RIP Apple boss Steve Jobs – the 21st century pop culture equivalent of the Beatles

Steve Jobs finally succumbed to cancer.

In this decade he changed pop culture in a way that no band could. Apple were the Beatles of this decade, each release a marker of the years, more culturally important than the music.

Here’s a blog I wrote last year about the iPad…

John Robb uses his iPad
Steve Jobs, the chief of Apple has resigned. Jobs was the man who came up with the innovations at Apple like imac, ipod and the iphone- arguably the key pop culture moments of the last decade, moments that marked the decade like the Beatles singles did in the sixties. His innovations dwarfed pop culture more than any mainstream band of the last decade.

Jobs, who has been suffering from Pancreatic cancer has stepped aside, leaving a big hole at the the heart of Apple.

I once wrote a controversial article about the ipad which the usual anonymous internet comments and forum board types still whine about.

Of course it’s a contradiction to be into punk rock and the ipad (or is it?) but until a punk rock friend of mine can build a mini computer than I can stuff into my bag so I can upkeep my website and my other stuff I’m stuck with the ipad.

In the 1960s the world seemed to hold its breath with excitement when The Beatles brought out a new record. This was the state of the art moment. A communiqué from the gods.

The history of that decade can be learned from studying the Beatles career. When Sgt. Pepper’s”¦ came out it was an event; the ”˜White Album’ was another cultural shift; Abbey Road was the end of the 60s. In these modern times, it’s not like that with U2 or Coldplay. They release stuff millions of people buy but no one else notices.

In the 21st century it’s Apple who are the cultural markers. Their computers hold the same sort of power as The Beatles once did. When a new iPhone comes out everyone has an opinion, iTunes is pretty much the music biz and when they launched the iPad, communication was changed in an instant.

This decade is defined by Apple. You remember where you were when iPhone4 came out in a way that you just don’t when U2 get the whole of the BBC to plug their new and largely ignored album.

Each Apple moment is treasured by the punk-rock techno guerilla, grabbing the latest sleek piece of kit and slavering with excitement as it re-invents its life yet again.

There is always a bit of smirking to be had when punk rock and technology clash. It’s a perennial newspaper favourite: ”˜The Mohican On A Mobile, Ho Ho Ho’! Like the punks were meant to be cowering from the modern when, in fact, it’s always been quite the opposite.

But this swerves the fact that punk rock was and is still forged in the white heat of technology. This was a Xerox culture that, through fanzine culture, was already laying the groundwork for the blog, and through DIY and home grown labels was creating the think space for iTunes. Its restless nature was pushing music forwards.

There is nothing odd about using an iPad. Granted it’s expensive, but once you’ve downloaded all those free books on iBooks you’ve paid yourself back handsomely and it’s a lot easier than carrying them all around.

When you are constantly on the road ”“ rushing round the world like your author ”“ then an iPad is a godsend. No more back-breaking rucksacks stuffed with your Macbook which, after 8 years, is beginning to creak and wheeze like an old dog when it is hauled out onto the road again. The Macbook is perfectly happy to sit at home and let its younger yapping cousin take the strain of being bashed around.

I remember the first time I toured America with The Membranes in the 80s, I took a typewriter with me to keep up with the writing! Seeking out fax machines to send copy was a nightmare but better than back in Manchester, where there was one fax machine four miles from where I lived to send copy to the late and great Sounds.

The iPad is the latest step forward in the man/machine mindmeld. It simplifies my life so I can create instead of seeking out fax machines. Granted, you have to look for hotspots, but there is more of them and maybe one day the whole world will be a hotspot.

The iPad is plugged in. Sit on a train and write features, articles, blogs, reviews, tweak the website, answer email ”“ it’s the modern technological coalface, the 24/7 switched on media war that we are involved in. Fly to New York? Read a couple of books, watch a film and listen to hours of music and you still can’t run the battery down! God knows I tried.

