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An Apple what if

An Apple what if

Steve Jobs is stepping down as CEO of Apple, likely for good.

What a lesson Apple holds.  I’ve never bought an Apple computer or “device” (although I did get an iPod as a gift), but I’ll never forget my amazement in law school in the early 1980s when a local computer store had on display the very first Mac.

It was revolutionary in a way “the kids these days” cannot imagine.  If you think the iPod changed your life, imagine a world in which you lived in DOS.

If memory serves me well, the first Mac cost $2,500, which is like a million dollars in 2011 dollars.  It was too expensive for us, but my wife (or was it fiancé at the time) and I just kept going back to the store to look at it.



A mouse?  What was that?  No need to remember commands? Unbelievable!

Apple in many ways revolutionized and popularized personal computing.  But what if….

  • we had been more concerned about the secretarial jobs and typewriter factories destroyed by Apple?
  • we made it so easy to unionize Apple that Apple had to be run like General Motors?
  • we imposed such employment mandates and controls that the cost of Apple expanding was prohibitive?
  • we demonized rather than idolized the new captains of the computer industry even though they became fabulously wealthy?
  • when Apple was on the verge of bankruptcy it had accepted a government bailout rather than working through its problems and emerging stronger than ever?

In other words, what if we had the economically repressive policies of the Obama administration?

We never would have known what we missed.  And not just the technological convenience, but the thousands if not millions of jobs created in spin off companies and solo-geeks creating apps and all the other gear which makes computing and listening and viewing and creating what it is today.

Instead, we would have had television commercials with images of typewriter factories saved, and secretaries thanking the government for saving their jobs.  Just like we have a President who laments the loss of bank clerk jobs due to ATMs.


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OMG….then we wouldn’t have you 🙁

It’s also worth remembering that much of the GUI technology used in the Mac was originally developed by Xerox. But Xerox never pursued or commercialized it; the suits at Xerox couldn’t see where it fit into the market. It took a small, (then) outsider organization like Apple to roll the dice on the GUI interface and see what happened. Erect lots of barriers to new entrants and help incumbent companies with lots of favors and you don’t get so much of that.

Yes, just imagine. In the seventies I was an office secretary, now I’m a virtual assistant with my own business. I have worked from home since 1994. I love it and it barely resembles that horrid office experience.

    Aridog in reply to Kitty. | August 25, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    Sure do … stood in line to use the university’s IBM 360 many a night. Also had the delight (I kid) of using the magnetic strip NCR 500 machines. Today I’m spoiled rotten and feel no guilt.

Outstanding professor, you hit that one out of the park. Thanks.

No question about the revolution Apple began with the Mac & Mouse. I recall it from 1980’s days in heavy industry, because it was a tool that a factory rat like me could understand and use without mega-Dos skills. It was used to congtrol everything from cement batching to steel making and beyond as time went on. I, too, yearned for one at home, but could not afford it at the time. Maybe Apple’s biggest error, not making an affordable version back then? Mr Gates and IBM cured that with their similar adopted concept(s). Later when the Army began using “PC’s I found the most labor saving tool I’d ever imagined and learned it. Add to that: Oracle and various database programs sure helped consolidate work, let alone manage work, including machines. Mr Jobs deserves every bit of credit for starting that. Now as an old duffer a nick shy of 70 I still find all of it almost a necessary facet of life.

When I was a teenager working in my dad’s stores (combination copies/offset printing/office supplies stores) I saw the lightening speed with which great demand spurred innovation.

Offset printing had been around quite a long time, so any new presses we bought had minor incremental improvements.

The wonderful wild-west action was with the copy machines. Copy machines were something completely new, so every time we replaced our “fleet” of copy machines it was startling to see the improvements that had come about. Xerox, IBM, and other competitors were vying for our business (we had close to a total of 100 copy machines in our stores) and each was trying to establish a dominant position in this new market.

I remember Xerox lending my dad its latest machine for a month for a free trial. It was huge … as long as an old Cadillac car … but it had a collator!! (also huge) … and cost over $100,000.

Soon the machines were getting faster, smaller, and using standard 8.5 x ll paper instead of roles of paper the machine would cut (resulting in terribly uneven lengths of as much as 1/4-inch). The quality became much better. The pace of innovation was breathtaking.

