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December 2, 2021

An Ode to Computers

As years go by, humanity praised things controlling their lives, things they depended on, things that embodied their hopes and dreams: gods, warriors, fields of grains, weather elements such as the rain and sunshine, beautiful women and, finally, even weapons.

This age, however, bears a different influence, as the one thing that controls a modern person’s life, our god, our warrior, our field of grain, our provider of rain and sunshine and, yes, sometimes our beautiful woman is, beyond any doubt, the computer.

Therefore, a biopic about the life and work of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, one of the most striking and influential people to walk the earth in our days is, even without deliberate effort by filmmakers, somewhat similar to ancient epics, such as the “Iliad” and the “Odyssey”. There’s something heroic and historical about every move of the characters; something noble and grandiose, something that says: “after they did this, nothing was the same ever again”.
And for this, I think the Danny Boyle – directed, Aaron Sorkin – penned “Steve Jobs” may just be the cinema experience of the year.

“What if the computer was a beautiful object? Something you wanted to look at and have in your home. And what if instead of it being in the right hands, it was in everyone’s hands?” says Steve Jobs in one of the most memorable scenes of the film. The answer to this “what if” is our everyday life, surrounded by computers, monitored by computers, fed by computers, stored by computers; a life that would have seemed impossible a few decades ago.

It is easy to write a film chock full of witty dialogue on Steve Jobs, as a mere search on the Internet reveals hundreds of brilliant quotes from his interviews, his speeches, his aside remarks. The future was invented in a garage by two guys named Steve. One of them, Wozniak, was an engineer. He had the gift of conceiving realistic, predictable things. The second, Jobs, was a visionary. With the gift of conceiving the totally unreal and the totally unpredictable. And with that defiance of common sense known in epics – I keep referring to epics – as “hubris”.

Even from the early beginning, Jobs’ life sounds like a fable, an outright demonstration of the differences between appearance and essence.
Steve Jobs was an adopted child. As the result of a prohibited love affair between Syrian nouveau riche Abdulfattah Jandali and Swiss – German doctoral candidate Joanne Carole Schieble, at a time abortions were too dangerous and single mothers were poorly viewed by society, the young boy was given up for adoption, with his mother explicitly seeking a rich, Catholic and educated family. After a few days, the respective family gave up on the baby, and he was selected instead by mechanic and high school dropout Paul Jobs and his Armenian immigrant wife Clara, who loved him deeply and cared for him.
“Why do people like you, who were adopted, feel like they were rejected instead of selected?”, asks one of the antagonists in one of the mellow confrontation scenes that give a brilliant counterpoint to the grand scenes of rivalry, betrayal and power games that once again lead to a comparison with epics.

Jobs’ friendship with Wozniak, his partner-in-crime, started in 1967. Jobs was a twelve-year-old child of a remarkable intelligence and love of technology, while Wozniak was eighteen and a brilliant engineering mastermind, already employed at Hewlett – Packard’s company, and trying to develop his first computer. For the following summer, Jobs too landed a job with Hewlett and the two young men became inseparable over their passion of electronics. Not even the fact that Wozniak became a student of Berkeley, California, and Jobs enrolled at Reed University in Portland, Oregon, led them apart, as childhood friendships usually end. Nonetheless, Jobs soon dropped out of college and returned to California, landing a job at video game company Atari.
In 1976, after Wozniak had designed fully the Apple I, the prospect of an easily available home computer, Jobs had the brilliant idea of founding a company and creating a finished product, instead of selling out technology. And this is how Apple computers appeared.

Brilliant ideas developed in a garage, financed by selling one’s car.

The film never looks into these details carefully. You, the viewer, are supposed to do your homework and research the background of a relationship that has gone to the heights of tremendous success and prestige, and started to decay slowly but firmly, over Wozniak’s self-indulgence after the massive sales of his Apple II and Jobs’ continuous need to create new and innovative products that, due to Jobs’ lacking his friend’s technological abilities, fail one after the other.

This is where the film actually begins, in 1984, as Wozniak’s aged Apple II starts an open confrontation with Jobs’ beautifully designed and overpriced, stylish MacIntosh. Things run out of hand quickly. And here you are, in your seat at the cinema, watching incredulously an alert set of events, fast and uncontrollable, just like the evolution of technology.

One of the most bitterly amusing scenes in the film – and there are plenty of them, is when Jobs’ journalist friend moans: “I certainly would not want your job” and Jobs, masterfully played by “Shame” and “12 Years a Slave” star Michael Fassbender, gives a discreet smile and announces: “Nevermind, it will change yours, too.” Indeed, it did.

Steve Jobs, the man, died in 2011. Steve Jobs, the innovator, still surrounds us everywhere we go.

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