In the 70s it was the laborious writing of letters and trips down to the post office. Does anyone remember how to hand write any more? When you hold a pen these strange lines come out of the end of it that make no sense at all. Quick, get back on the keyboard!

As anyone who has posted anything larger than a postcard knows, the chances of it getting there are not exactly 100 per cent. Anyone else bored of the paying the extra money for insurance to make sure your parcel gets there? Stupid me, I though the cost of the stamps was meant to make sure it got there! How many times has that thirty quid parcel disappeared or turned up three weeks late and you’re meant to be grateful!

Whizzing files around on the internet will kill the post service. Only once a month now do I have to drag my sorry ass down to the post office and try to explain to them that Serbia is in Europe and therefore is not the full price postage, or have to flog down to the sorting office to try and trace lost parcels.

The iPad is part of this process. Music is about communication; punk rock DIY is about being in control of your own creativity and if that means hauling your office around with you then thank fuck for the iPad. Yup, I know Apple is a corporate company and we are meant to be tearing them down but they are so damn seductive and they make stuff that is so useful that maybe, just maybe, they will be spared when the revolution finally comes. They are so sodding funky; they make the sort of stuff that you dream about. Not that I’m an Apple groupie ”“ there’s been times when I’ve swerved their releases because they don’t fit into my world. But the iPad was perfect for this fast-moving, always-creating existence. Plus, when it acts a little weird or starts getting grumpy, the Apple genius’s always do a great job.

Apple make great stuff. Stuff that makes your life easier and is so simple to use ”“ a chimp could use an iPad ”“ and it gets your life together so that you can still run round the world like a crazed, slavering pigdog of the punk rock war but are able to work out just where the fuck you are going tomorrow.

The iPad does this all for you, and on those long journeys you get the chance to re-connect and get organised. And, importantly, your back is not breaking from lugging around a mass of communications.

And in these dying days of newsprint, the iPad is a glimpse into the future, when hand held technology will be the prime source of information. Newspapers will one day be iPads you can crumple up and roll into your pockets, plastic sheets of info you can still roll up and whack someone on the head with them but you will also be able to download or surf the net on them. Bring on the next stage!

Now if only it had Garageband or Logic so you could record music wherever you went. Then, it would be perfect…

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3 comments on “RIP Apple boss Steve Jobs – the 21st century pop culture equivalent of the Beatles”

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  1. http://opensource.com/life/10/4/five-open-source-alternatives-ipad If you read up a bit on Open Source & Linux etc, you will see that it is more closer to the spirit of DIY/Punk Rock etc, also anyone can submit apps to the Android app store unlike the sanitised Apple store where everything has to be Apple approved. The problem is some people think choosing Apple over Micro$oft is hitting back at ‘the man’, to me it is akin to choosing Pol Pot over Hitler.

  2. I disagree with you.

    Re: The legacy of the Beatles vs. the legacy of Jobs.

    An inventor’s legacy and a musical legacy are completely different and have different effects.

    A piece of music has the capacity to affect an individual in a powerful emotional way – and that effect can occur in any decade – it’s not tied to a particular time and place.

    An inventor will only ever emotionally ‘touch’ the people who directly experience the innovation of his/her invention. Future generations will only understand the innovation in an abstract way, because they will already take the innovation for granted.

    In 50 years people will look back on Jobs’ legacy and they will have to imagine how it affected us. They won’t be able to directly experience the effect in the way that I can directly experience a piece of music recorded nearly 50 years ago.

    Re. the effect of The Beatles on their society vs the effect of Jobs on current society.

    In the mid 20th century a record was a relatively cheap item to buy and you could hear music on the radio for free… money wasn’t a barrier to enjoying the new music.

    Currently I don’t own an Apple gadget and I can’t justify or afford the purchase of one in the near future. Yet somehow I struggle on. Apple’s effect is elitest.

    Apple’s appeal is also all about the individual as opposed to the group. You don’t have to own a photocopier to make use of one… but an Apple personal gadget isn’t much use to you unless you own it.

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