Why was Apple Computer founder Steve Jobs so incredibly well loved? He died four years ago this month and a new film has just been released about his life in the US, due for release in the UK on November 13th. He’s still talked about, still loved, still relevant. Why?
Award-winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin – who wrote TV hit show The West Wing and the film The Social Network about Facebook – said he was moved to write the film about Steve Jobs because he was so stunned by the outpouring of grief when he died – not dissimilar to when Princess Diana died in August 1997. Spontaneous floral tributes sprang up at Apple stores around the world and, sweetly, apples too! This wasn’t company or brand led. This was a people’s tribute. People loved Steve Jobs. The evidence is clear on that. (The picture above, taken by my niece Fiona Young, was snapped outside the Apple store on Regent’s Street, London, the day Jobs died.)
Aaron Sorkin who wrote the movie said everything he’s ever written was written was on a Mac. Know what Aaron? Me too! How cool is it that my favourite writer ever has also only ever written on a Mac. Why would anyone ever want to use anything else? It’s something I’ve never understood…
Sorkin’s movie, directed by the UK’s Danny Boyle, hasn’t been that well received but I’m not in the least bit interested in what critics have said. Critics – what do they know? It’s written by Aaron Sorkin, ergo it’s impossible for this not to be a must-see film. Aaron Sorkin’s shopping lists probably make better reading than most novels.
Sorkin and Jobs have a lot in common. Sorkin writes scripts that sing and Jobs made beautiful products people could use and feel emotionally attached to. That’s pay dirt. Product is all; marketing is only secondary. Yes Jobs created mystique and magic around himself but none of it would’ve worked if his products didn’t. We have Jobs to thank for “plug and go” personal computing. No manual is needed. How cool is that? And Sorkin writes scripts that sound musical. This is no accident. He “hears” his scripts he told James Naughtie of BBC Radio Four’s Today programme. Words must be musical; hell The West Wing practically WAS a musical.
Jobs had a great story to tell. He was sacked from the company he founded, went on to create other successful products and then returned triumphant to Apple. Hard to remember now but many thought Apple was finished in the mid 90s with only a tiny slice of the market and that Microsoft would conquer all. Then Jobs returned to the company and we got the iPod, iMac and later the iPhone and iPad – the latter slated at the time but now much copied and hugely loved and used.
To explain why a film about Steve Jobs is relevant to a wider audience screenwriter Sorkin said in an interview that all stories are about people facing obstacles. They want something very much but there’s a huge obstacle in their way. What they want doesn’t really matter. It could be getting the girl, the boy, or just getting to Philadelphia. Character comes out of how people try to overcome obstacles and get there in the end. We relate to Steve Jobs because he’s a compelling character. And we all have obstacles in life that stop us getting what we want.
Sorkin also says most of us have at some time felt aggrieved about not getting sufficient – or even any! – credit for something we’ve done. All human life is there in the story of Steve Jobs, which is why four years after his death fans are arguing about whether the film does justice to him and are still arguing about the massive contribution Jobs made not just to the world of computing but to the world. People are emotionally invested in Steve Jobs and in Apple. And they probably always will be. For there’ll never be another Steve Jobs.