Thursday, October 6, 2011

Of greatness and the iPad

Steve Jobs, the chairman and former CEO of Apple Inc. is dead. He passed away yesterday. He was fifty six, and had been suffering from terminal pancreatic cancer.

Today, people are mourning worldwide over his untimely death. Many people (teenagers like me, and people of my parents’ age as well) who were not even sure about who Steve Jobs was till yesterday are talking about how much they loved him, and what a ‘great’ man he was, and how he had ‘changed the world forever’ with his contributions.

Let us see, Steve Jobs commercialized the PC, was the creator of the first computer animated movie (Toy Story), of the iPod, the iPhone, the iPad,  and other such gadgets. These were his ‘world-changing contributions’. These are the works that would make people remember him ‘forever’. The entire world is in tears today at his death. One of the greatest men of the 20th-21st century has left us yesterday.

With all due respect to Mr. Jobs, I really cannot see what made him the ‘great’ man that people all over the world are mourning today. Okay, he invented the iPod, the iPhone, computer animated movies. So what? Is it really animated movies that define the cinema industry? I think not. Is living really impossible without an iPod or a smart phone? Look around you, and you will get the answer. So what exactly is this hype about?

iPods and smart phones are essentially playthings. They are not life saving gadgets, they do not contribute substantially to one’s character building process, they do not give us happiness in the true sense of the word (a century ago no one had heard about an iPod or a cell phone, and I am sure that people of the time did not all die of either boredom or sadness without them). So what do these gadgets really do? They are most used by halfwit teenagers who are biologically incapable of doing anything of a much higher intellectual level than pressing buttons. But just because these gadgets offer such people something to do in their idle hours, can these gadgets be tagged as ‘world changing’?

Okay, let me try and imagine a world that has not heard of computer animation and smart phones and iPads. What would it be like? Animation would still be there. Only the process would be more strenuous and require more direct human effort, that is, someone would have to draw the scenes with one’s own hands. Without Apple Inc to make iPads and iPods, many overworked and under-loved fathers would be saved from their children’s constant pestering to buy them the latest gadget that Apple has launched. With no iPods, fewer people would die on the roads and the railway tracks from having been too preoccupied with the music from their headphones to have heard the honking of the cars and the trains. Young adults who have just started earning a living would be less prone to spending the greater part of their income on the latest version of the iPad instead of on pressing family needs. Teenagers who think the world of themselves would feel slightly less compulsion to display how ‘cool’ and ‘in’ they are by flaunting their latest Apple gadgets. Students would employ their time better studying and waste a little less time playing on their smart phones with their numerous ‘apps’. In a nutshell, slightly less time and money would be wasted in everyone’s life. Of course, my generation has an inborn talent for finding out things that are completely worthless, but that can be used for ‘time-pass’, so there would have been other ingeniously devised gadgets that help you to waste time. But we can still hope that without so many of these ‘i-’ gadgets, we might have found some more people engaged in doing more useful things. Sports, dance, music, painting and reading, for instance...

I have an Apple iPod myself, presented to me a couple of years ago, but I can also say that owning it has not made any significant difference in my life. The cell phone I own also has many modern ‘apps’ and I use hardly one or two of them, but I get on very well indeed without utilizing all the ‘smartness’ of this ‘smart’ phone. Before I owned the iPod or the cell phone, I listened to music all right. I had the old Sony Walkman, and the older music player, and the sound they produced was good enough for me. Someone on Facebook seems to have said ‘we are what we are’ because of Steve Jobs. Now I have nothing against Mr. Jobs, but in no way can I say that either he or the gadgets he invented have contributed even 0.00001% in making me what I am today, or indeed, what my iPod-owning friends are today.

As for his being called a ‘great man’, I wonder. Even when I was much littler than I am now, I have heard much talk about great people in my family. My parents do not agree over everything, but when it comes to calling a person ‘great’, I cannot remember having ever seen them with different opinions. Afterwards, since I started developing my own mind, and started looking at the world with my own eyes, I drew my own conclusions. When I think of great people, names like Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, Chanakya and Albus Dumbledore come to my mind. But then, I must remember that I live in a world where everything and everyone can become ‘great’. Michael Jackson was voted the greatest entertainer of all time, and Princess Diana was voted the greatest British personality over Shakespeare, Isaac Newton and Winston Churchill. Ah well…  

P.S. 24th October: I was sent this link by an anonymous commentator. I would appreciate it if people tell me their views on this article. I do not want to add any comment of my own here right now. And if Mr./Ms Anonymous is reading this, I'm sure you have a pleasant enough name, so you might as well use it while commenting on my blog. Otherwise, I will not publish your comments. Sorry!