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  1. 20 years ago, Steve Jobs built the “coolest computer ever”—and it bombed "Nobody ever made anything like that," said Steve Jobs. Enlarge / This G4 Cube ran for several years as a headless server until succumbing to the thermal issues that plagued the device from launch. It's now a decoration in Managing Editor Eric Bangeman's office. Eric Bangeman 187 with 126 posters participating This month marks the 20th anniversary of the Power Mac G4 Cube, which debuted July 19, 2000. It also marks the 19th anniversary of Apple’s announcement that it was putting the Cube on ice. That’s not my joke—it’s Apple’s, straight from the headline of its July 3, 2001, press release that officially pulled the plug. The idea of such a quick turnaround was nowhere in the mind of Apple CEO Steve Jobs on the eve of the product’s announcement at that summer 2000 Macworld Expo. I was reminded of this last week, as I listened to a cassette tape recorded 20 years prior, almost to the day. It documented a two-hour session with Jobs in Cupertino, California, shortly before the launch. The main reason he had summoned me to Apple’s headquarters was sitting under the cover of a dark sheet of fabric on the long table in the boardroom of One Infinite Loop. “We have made the coolest computer ever,” he told me. “I guess I’ll just show it to you.” He yanked off the fabric, exposing an 8-inch stump of transparent plastic with a block of electronics suspended inside. It looked less like a computer than a toaster born from an immaculate conception between Philip K. Dick and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. (But the fingerprints were, of course, Jony Ive’s.) Alongside it were two speakers encased in Christmas-ornament-sized, glasslike spheres. “The Cube,” Jobs said, in a stage whisper, hardly containing his excitement. He began by emphasizing that while the Cube was powerful, it was air-cooled. (Jobs hated fans. Hated them.) He demonstrated how it didn’t have a power switch but could sense a wave of your hand to turn on the juice. He showed me how Apple had eliminated the tray that held CDs—with the Cube, you just hovered the disk over the slot and the machine inhaled it. And then he got to the plastics. It was as if Jobs had taken to heart that guy in The Graduate who gave career advice to Benjamin Braddock. “We are doing more with plastics than anyone else in the world,” he told me. “These are all specially formulated, and it’s all proprietary, just us. It took us six months just to formulate these plastics. They make bulletproof vests out of it! And it’s incredibly sturdy, and it’s just beautiful! There’s never been anything like that. How do you make something like that? Nobody ever made anything like that! Isn’t that beautiful? I think it’s stunning!” I admitted it was gorgeous. But I had a question for him. Earlier in the conversation, he had drawn Apple’s product matrix, four squares representing laptop and desktop, high and low end. Since returning to Apple in 1997, he had filled in all the quadrants with the iMac, Power Mac, iBook, and PowerBook. The Cube violated the wisdom of his product plan. It didn’t have the power features of the high-end Power Mac, like slots or huge storage. And it was way more expensive than the low-end iMac, even before you spent for a necessary separate display required of Cube owners. Knowing I was risking his ire, I asked him: just who was going to buy this? “That’s easy!” Jobs didn’t miss a beat. “That’s easy!” he said. “A ton of people who are pros. Every designer is going to buy one.” Here was his justification for violating his matrix theory: “We realized there was an incredible opportunity to make something in the middle, sort of a love child, that was truly a breakthrough,” he said. The implicit message was that it was so great that people would alter their buying patterns to purchase one. That didn’t happen. For one thing, the price was prohibitive—by the time you bought the display, it was almost three times the price of an iMac and even more than some PowerMacs. By and large, people don’t spend their art budget on computers. That wasn’t the only issue with the G4 Cube. Those plastics were hard to manufacture, and people reported flaws. The air cooling had problems. If you left a sheet of paper on top of the device, it would shut down to prevent overheating. And because it had no On button, a stray wave of your hand would send the machine into action, like it or not. In any case, the G4 Cube failed to push buttons on the computer-buying public. Jobs told me it would sell millions. But Apple sold fewer than 150,000 units. The apotheosis of Apple design was also the apex of Apple hubris. Listening to the tape, I was struck by how much Jobs had been drunk on the elixir of aesthetics. “Do you really want to put a hole in this thing and put a button there?” Jobs asked me, justifying the lack of a power switch. “Look at the energy we put into this slot drive so you wouldn’t have a tray, and you want to ruin that and put a button in?” But here is something else about Jobs and the Cube that speaks not of failure but why he was a successful leader. Once it was clear that his Cube was a brick, he was quick to cut his losses and move on. “A spectacular commercial failure” In a 2017 talk at Oxford, Apple CEO Tim Cook talked about the G4 Cube, which he described as “a spectacular commercial failure, from the first day, almost.” But Jobs’ reaction to the bad sales figures showed how quickly, when it became necessary, he could abandon even a product dear to his heart. “Steve, of everyone I’ve known in life,” Cook said at Oxford, “could be the most avid proponent of some position, and within minutes or days, if new information came out, you would think that he never ever thought that before.” But he did think it, and I have the tape to prove it. Happy birthday to Steve Jobs’ digital love child. This story originally appeared on wired.com. 20 years ago, Steve Jobs built the “coolest computer ever”—and it bombed
