts going bad or pieces of the case coming off. Apple’s attention to detail is what drove them to add a speaker to the iPod just so you could hear an audio click with you pressed on the classic iPod’s click wheel.
This type of attention to detail is also found on the software side where again how the user interacts with the program is given great importance. As a long-time geek I worked with hundreds of programs with confusing and/or ugly interfaces. Sure the underlying program might have done it’s job quite well, but again as human persons we should expect more than just function as in an atheistic materialist way. Though things have improved in the Windows world as the importance of design has become more prevalent and tools like WPF and Silverlight helping to focus on that.
Apples products are certainly a team effort, but it is quite evident that Steve Jobs set the bar when it came to sweating the details so we don’t have to. His leadership brought a company that was on the verge of bankruptcy to a world leader in consumer electronics it is today. It takes more than leadership to bring this about, it took having a vision and a philosophy and imparting it as a part of the DNA of the company. As Catholics there is much we can learn from this. Are attitudes should always take in account the whole of the human person. Each individual is the intended target of the Gospel and when the world of Catholic art and literature is substandard it is no surprise that so are the results.
There is much talk about how the Catholic faith “baptized” various things and brought them into use within the faith. Apple did not create the first personal computer, mp3 player, GUI, tablet, or phone – yet they took each to a new level. Again as Catholic we need to do the same with all the tools at hand looking for opportunities to spread the Gospel with the highest levels of professionalism.
Link: Good article on Steve Jobs at the National Catholic Register
Steve Jobs embraced the paganism of Buddhism. He was a liberal progressive Democrat. Regardless of his adoption, he was pro-choice (i.e., pro-abortion). he was pro-gay marriage. He refused to let Apple host the Manhattan Declaration’s app on iPad and iPod. Exactly then why I should admire him? Yeah, he invented great material gadgets that people lust over, and some of them I use. Whoopie! He was anything but a Catholic Christian. May God have mercy on his soul. Liberal. Progressive. Democrat!
Any chance of linking to my new blog?
I’d like to offer a few thoughts on the late SJ from the position of devil’s advocate…. First off, I was never a fan of Apple products. I don’t claim allegiance to one brand or another, but I made conscious efforts to avoid jumping on the Apple bandwagon throughout the last decade of insane popularity. This was partly due to the fact that I naturally reject whatever is popular for the sake of popularity. I’ll admit, the products are attractive in appearance and function, but hearing fanboys/fangirls, self-appointed-superiority-snobs and swooning consumers of average ilk was a constant turn-off for me. This may change in the future, yet in the meanwhile, I’m perfectly happy with my 3-yr old, Dell/XP laptop.
I think that part of Steve Jobs’ iconic status and Apple’s brand popularity are due in part to subconscious stimuli that exacerbate vices evident in the modern day culture wars/spiritual warfare. CNN has already reported on studies highlighting the similarity of a persons’ cerebral reactions to Apple stores with those of religious devotees (http://articles.cnn.com/2011-05-19/tech/apple.religion_1_apple-store-apple-employees-brains?_s=PM:TECH). This may or may not be primarily influenced by the pre-existing condition of a person’s affinity towards the brand. But for all other reactions to Apple and its products, consider the inherent indulgence in one’s own self.
“i”Mac…”i”Pod…”i”Pad For unthinking individuals, the labels of these products (and use of them) massage the ego of their owners, thereby reinforcing a “me” mentality for creatures that are already prone to pride. Apple has long touted the fact that their machines allow for your own creativity This seductiveness to glorify the “I/me” is the foundation of the oldest lie in the Book and throughout history. If you remember the groundbreaking Apple “Think Different” ad, it conjures images of a company that will free you from bondage to thinking and living within the constraints of your society. This same rebellion set against an Orwellian story-line is taken one step further in the movie “V for Vendetta” by vilifing faith/the church. (By the way, Steven Greydanus of Decentfilms.com gives a spot-on account of all that is spiritually wrong with this movie.)
I don’t mean to condemn SJobs or call for a banning of Apple products, but I believe that this type of mentality reinforced across generations of individuals has only further burdened those who are (consciously or unconsciously) wrestling with social relativism and concupiscence.
The apple logo has always reminded me of the forbidden fruit. Appleaholics just need one bite and they’re sucked into believing Steve Jobs is a god.
I continue to be amazed at the idle / false god worship.
1. He did not change the pc. Steve Woz did that by actually creating something. Steve couldn’t even build the game Atari asked of him and snookered Woz into doing it for him while he took home the bonus. He then took an open OS, BSD and wrapped it up in DRM and proprietary rules/laws to stop anyone else from using it unless you paid him for both the HW and SW. Steve once even tried to convince a mobo developer to change the layout of the board (for looks) having never done it himself. It failed. What Steve did was make unboxing’s something we should care about. He took ideas from areas outside of the pc industry (unibody construction for ex.) and marketed them. During his famous visit to Xerox he saw three things of which only 1 mattered to him. Why? Because he could market it. Xerox had working a network and OO. Without that we’d have no internet, and OO programming is one of the most important steps programming has taken.
2. I agree on phones, he convinced everyone, that typing on actual keys was bad and that using a touch screen was good. Again brilliant marketing. I remember fanboys admitting to spending almost a month “getting used to it”. He also convinced everyone that you don’t need copy and paste and over the air updates (5yr old tech) are worthless features that need to go away. Oh and that phone you have, is not really yours even though you paid for it, and continue to pay monthly bills. You’re still controlled by itunes.
3.Instead of embracing an open standard, Steve choose ACC so he could lock his customers into a proprietary format. Then he released MP3s wDRM and then he charged you for the freedom to have it removed. BTW, Apple didn’t create the click wheel they bought it. Same with cover flow.
4. Which brings us to movies and Pixar. Once again the real work is done by something other then Apple but when you watch the behind the scenes you only see Devs using Apples. Funny how the rendering farms run linux yet it never gets mentioned by Steve or anyone else.
Steve was a very good marketing person. What Steve did was sell “Cool” and judging from your post, you like cool. And Steve had no problem with lying (ipad presentation showed flash site rendered when ipad doesn’t support flash, there were others), to get you to buy his wears.
To end, I’ve been forced to use istuff and never understood the allure. I prefer systems that allow the user to control the product they paid for. As for the pathetic outpouring of false worship, I really shouldn’t be suprised, be Steve was selling cool.
One of the things I remember about the computer labs in college — you had to wait in line to get on a PC, even when there were rows of empty Macs available. I’m sure there are many interpretations that could be made of that fact…
I’m also a Mac-switcher. I never thought I would. When I was in college, I hated the things. A friend of mine referred to them as “Macintrash,” a name I liked. They forced us to use them in physics class, and I never could get them to work right.
I bought my first iMac in 2006 at CompUSA. I quickly saw how it multitasked better. Then, I realized that I spend a lot less time fixing the thing than I do a Windows machine. That old iMac has never had to have everything reinstalled on it even after 5 years. A Windows machine would never last that long and still be usable. So, to me, Steve Jobs was a mind behind things that simply work.