Letter from Simon Kelner: Jobs was admirable, yes, but spare me the details


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The Independent Online

Almost every day, this column is written on an iPad. It is the single most impressive, most useful, most versatile piece of technology of my lifetime.

I speak as one of those who has never worshipped at the shrine of Steve Jobs. It's just possible that I'm never likely to buy into a personality cult at my age and, in any case, I have always thought the iPhone was overrated, given that its supposed primary purpose, as a means of making telephone calls, didn't seem to work too well.

But the iPad has certainly changed my life for the better. Hardly a day passes without my marvelling about its uses and pondering the idea that this little piece of electronic equipment might eventually make the office redundant. Thus I can get behind the idea that Jobs is a colossus of the technological age and a man whose passing is a truly significant world moment. I never knew very much about him as a man and I guess neither did anyone else, preferring to define him by his transformative little white devices. But then, a mere two weeks after his death, the release of an authorised biography has succeeded in turning the legend into flesh.

Jobs, of course, knew he was dying of pancreatic cancer and clearly felt that the world shouldn't have to wait too long for an officially sanctioned epitaph. He always wanted to do things differently, so the traditional arc of death, tributes, a period of mourning and then, some time later, the unvarnished life story was not for a man of unconventional thinking.

So, even in the days after his demise, when a picture of Jobs still came up every time you switched on your Mac (Apple's version of martial music), we were let into his world of obsession, monomania, sharp practice and dysfunctionality. Call me old-fashioned, but I don't think we were given enough time to recognise, analyse and applaud his achievements before we were taken straight into his private world.

Of course, it's interesting. And illuminating. But seemly? I'm not so sure. Like everyone, I am fascinated by his strange reliance on a macrobiotic diet and acupuncture, rather than traditional medicine, to treat his cancer. And I love those revealing little details.

Like the story of how, when he was going out with the singer Joan Baez, he told her that he'd just seen a beautiful dress that would look great on her. They went straight to the shop. After he'd bought himself some clothes, he turned to his girlfriend and said: "You should buy that dress."

Jobs, for sure, was an architect of modern life. He made us want things we never knew existed.

We need to know what made him tick. But sometimes I wish the world he helped shape would turn a little slower.