Category Archives: lastanalogs

A professional thanks and a personal goodbye to Steve Jobs

Small Apple tribute logo, created by Mak Long

10 Print "Hello"

That line typed on an Apple II computer in my Dad’s office in the fourth grade got me hooked on computer programming, an addiction I never outgrew.

Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of owning, using, or programming on many of Steve Jobs’s creations, including Apple II+, Macintosh IIcx, Power Mac 7100, Newton, NeXT, Powerbook, Macbook Pro, and iPhone. I’ve been a consistent Mac in the Mac-vs-PC battle since 1984 (though I admit to a brief affair in 1998: it didn’t mean anything, Steve, I swear!). Jobs himself ignited an us-versus-them fire, which smolders on today in Apple’s John Hodgman-as-PC ads, back in 1985 with one of his best quotes:

Playboy: Are you saying that the people who made PCjr don’t have … pride in [their] product?

[Jobs:] “If they did, they wouldn’t have made the PCjr.” [Playboy, Feb. 1, 1985]

Around that time, my friends and I had a running joke: “I got a PCjr,” one of us would say; “you’re going straight to hell, kid,” the other would shoot back.

Old Apple II and Power Macintosh computers
Buried treasure: Old Apple II and Power Macintosh computers, waiting to be dusted off… someday

My wife and kids (ages 7 and 4) are more recent converts, owning a Duo, an iPhone, an iPad, and two iPod Touches among them.

I’ve owned Apple stock since about 1997, my single best investment, increasing 4,460 percent. (Priceline is my second best, gaining 3,990%.)

Like Lance, I’ll never forget where I was when I learned that Steve Jobs had died. Steven Colbert told me. Live. After a hilarious taping of the Colbert Report and four performances by the artist formerly known as Mos Def (apparently a perfectionist: who knew?), Colbert ended by balancing his iPhone on his desk, letting it fall over, then telling us, “Steve Jobs died. Sorry to be the one to tell you.” To say the mood of the audience changed instantly would be an understatement. Smiling faces turned down. Cries of anguish and “oh no!” rang out from nearly everyone in the audience, a mark of how Jobs’s influence and name recognition has grown from tech hero to global cultural icon. (Colbert gave Jobs a proper tribute the next day.)

There’s a thread in our office about the extent to which perceived success or failure at the CEO level is a fooled-by-randomness trick of the mind. But there are some examples where even the strongest skeptic must admit that an organization’s success is almost surely owed to the exceptional greatness of a single individual. Warren Buffet and Coach K come to (my) mind. But Steve Jobs must be the prime example. As if ushering in the era of personal computing and computer-animated movies was not enough, Jobs continued to outdo himself year after year, with iPod, iTunes, iPhone, and, barely a year ago, iPad. Sadly, or maybe purposefully, Jobs seemed to hit his stride just as he died. As a long-time disciple of Jobs, I’m amazed at the amount of focus in his obituaries spent on gadgets he created in the last ten years.

Jobs famously advised not to spend too much time celebrating success.

I think if you do something and it turns out pretty good, then you should go do something else wonderful, not dwell on it for too long. Just figure out what’s next.
—NBC Nightly News, 2006

Those were not empty words for Jobs: it’s how he lived his own life and how he squeezed so much out of the 56 short years he was given. The early storyline of Apple pegged Steve Wozniak as the brains and Jobs as the lucky business-minded sidekick. It turns out that Jobs was way more exceptional than the 1990s nerderati — who like me relate more to Woz — gave him credit for. Jobs had the brains, the vision, and the charisma in a combination so rare I’m not the only one who can’t think of another human alive who compares. To get a taste, read or watch Jobs’s Stanford commencement speech: it’s truly brilliant, inspiring, and one of the best ways you can spend the next few minutes of your time.

To the ultimate hacker painter, the first last analog, the nerdiest salesman, the studliest genius, the most productive perfectionist, the most detail-oriented visionary, and a personal hero:

20 Print "Goodbye"

Jamesburg, New Jersey: Per-capita bank branch capital of the world

By 2007, Jamesburg, New Jersey, a town of 6,000, had four walk-in bank branches — Bank of America, Constitution, PNC, and Sovereign — complete with bricks, mortar, tellers, and aura of trust along its quaint “Main Street” downtown corridor.

