The Corner

Snippiness at Jobs Explained

If some of the snippy commentary about the late Steve Jobs has caught your attention (sample), I attempted to explain the background on Radio Derb. Please note: I had no intention to add to the snippiness, I was just trying to explain.

A listener emailed in last week to wonder why I hadn’t given a mention to Steve Jobs. I didn’t give him a very coherent answer, so I’ll have another go at it here.

The death last weekend of Dennis Ritchie, who devised the C programming language and was instrumental in developing the UNIX operating system, that clarified things for me a bit. I spent much of my working life in corporate IT. From that perspective, Dennis Ritchie and others like him were the boys in the backroom, building the weapon systems that we corporate IT grunts could use in our daily battles to deliver projects on time and in budget.

To us — and it’s very unfair, and I mean no disrespect to the dead, I’m just trying to paint a picture for you here — to us, Steve Jobs was a guy who made pretty, stylish toys for depilated metrosexual yuppie types to play with while sipping their Chai Crême Frappuccinos through designer straws.

As I said, it’s unfair: Jobs was a great entrepreneur, and we can never have enough of those. Furthermore, as Kevin Drum explained on the Mother Jones website last week, the triumph of PCs in the corporate world was to some degree a matter of luck.

And of course, as I’m sure you’re thinking right now, this attitude of mine is a case of over-privileging my own experience — the very thing that a few minutes ago I was chiding Herman Cain for. I mention it only to explain what is, to judge from commentary I’ve been seeing, quite a widespread attitude among veterans of corporate IT.

I shall now strive to broaden my horizons. I’ll go to the Apple store and buy something. A USB cable, perhaps, or maybe an adapter plug …