Incessant Ramblings

"We're born, we live for a brief instant, and we die. It's been happening for a long time. Technology is not changing it much - if at all... The world is getting worse... The Web reminds me of the PC industry. No one really knows anything. All the experts have been wrong."
Steve Jobs, Wired Magazine 4.02.

I had prepared a somewhat amorphous article for my column this month on what life might be like in ten years, but on Friday I picked up the latest issue of Wired magazine when I went to Business Depot to get a new mouse-pad, and turned my head to find "Steve Jobs - The Next Insanely Great Thing!" plastered on the cover, "The Wired Interview by Gary Wolf." This prompted me to make an about-face and rewrite my column in its entirety only two days before the deadline. That's why this article may seem a little erratic. Trust me, your frustration with my poor grammar shouldn't last too long ;-)

Above are comments made by Steve Jobs from that recent interview by Gary Wolf, comments from a man who used to seem elated at the thought of the myriad of possibilities that could be realised as technological innovation continued, and now a man who has adopted a more pessimistic view on technology and the world, and one who seems to have abandoned his ideals entirely. For in his interview, Jobs feels that "no amount of technology will make a dent," which is a shocking statement coming from the individual who only fifteen years ago, when his Macintosh computer was first unveiled, was almost certain it would successfully put a "dent in the universe." That was what he had thought, and yet I think he was probably still right.

If it weren't for the Macintosh Finder and operating system, graphical-user-interface systems would not be at the advanced level they are running at today (true, Microsoft Windows and Bob might not be round to bug us ;-). That was his first "Insanely Great thing."

In Mr. Wolf's interview with the co-founder of Apple Computer, and now CEO of NeXT Systems, Jobs was discussing the future of the World Wide Web (among other things), a topic that I'm sure many of you are interested in, as am I. It seems Steven Jobs has adopted the view that "The desktop computer industry is dead. Innovation has virtually ceased. Microsoft dominates with very little innovation. That's over. Apple lost." It is unfortunate, but I tend to agree with his position. Companies are no longer creating new and better things, they are merely modifying old ideas. Also, when he spoke of the future of the World Wide Web, he felt he was aging terribly, and that "this stuff doesn't change the world. It really doesn't."

As the interviewer clearly noted, of course, this comment of his would surely break some people's hearts. But it's true. Has any of this hoopla about the Internet really had that great an effect on your lives? Can you think of anything else The Web has to offer? The Internet, as much as I love it, is in my humble opinion, merely a cesspool of typically useless information and wasted bandwidth! Perhaps that will change in ten years, but for right now, it's pretty pointless. (You can still visit my homepage at http://www.ccn·cs·dal·ca/~ac507/HOMEPAGE.html, so don't worry about that ;-)

Despite his seemingly abrupt change of heart concerning technology and its purpose in our lives, however, Jobs still stands at the helm of NeXT, although the company may not be fully living up to its potential, having stopped making desktop computers. He is also responsible for Pixar, the computer animation company he bought for US$60 million in 1986, and now the company that just recently produced the Toy Story movie for Disney, though he spoke very little on that subject in this interview.

Jobs, according to the interviewer in Wired Magazine, was more intent on discussing the coming of new technologies to the Web, especially Web objects. However, unlike the message etched in the epic "1984" television commercial of his introducing the Macintosh computer: "Power to the People," Jobs has since decided that, when it comes to the World Wide Web and Web objects, "Give the People what They Want" is the proper route to follow. A sad state of affairs, isn't it?

He says this because it is his opinion that big corporations control the Web now, and they merely give the public what they want, which is where Steve Jobs and NeXT want to be. He also believes that the future of computing lies in networking computer systems, and that individual operating systems will not be as much of a concern. This, I also feel, is true. But does that really mean Big Business has to be responsible for everything?

Hopefully Jobs is right that, if we are indeed to soon enter the dark-ages of the computer industry, that at least in ten years, when Microsoft is gone (you read that correctly - say it with me now: Microsoft will be g-o-n-e!) a few new companies, smaller companies, with a better and clearer vision of the future, will emerge and put the passion back into technological research and computers, and not just be concerned with profit margins. You know what? Those people will be us, the young people of today and future computer developers and users of tomorrow.

Now, before I go any further, I know it may seem as though I have essentially stolen a story idea from my good friends at Wired Magazine, but I assure you that I do have my own bit to say. It just so happens that I greatly respect the irreverent wisdom of Steven Jobs, co-founder of the company responsible for my favourite computer platform (we all know what that is ;-), and that I read this article *just before* finishing the other column I had prepared for this month, and thought that this might prove to be a more interesting and thought-provoking topic. It might also seem as though I am rambling, and you would be right in suggesting that, because I am! (I'm very tired and have a headache, seriously ;-)

To get back to the focus of this article, though, Web objects, as was being discussed in the interview, should be the next biggest thing besides HotJava next year, helping to make commerce on the Internet more profitable and helping to accelerate the emerging digital and "wired" economy.

Web objects allow the easier and quicker development of applications to be used by businesses over the Internet as they try to do more transactions faster on the World Wide Web. In a nutshell, as Steve Jobs puts it, Web objects will allow companies to produce the many new applications needed to do business online at a faster rate, which should, in turn, help the Internet grow even larger and provide a larger wealth of products and information sources to the public further across the globe. Understand? I didn't think so! ;-)

Anyway, I think I've gone on far enough. From all the gobbledigook above, though, you can well see that, for all intense, the Web is pretty much pointless except for maybe boring each other to death (Re: This column! ;-)! Can you honestly say you take very much of what you read on the 'net seriously, even if it is meant to be? If not, then what's the point? I don't know, of course, but it sure is fun!

Thanks for reading! Next month: Online conspiracies. Keep those letters coming too!


Chebucto Connections YOUTH CORNER
is edited by Matthew MacDonald
who is happy to receive Questions, Comments or Suggestions.
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Last Month: January 1996 Next Month: March 1996