Steve Jobs as a rebel or revolutionary

Steve Jobs has been instrumental in the evolution of the computer as we know it today.  Steve Jobs co-founded Apple computer and marketed the first graphical user interface for computers.  This easy to use operating system finally made computers user-friendly and created new applications for the computer.

Philosopher and sociologist, Erich Fromm, provides a good definition of a rebel and a revolutionary.  He classifies a rebel as a person who disobeys authority without having the choice to obey, saying, “if he can only disobey and not obey, he is a rebel” (Fromm 379).   On the other hand, a revolutionary is a person who acts for conviction or purpose.  Revolutionaries are the source of change in the situations they conflict with.

Steve Jobs is a revolutionary in the computer industry for this reason: instead of accepting the widespread perceptions of computers, he worked toward his vision of the ideal computer and thus changed the role of the computer forever.

In the 1980s, computers were viewed as business tools with little need for graphics or a pretty container.  The IBM computer and various IBM clones were sold with crude software containing unfriendly plain text and hard to use keyboard commands.  Deutschman, a business and technology writer, described how Microsoft was working on its new Windows software, but the software was in such bad shape that very few people wanted to use it (133).  Software users liked using the archaic software because it forced others to depend on them for their valuable skills.  These users were characterized as “technical wizards-engineers, scientists-who liked the fact that they had to speak in tongues to get things to work the way they wanted” (Deutschman 155).  Computers were housed in plain gray metal boxes that were designed for functional purposes only.  The computer market would not accept Steve’s dream of an aesthetically pleasing, multi-purpose, easy to use, yet powerful computer.  Steve’s revolutionary ideas were unwanted, but Steve would not give up.

Steve Jobs showed remarkable innovation through his continued development of the Apple computer.  Steve’s first child, the Apple I, released in 1976, was a unique invention.  With Apple, I’s built-in monitor support and the ability to load programs from external drives, Steve changed people’s perception of the computer from a noisy mainframe behemoth to a small and useful tool.  One year later, Apple released the Apple II.   The Apple II was coupled with a color monitor while still retaining the compact design of the Apple I.  Lee Angelelli, writer of “Professionalism in Computing,” claims that the Apple II was the best buy for both home and business use over the next five years (2).  In those five years, over 16,000 programs were created for this computer marvel.  Steve had finally made a name for himself in the computer industry.  After the success of the Apple II, Steve started work on the Macintosh.  The Macintosh design was new and different from that of IBM and also totally incompatible. This revolutionary decision would either start a new trend or make the Macintosh the black sheep of the computer industry.  Steve was willing to take the risk.  Apple’s executives, however, held onto the stagnant, traditional perceptions of the computer and were extremely conservative.  They saw Steve’s vision and his entrepreneurial spirit as a liability.

In 1985, after high expectations, sales at Apple dropped dramatically.  Wall Street blamed Steve for the failure, and Apple removed him from his position as CEO.  Steve left Apple with $100 million in Apple stock and a tarnished reputation.  Worst of all, he felt that his dream had been shattered.

Steve Jobs started his own computer company, which he termed NeXT.  Steve privately funded the company and administered complete control.   Design was started on the NeXT Cube.  Steve was able to work toward his dream again.  Progress was slow because Steve demanded perfection in every part.  Steve’s perfectionism consumed him as he “obsessed with minute details that no one else in the computer business was even slightly concerned about” (Deutschman 79).  When he finally completed the NeXT Cube, the price was several times higher than Apple and IBM machines.  Steve missed the mark.  Steve’s strategy was like “selling Porsches when all they needed and all they could afford were Honda Civics” (Deutschman 129).  Steve believed that the computer should perform well on the inside and look good on the outside.  His NeXT Cube was sleek and sporty in design and early for its time.

Steve Jobs does not fit Fromm’s description of a rebel.  According to Fromm, a rebel does not have the choice to conform.  Steve Jobs chose to make a radically different computer.  Commenting on this choice, Steve said “We have thought about this very hard, and it would be easy for us to come out with an IBM look-alike product, and put the Apple logo on it, and sell a lot of Apples.  Our earning per share would go up, and our stockholders would be happy” (Morrison 86).  Steve’s motivation, as well as his choice of action, classifies him as a revolutionary.  Fromm contends that revolutionary acts with conviction and purpose.  Steve’s purpose is to create the most stylish, powerful, and user-friendly computer and his conviction is that everyone deserves to with an easy to use a computer.  This revolutionary computer guideline will make users more productive and open new avenues of self-expression.  Lee Angelelli observes, “Steve Jobs’s innovative idea of a personal computer led him to revolutionize the computer hardware and software industry” (3).  Steve’s belief of how the computer should be has been inciting more people to use computers and is making us increasingly productive. This is probably why computer hardware has improved so much in recent years. There are many different designs when it comes to computers and people will always want what is best for them. You will probably find that your work environment will strongly affect the computer that you get. If you have a job that means you have a harsh working environment then you should check out someone like CKS Holdings Limited because if you just got a plain computer then it might not work as well.

Steve’s dream was recognized in the late 90s when Apple asked him to return.  Steve took back his old position as CEO in January of 2000.  He has continued to create stylish computers that look great and pack a punch.  This time around, after Apple released the colorful new iMacs, competition like e-machines and Compaq rushed to create similar cases.  With Steve’s new products attracting demand “Jobs turned to what he does best, which is to tantalize consumers with visions of just how magical a computer can still be” (Schlender 128).  Steve competed with the computer industry and won.  He has changed our view of computers, become a modern trendsetter, and led a computer revolution.

For more information:

Angelelli, Lee. Steve Paul Jobs. 1994 .

Deutschman, Alan. The Second Coming of Steve Jobs. New York: Broadway Books, 2000.

Fromm, Erich. “Disobedience as a Psychological and Moral Problem.” Writing and Reading Across the Curriculum. Ed. Lynn M.Huddon. New York: Addison Wesley Longman, Inc., 2000. 377-381.

Morrison, Ann, M. “Apple Bites Back.” Fortune Dec. 1984: 86-100

Schlender, Brent. ”The Graying Prince of a Shrinking Kingdom.” Fortune May. 2001: 118-131.

About The Author

Eric Vanderburg

Eric Vanderburg is an author, thought leader, and consultant. He serves as the Vice President of Cybersecurity at TCDI and Vice Chairman of the board at TechMin. He is best known for his insight on cybersecurity, privacy, data protection, and storage. Eric is a continual learner who has earned over 40 technology and security certifications. He has a strong desire to share technology insights with the community. Eric is the author of several books and he frequently writes articles for magazines, journals, and other publications.

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