LowComDom Performances Presents
The Crapolla According to Fek'Lar
You know you're screwed when...
People you know start taking dirt naps.
You've stumbled onto another issue of The Crapolla, a journal written for software professionals. No not the managers; I mean the people who do the work.
This Crapolla is sponsored by...
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In This Issue...
I've been hearing a lot of bad news as of late. Two people who were influential, to me at least, have passed away. So I would like to dispense with the silly crap this issue and speak about them. One you know, the other, you would have loved to have known.
Most of us don't work for one company our entire career. We get a job, do it, learn what we can, and when there's a new opportunity, we move on. Over the decades we lose track of people. This is why LinkedIn came about. It allows us to network with people we've worked with as well as those who are acquainted with people we have worked with. Last week, I received a LinkedIn invitation from the wife of a guy I worked with in the early 90's. I had known her as well. I had tried finding him on LinkedIn, with no luck. Turns out that was because she had been widowed.
I'm big on handing out nicknames. I do this in real life for fun, I use nicknames online to protect the privacy of others, and to reduce fist fights. Bob Norling was nicknamed Brother Bob. We hired him in his early 20's at Four Heads Software. A week after his start date, we had an appointment to do training at Novell in Utah.
If not knowing the product bothered Brother Bob, he didn't let it show. But this is a guy who would have you believe that he spent four years at Chico State perfecting the art of drinking. We knew better. Bob was well educated, and was up for the task. Perhaps he just was able to relax in a way I have never known. In any event, Bob let the stress of a new job fall off him like water off the back of a duck.
On our drive in from the hotel, we found the college radio station playing a song to the tune of the Mickey Mouse Club March. The lyrics were, "M-O-N-D-A-Y S-U-C-K-S Monday sucks, Monday sucks!" Everyone in the car was rolling. It was going to be a good day.
Bob ran the computer while I ran my mouth. Our Sales Guy, Tony, sat in the back and made sure it didn't get too far out of hand. Although we had a few bumps with the folks at Novell (They flipped when they learned the book we brought had been written with Word, and not their word processor, Word Perfect.) In general, this was a very profitable and fun business trip. After we talked the Novell people out of the school book depository window, we were able to teach the class.
That night, we went bowling until 1AM. Provo Utah tried to roll up the sidewalks at dusk. The pimply-faced youth at the bowling alley wanted us to leave hours ago. I stole The Book of Moron from my hotel room, autographed it, and gave it to Brother Bob on our way out of town. This trip solidified our friendship. Working with Brother Bob for the next couple years was often like being in a comedy club. You never knew what fun we were about to have.
Later, Mookie joined our merry band. Working with Bob, Trouble, and Mookie, was the last time I worked in a sane company. But people move on. Bob wanted to move into Sales. When the Green Lizard bought Four Heads, he made his move. We started to drift apart. It's now been years.
Bob's widow, Leah, had been blogging. When Bob came down with non-Hodgin Lymphoma, she kept blogging. I've read a lot of it. Bob was brave, and he came to terms with his mortality. He got to a point where he was providing comfort to those he was about to leave. For all his kidding, he always remembered what was important. He died a year and a half ago, survived by Leah and their two children. He was just 40 years old.
Many people are mourning the loss of Steve Jobs right now. I feel Steve's passing, but it's Bob, who I sat next to for about three years whose loss I'm really feeling. Bob was an optimistic soul who never cowered from a challenge, gave generously of his knowledge, and could always be counted on for a laugh. I'd like to meet more people like Bob in my career.
Throughout America, people are protesting in the streets over their grieveances with corporations (flushed the economy down the toilet, etc.) and yet when the CEO of the largest capitalized corporation in the world died, many of his customers made pilgrimages to the company's stores and even headquarters, to erect make-shift memorials. Huh? Without context, this would seem to be a great contradiction. Many of Steve's customers felt the need to thank him, and to receive some sort of closure. Tell me of another Fortune 500 CEO who was mourned so by his customers. The list is very short, isn't it?
Maybe the answer is simple. Steve positioned Apple from day one as a company that was making products for people rather than IT managers. This cost Apple quite a lot. One of many reasons Microsoft's market share became so big was because it paid attention to IT managers. Apple never paid the IT industry any attention. The focus has always been making elegantly designed products that "just worked". These products were for people, not for drones working in a faceless corporation.
Steve wasn't the great inventor that the news anchors are claiming. Steve's real function was being the final gatekeeper before a product could be released to the market. He was the Minister of Good Taste (which an awful lot of other companies could use.) When Steve re-joined Apple, he refused to use any of the company's products. He had a Windows machine put on his desk. He told the company he would use Apple's products after it produced something worthy of his attention. Let's face it, Steve was an asshole, a very necessary asshole who provided the electric cattle prod needed to get Apple off the floor of obscurity, and back in the air as a leading technology company. It's almost impossible for a nice guy to break momentum like that. Steve's take-no-shit, suffer-no-fools attitude was exactly what Apple needed when it was on the brink.
A computer you didn't have to assemble, the mouse, the GUI shell, the laser printer, the list goes on and on. Steve and Apple didn't invent these, but unlike Xerox, SRI, and HP, what Apple did was bring these technologies to market and make them popular. Since the products were designed to "just work", markets were made, and then others jumped in. If you work in tech, you've made money because of Steve Jobs.
I only met Steve once. We argued about the lack of floppy drive on the original NeXT. I may not have always agreed with him, but I never stopped digging his sense of style. I'm pouring some out for Steve this week, I know he didn't drink, but we probably won't see his kind for another generation. That deserves a moment, and a raised glass.
Many (including me) have said that Xerox should have owned the world. Here's a link to a New Yorker story I found that best explains why it was Apple that brought all these changes to market. It's an interesting insight into two very different companies run by very different people.
One Last Thing: A week after Steve passed, all my Apple gear went nuts. Coincidence? I think not. I think Steve is in there, prodding me to upgrade to Lion.
I need to re-load all the silly crap.
They pay me to think. These are my thoughts. Do you think they are getting their money's worth?
Remember: The Crapolla contains my personal opinions. That's right they're mine, so get your own! And you kids get off my lawn!
Although written with the software professional in mind, my mind tends to wander all over the place, and I sometimes write about politics, mass stoopidity, dumb things I saw, and whatever else comes to mind.
From time to time, I use salty language, thus The Crapolla is not intended for children, or certain people from the Christian Right.
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