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  • Goodbye, Steve Jobs

    As any of my students know, I’ve always been a fan of Apple and Steve Jobs. I’ve been meaning to write something here all week about Jobs’ death this week, but I’ve been traveling and haven’t had the time.

    Jobs was always an inspirational person for me. The technology he developed pushed the boundaries of what technology could do in imaginative ways. Many people say that he made consumer electronics into an art form. A quote below from the New York Times illustrates just how he did this:

    He put much stock in the notion of “taste,” a word he used frequently. It was a sensibility that shone in products that looked like works of art and delighted users. Great products, he said, were a triumph of taste, of “trying to expose yourself to the best things humans have done and then trying to bring those things into what you are doing.”

    Several of my students have read this in class with me over the last week, and have had trouble understanding it, so I’ll give some explanation here.

    It starts with a phrasal verb, “to put stock into (something/someone).” This means to value or believe in something, or someone, in this case, the idea (notion) of “taste.” “Taste” in this context means, essentially, the ability to know what is art. So, for this sentence you could say that Jobs valued the ability to recognize art.

    This value, according to the next sentence was something that “shone” in his products. Shone is the past simple for “shine,” meaning to emit light, like a light bulb or the sun. So, the value that Jobs placed on art could be seen in his products.

    The next sentence quotes Jobs, saying that the great products were the result of exposing yourself to the best things humans have done, i.e. experiencing the best artwork, music, literature, etc. and then using the great things about humankind’s best work as inspiration for your own work.

    To rephrase one more time, Steve Jobs wasn’t looking at other computers, cellphones or tablet PCs for inspiration, he was looking paintings by Picasso, listening to The Beatles, or reading Tolstoy, and this great artwork was what ultimately influenced how he created his products.

    It’s a sensibility that makes me aspire to do more with my own work, and we hope that ideas we are developing now will excite our students in the coming months… Below you’ll find a video that again illustrates this idea Jobs had of art. The version of this commercial that appeared on television had an actor doing the voice, but in this version it is actually Steve Jobs.