I managed to catch the film ‘Jobs’ on opening day, in Singapore last week. Steve Jobs is like a big deal here. His name commands respect and awe.
Who wouldn’t be inspired by a man who overcame challenges such as family background, body odor, an inability to get along with people, constantly complaining about insignificant stuff, e.g. fonts; while using it to distract us from the fact he couldn’t code to save his life, having no clue how to use pause on a Discman, and went on to build one of the world’s most valuable companies? I know. That was a long question but you’ll get what I’m saying here when you see the movie.
In a short span of a week, there have been many comments on the Internet about this movie, but most seemingly unfavorable. I thought I’d help balance the opinions out a little by sharing several things that I learned from the movie. If you haven’t caught the movie yet, a word of caution. A bunch of mini-spoilers are heading your way. By mini-spoiler, I mean I’ve left out a lot of the context, so you’ll find that it’s OK to read this and still be able to enjoy the movie.
1. It was always about the
Many don’t have a clear idea of Steve Wozniak’s role in Apple’s history. This film elucidates that fact. Steve Wozniak hooked up the Apple 1 prototype to a TV monitor. That’s it. After that it was all Steve Jobs.
2. One scene the audience will not get
A heads-up: If you’re watching this in some parts of Asia, the audience you’ll be with will not understand the scene when Jobs’ supervisor at Atari solves his “personal problem.” It’s a funny joke but most watching, will be lost. In some theaters, restless members of the audience will verbalize their confusion, even. My suggestion is to ignore those loser. When you see this scene come up, just laugh. At least you’ll look like the only person who gets the scriptwriter’s joke and is actually enjoying the movie.
3. One scene the geeks will not get
How does a clueless teen one up a seasoned Silicon Valley pro, especially when that pro is Mike Markkula, and played by someone as cool as Dermot Mulroney? If some investor walked into my garage back in the 70s, and said he’ll cut me a US$90,000 check, I’d accept with joy, while internally dreading the reality that I’m going to be a slave to this startup for the rest of my life. I can assure you I won’t have smart counter offers that sounded like stuff I borrowed from a pocket MBA book on finance. I mean, come on. It was Mike Markkula. Played by Dermot Mulroney. How could anybody outdo Mike Markkula and the ghost of Dirty Steve?
Man, that Steve Jobs, he was one smart kid.
4. More text, typography and fonts
When you’re the boss, sitting in a staff meeting and nobody is getting what you’re saying, ask probing questions. If you’re ever at a loss about what to ask, just ask how a user would change fonts. Allow me to illustrate:
Example 1: If you’re chairing the meeting.
Steve: So how does a user change fonts?
Bill: < gives blank look >
Steve: How does one change the fonts here?
Bill: Um, Steve that’s what I wanted to talk to you about…
Steve: What? We still don’t have fonts for this piece of < expletive > software?
Bill: Steve, I wanted to say that this meeting is about the parking spaces we’re going to designate for employees with special physical needs
Steve : I don’t give a < expletive > what this meeting is about. I want to know where the fonts are and how to change them.
Alan: But Steve, it has nothing to do with the parking spaces that Bill is talking about. Fonts are not relevant.
Steve: Not relevant? Everything is relevant! What if someone with one arm had to send out an urgent e-mail and park his car at the same time? How does he access fonts?
Alan: Steve, reprogramming menus just so we can make it convenient for people to park their cars and edit an e-mail, is going to take weeks. Do you think maybe we’ve got the philosophy wrong here? Maybe he shouldn’t be driving and typing at the same time.
Steve: You! Since you don’t get the philosophy behind the importance of fonts, please leave.
Alan: No, I mean I just want to understand what are we suppose…
Steve: Why the < expletive > are you still here, Oprah? Get out! I don’t want to see you and that constipated look you always have on your face whenever I walk into the room. Get the < expletive > out!
Example 2: If you’re not chairing the meeting, or you’re just bored.
Andy: Our gross profit margin reached a record of 32% percent, up 12 from the last year, reflecting the benefits of technology innovation, and improved cost management. Operating profit margin also reached a historic high of 11.5 percent. The increased global demand for…
Steve: < with a blank look > Um, how does the user change the fonts here, if they wanted to?
Andy: Um, fonts?
Steve: Yeah, we need to have a quick way to change fonts.
Andy: Steve, I’m just giving you and the board a summary of what we’ll be announcing in our annual report. I didn’t factor in fonts because I didn’t see how that’s important here?
Steve: You didn’t see how it’s important? How could you not see the importance of fonts in a word processor?
Andy: Um, Steve I’m just your CFO. I report on the financial health of the company. I’m sorry, but word processor fonts weren’t a pressing issue when I was preparing this presentation.
Steve: Pack your stuff. All of your stuff! I want you out before lunch. We have no place for people who are not in sync with this company’s goals for typography!
Andy: What? Are you firing me?
Steve: Get the < expletive > out, Coco!
As you can see, an unreasonable need to discuss how a user goes about changing fonts in his or her word processor will always make you sound like a genius and a crazy one at that. Think Van Gogh wrapped around the short fuse of Mr. Hyde.
5. Jonathan Ive’s character was played well.
If things go well for Giles Matthey, he’ll get to do what Orlando Bloom did for his career – i.e. get one distinctive film role that seals in his typecast. I don’t know about you, but I enjoyed watching Legolas in Pirates of The Caribbean, Troy, The Calcium Kid and Kingdom of Heaven.
Matthey clearly has a future here. Especially if that future has him starring as Jonathan Ive, in a biopic about Jonathan Ive.
6. Ousted company founders always have great looking gardens
Know this. After being fired from the company you built, you will resign yourself to gardening. Let’s face it. You’re rich. Your wife is gorgeous. Your kids look like actors who auditioned for the role. What else is there left to do? Found another company? Pfft! Yeah, right. Develop a new operating system and sell it back to the company that fired you? Come on.
But seriously though, if you’ve been hungry and foolish – especially hungry – since graduating from Stanford in 2005, let’s just hope those extra classes you took on horticulture proof to be useful.
I never knew Steve Jobs walked like Ralph Macchio in the ‘Karate Kid’
8. Arthur Rock really ruined things for all of us
It’s because of Arthur Rock, we have Intel, Macintosh, OSX, and today OSX running on the Intel Macintosh. If Arthur Rock didn’t incite the board to get rid of Jobs, he’d still be at Apple and a few years later might very well have worked on fonts for the Apple Newton. Think about it. The flexibility of changing fonts on the Apple Newton with ease while parking your car.
Now, that would have been something amazing.