Soon former IBM and Xerox servicemen were starting their own copy-machine servicing businesses, undercutting their former employers in price and guaranteeing faster, more responsive service.

The first phototypesetting machine we bought cost over $25,000 and the fonts (yes, actual physical fonts) were extremely expensive. The film had to be developed in a dark room … it was a tedious, time-consuming process … but it seemed magical at the time compared to old hot-metal machines. Now, it seems like something out of the Flintstones era with the wordprocessing anyone can do on a computer.

Imagine if government bureaucrats were in charge of developing all this.

We’d all be using the latest government-improved-and-approved carbon paper. The government would also be advertising its latest mimeograph machines capable of producing delicious smelling copies for teachers who have students with the most discerning sense of smell. Any computer wordprocessing would still be decades away … and for the first few years at least, mistakes could only be corrected by applying liquid paper directly on the computer’s monitor.

I have an occasional impromptu debate with the arrogant, snarky, self-described “anarchist” hipster in our office. He has all the latest high-tech gadgets. Once, when we were arguing about capitalism, I asked him if he’d gladly let the government take over and run Apple/Dell/Hewlet/Nvidia/Microsoft and all the thousands of high-tech companies that provide him with all the toys he loves. Normally I would have used my personal experience with the greased-lightening evolution of copy machines as a lesson.

Instead, I remembered something I’d written as a comment here at Legal Insurrection for a similar post.

I told him that if the government were in charge of developing consumer electronics, his laptop would now be the size of a moonbounce, the weight of its 10-minute max battery alone crushing his thighs.

I told him his cherished ipod might have wheels so he could pull it along like a large suitcase at the airport, and that the latest model might be capable of holding five songs.

Coworkers within earshot started laughing … that spelled defeat for little Mr. Anarchist … and he cut off debate by plugging his ears with his ipod’s earphones.

LukeHandCool (who, shameless name-dropper that he is, remembers making numerous copies of a script on numerous occasions for George Peppard, who lived a few blocks from our flagship store in Santa Monica. Mr. Peppard, who would often smell of alcohol in the middle of the day, would sometimes bring gifts of doughnuts as thanks for our providing fast and friendly service. Luke remembers quickly reading through these scripts and thinking, it’ll never get off the ground. The name of the script? “The A-Team.”)

[…] Steve Jobs has quit his job and left a competent successor ameliorates the loss felt. But Steve Jobs will be missed and we all hope that he will continue to live and he will continue to wor… even if at diminished capacity due to health. “Live Long And Prosper cyber […]

Interesting that you make no mention of the role the Internet – which began as a socialist endeavor inside DARPA – played in the great Apple comeback story. Like post roads and highways, the original trunk lines and servers for what has become the Net were built by the people of the United States through their government. It’s fantastic that Apple, like all of us, has been able to benefit from that wonderful publicly constructed resource, isn’t it?!?

And patent law? What would Apple be without a robust patent law system enforced by a fully functioning federal court system? Not much, I tell you.

And no, Apple never accepted bailouts, but it has a very long history of accepting tax credits, which are in their most basic sense an economic subsidy that helps them at the expense of others. Egads – yet more socialism supporting Apple! The repression – it is EVERYWHERE!!!

And last but not least – the “economically repressive policies of the Obama administration?” Apple is now one of the most successful businesses in the history of the world. Its growth has not only continued but accelerated during the time of Obama. How is it that they have managed to avoid all of this economic repression? Doesn’t their very success suggest that perhaps you are overstating things just a bit?

And its not just Apple! Corporate profits, including for banks, are at all-time highs. That certainly doesn’t seem to suggest economic repression, does it? I mention the banking system quite specifically here: Dodd-Frank is quite often held up as an example of the “mess” that Obama is creating, and yet despite that law banks are making more money than ever before! If this is oppression, where can I get some?

Its amazing how rich corporate America is getting despite all of this repression, isn’t it? Oh, if only someone would stand up for these put upon multibillionaires! If only someone would remember the corporations! If they did that, then we would truly be free. An unrestrained corporate America – It’s what the Founders wanted after all!

Yes, business left to solve its own problems, without government, AND without unions.

Somehow I don’t expect to see this moral drawn on the nightly news.

Thanks, Steve.