Apparently that wasn’t enough.

In 2008, Chase Bank and TD Bank broke ground. Thousands of motorists now pass them every weekday morning on their way to the New Jersey Turnpike and again every evening on their way home. If I had a hand in it, I might insert a drive-thru restaurant, of which there are currently none, into the path of commuters. But I don’t and the Invisible Hand chose otherwise: to erect two more banks for a total of six banks within one square mile, or one for every 1000 residents. (To be fair, the surrounding township has 30,000 people, but probably a dozen more banks.)

Six walk-in bank branches within one square mile in Jamesburg, NJ USA

We live in an era of electronic banking when ATMs dispensing paper money seems horribly analog. Walking through a door under a roof of a building representing the shelter for my money to talk to a person is, I’ll admit, occasionally reassuring, and even less occasionally useful. But everyone must admit that this is an activity growing rarer by the day.

So why are bank branches staging a last stand in this small New Jersey town?

Probably because the surrounding community, Monroe Township, is home to several retirement communities whose residents select banks based on the accessibility of branches. (They also buy newspapers and watch ABC’s World News with Charles Gibson at 6:30 and hence commercials for prescription drugs.)

Several new shopping centers have gone up in the area and each seems to have the same collection of stores, anchored by a drug store and a bank.

The data may say that these are profitable investments, but for how long?

Jamesburg would seem to have great potential as a consumer destination: a walkable urban strip in the center of a relatively affluent suburban township, on the bank of a gorgeous lake adjacent to a 675 acre park. Yet it has a few mom and pop shops, one Subway, one Dunkin’ Donuts, and one gas station. And six banks. Go figure.

The Last Analogs

DictionaryThe Last Analogs were born after commercial color TV (1953) and graduated high school before Mosaic (1993), roughly spanning from Steve Jobs to Larry Page.

Last Analogs like me grew up with VHS players, walkmans, card catalogs, newspapers, bunny ears, and film. We then watched as, inexorably, every last one of them winked from A to D. By 1993, the dawn of the digital age was ending, giving way to a blazing midday sun. Little did we know how thoroughly the Internet would shift the revolution into hyperlink drive.

Recently, a holiday card I sent to a friend was returned undelivered. He had moved and I had sent it to his old address.

It turns out I actually had the correct address filed away in an email folder — he had kindly sent it to me months earlier — and I had even tagged the email as “contact info”. Yet my address book failed to reflect it, mostly because my address book doesn’t read or process email, but rather expects me to do it.

This is an inherently Last Analog problem.

The new address books — the Facebooks and Plaxos of the world — solve the problem gracefully. On Facebook, I don’t keep my own separate copy my friend’s address; instead I keep a pointer to my friend and all his data and let him do the updating. My friend doesn’t need to email me and I don’t have to transcribe anything (or, in the early days, call and write), and repeat the same for all his friends. He updates his own information and everything else happens automatically.1

There are a ton of inherently Last Analog problems, including not knowing how much money you’ve spent in a month, how many calories you’ve burned or eaten, where your car or key or friend is, or where you are. A Last Analog could be living and working near an old college buddy and not even know it.

But perhaps the most unfortunate Last Analog problem is our impaired collective memory. Last Analogs grew up without the benefit of all the little digital trails that people now leave automatically as they go about their lives: the emails, twitters, geo-tagged photos, walls, groups, friendlists, and blogs that form a searchable, hyperlinked diary.2

For Last Analogs to catch up still requires considerable effort: for example, digging out old boxes of print photos and scanning and geo-tagging them by hand. Presumably even this process will become cheaper and easier, but in the meantime the online map view of my post-college European tour is fifteen years in waiting and counting, memories of metadata fading, and the slide show at my 20th high school reunion this spring will be only as complete as busy schedules allow.

Too bad the wayback machine doesn’t go that way back.

I guess its time to get over my First Digital envy and get to work scanning uphill both ways in the snow.

1Eventually, I shouldn’t have to bother with street names and zip codes either: I’ll just address the card to my friend’s unique identifier and the post office will take it to the right place. That’s assuming by then that I’m still sinfully sending cards through the postal mail.
2Even today, people delete too many gems. I encourage you to follow Randy Pausch’s advice and archive everything.