My Earbuds Are Duds

During an otherwise immensely enjoyable Thanksgiving holiday, the hang-over-the-ear earphones that I normally use with my iPod were borrowed and now are nowhere to be found.  So, I am relegated to using the “earbuds” that come as standard equipment with the iPod — and thus I feel both frustration and shame.

I experience frustration, because the Apple ear buds simply will not stay in my ears.  They may look cool and sleek, but with the slightest head movement or gentlest jostling, the earbuds will plop softly out of my ears.  The only way I can keep them in on the morning walk is to put on a ski cap that tightly binds them to my ears and then walk with head held stiffly, like I’m wearing an invisible neck brace.  It’s not a comfortable start to the day.

I feel shame, too, because I know that Apple makes only excellent, well-engineered devices.  Steve Jobs himself must have given these earbuds a thumbs-up.  Therefore, my inability to keep them in my ears must mean there is something defective about either the structure of my ears or my understanding of how to use the earbuds.  Perhaps the little flap on the forward part of my exterior ear — called the tragus, for those who haven’t memorized Gray’s anatomy — is embarrassingly undersized.  Maybe Steve Jobs’ ears had tragi the size of catcher’s mitts, ready to hold the earbuds snugly inside.  Or perhaps I’m using the devices improperly.  Maybe they go in upside down, or backwards — or maybe they aren’t intended for the ears at all, but were designed by Apple to be inserted into the nostrils and reach the inner ear through a more indirect route?

It’s time to help our retailers have a good holiday season and buy some new earphones.

Striving for Perfection

A couple weeks ago while on the flight back from Savannah I borrowed the current number one best seller, Steve Jobs by Walter Issacson from my niece Amy and finished it last night. While reading the book I would often think back to the huge bulky desktop computers we had at work in the early eighties compared to today’s sleeker more user friendly versions.

Early on Steve met up with electronics geek and future Apple partner Steve Wozniak (Woz). While working at Atari Steve’s boss gave him the assignment of developing a single player version of pong where instead of competing against an opponent the player would volley the ball into a brick wall that would lose a brick when hit.

Steve’s boss said there would be a bonus if less than fifty chips were used in the process so Steve recruited his friend Woz to develop the game with the fewest number of chips possible. Woz used less than fifty chips and Steve received the bonus but never shared it with Woz. This incident seemed to set a precedent for Steve’s future business dealings and from that time forward he would do whatever needed to be done to be successful often taking others ideas and saying they were his own.

With Steve there was no middle ground, either things were great or they were crap. If he said something was crap it would hopefully motivate his employees to try to find a better way to do things, if not he would get rid of them. People who worked for him were either Gods or Shitheads, he wouldn’t tolerate any less than the best working for him.

Words that come to mind to describe his management style were obnoxious, controlling, manipulative, ruthless and driven. His overbearing style led to many troubled relationships with friends and competitors and of course led to his ouster from Apple for a period of time.

The book is approximately 600 pages and it goes into a lot of detail, but I really enjoyed reading it and I am interested to see if Amy likes it as much as I did.

Thank You, Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs has died at age 56.  Jobs, who co-founded Apple and then returned after a decade-long absence to turn the struggling Apple into the world’s most profitable company, had long battled pancreatic cancer.

Under Jobs’ leadership, Apple rolled out personal computers, laptops, iPods, iPhones, and iPads — all products that helped to create and define the booming consumer electronics industry.  He was reputed to be relentless in pushing his employees to meet impossible deadlines, surmount daunting technological hurdles, create new features, and constantly push, push, push the envelope.  As a result, he spurred Apple’s development as the world’s strongest brand — characterized by high-quality ground-breaking products with ultra-cool designs that came in sleek packaging and were advertised by iconic campaigns.  In the process, he created legions of dedicated and loyal Apple consumers like me.  But Jobs did more than that.  Apple’s enormous success encouraged competitors and other entrepreneurs to develop ever-improving products at ever-low prices.  It’s one reason why the consumer electronics industry remains one of the strongest sectors of the global economy.

When a person is as driven as Steve Jobs was supposed to be, you wonder if they ever paused to reflect on what they have accomplished.  When Henry Ford saw  roads where horses had once trotted filled with Model Ts, and formerly empty lots give rise to automobile, steel, and rubber factories employing hundreds of thousands of workers, what did he think?  When Steve Jobs walked through an airport and saw countless travelers listening to iPods, playing games on iPhones, or watching movies on iPads, did he feel a sense of immense satisfaction at his achievements — or was he thinking solely about the next great product?

Whether he fully appreciated it or not, Jobs had a profound impact and improved the lives of millions of people — whether they were consumers who revel in their Apple products or people employed by the companies who make, package, or market the products that Jobs helped create.

Thank you, Steve Jobs!  May you rest in peace.