  2. "The most precious resource we all have is time," tweets Tim Cook in memory of Steve Jobs Eight years ago today, Steve Jobs passed away at 3 PM in his home in Palo Alto, California, aged 56. The co-founder of Apple Inc. and a linchpin in making the company one of the most valuable companies in the world, struggled against pancreatic cancer in the later years of his life. The same illness also became the reason for his stepping down as the CEO of the company he laid the foundations of. Tim Cook, the current CEO of Apple, marked the eighth anniversary of his passing, by quoting Jobs when the latter was talking about his favorite things in life, "My favorite things in life don’t cost any money. It’s really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time." The photograph shows Steve Jobs in front of the famous Apple 'Cube', which reopened recently after a renovation period that lasted for two years. The iconic store is reminiscent of the perfectionist with a penchant for elegance that Jobs was. Apple still maintains the "Remembering Steve" page on its website where "over a million people from all over the world have shared their memories, thoughts, and feelings" as a homage to him. The tech entrepreneur's most famous quote "I want to put a ding in the universe" can be reflected upon today, for Jobs did exactly that. Source: "The most precious resource we all have is time," tweets Tim Cook in memory of Steve Jobs (Neowin)
  3. From the perspective of the early 21st century, it’s safe to say that computers have been a privacy nightmare. Our world is so interconnected by machines, that corporations, governments, and almost anyone can find out almost anything they want about an average citizen thanks to our digital footprints. But the late Apple cofounder Steve Jobs gave an interesting ABC News Nightline interview in 1981 where he assured Americans that privacy wouldn’t be a problem if people became computer literate. The newscast, hosted by Ted Koppel and currently available on YouTube, opens with a fascinating snapshot of the era, and I highly recommend watching the entire 12-minute segment. It opens with a reference to a computer problem at Cape Canaveral and then goes into the many ways that computers were taking over the world in 1981. The segment launches into concerns over privacy, something that comes up again and again in the relatively short video. But Jobs is there to reassure everyone that computers will actually liberate humanity, making us free to pursue creative endeavors. Jobs refers to computers as the “bicycle of the 21st century” and even uses the term “democratic” twice, a slippery attempt to dispel concerns over government surveillance while pushing the idea that universal adoption of computers will create a healthier society. There is a sense, though, that many of us have, who really don’t understand how computers work or what they do for us or to us, that we are getting controlled by the computers. Any danger of that happening?” Koppel asks Jobs. “Well, as you know, the product we manufacture, many people see it for the first time, and they don’t even think it’s a computer. It’s about 12 pounds, you can throw it out the window if the relationship isn’t going so well,” Jobs said. “And I think if you look at sort of the process of the technological revolution that we’re all in, it’s a process of taking very centralized things and making them very democratic, if you will—very individualized, making them affordable by individuals for a small collection of tasks, if you will, sort of from the passenger train to the Volkswagen.” Jobs goes on to say that computers will allow us to avoid the drudgery of life and instead work on the “creative level.” Koppel also had on the program journalist David Burnham who raises the issue of privacy in the near future. Burnham points out that the Census Bureau helped locate Japanese-Americans in 1941 to throw them into internment camps and worries that computerization might open the door to terrifying new possibilities. “The government has the capacity by using computers to get all kinds of information on us that we’re really not even aware that they have,” Koppel tells Jobs. “Isn’t that dangerous?” “Well, I think the best protection against something like that is a very literate public, and in this case computer literate,” Jobs responds. “And I think you’re actually seeing that happen right now. In the personal computer area [...] we’ve already reached approximately one in every thousand households in the United States, and I think over the next five or six years, that figure will be one in ten. Ultimately it will be one in one.” “And I think the feeling of computer literacy among the populous is the thing that, for me at least, gives me the most comfort—that that centralized intelligence will have the least effect on our lives without us knowing it,” Jobs continued. How do you think Steve did? Was he right? Or does Burnham have a point, knowing what we know today about how the world is plugging along? President Trump is currently suggesting that his political opponents be arrested for treason and has floated the idea of civil war if he’s impeached. Not only is this the guy with the nuclear codes, he has access to troves of data that the federal government has collected on us. It certainly gives the discussion a sense of urgency, if nothing else. Source
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