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Invisible, beautiful technology

When a man as legendary as Steve Jobs passes away, you’re never going to be alone in writing tributes [ in fact I turned up at Storm today to find that Liam had already written one :-) ] – and as readers, you’re not going to be short of material to read. So this’ll be short and sweet.

We use Apple technology almost exclusively here at Storm. This is in itself a revelation when you look back at the not-very-distant-past when Macs were purely the tool of designers.

I remember going to an early FOWA and looking round the room to see hundreds of PCs. Two years later at the same conference, at least 70% of the room were using a Mac. This year, I bet a fair percentage are sitting there with iPads.

Looking round me on the bus this morning – a normal bus filled with normal non-geeky people – I could see iPods and iPhones. Where there weren’t iPods and iPhones there were devices trying to be iPods and iPhones.

This kind of impact on technology is profound.

That “fan boy” thing? Boy do I hate it. I don’t hate it because I am one and it irritates me, I hate it because it belies the truth. Anyone who thinks about this stuff with any intelligence will immediately recognise that this isn’t about “shiny”; it’s about utility, pleasure and quality.

It’s high time for technology to be good enough that it becomes invisible and we stop having to wrestle with it. It’s good enough – the only thing standing between good technology and shit technology is laziness,thinking and vision.

The reason we love Apple is exactly that – it embodies good thinking. We don’t *put up with it*, we don’t dread turning it on in the morning. We don’t fight, endlessly, with blue screens or plugging some USB thing into the wrong hole that was right a minute ago and hey, do you mind a quick reboot just while you’re in the middle of something important.

Instead, someone has thought about how it all works – profoundly and from the top down – and the end result is quality. Robert M Pirsig had a lot to say about quality – an indefinable, far-reaching thing which we all know is there but can’t quite put our fingers on:

“What I mean (and everybody else means) by the word ‘quality’ cannot be broken down into subjects and predicates. This is not because Quality is so mysterious but because Quality is so simple, immediate and direct”

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Apple is all about quality, and the end result is that working with this technology actually becomes a pleasure.

This kind of approach – a beautiful, joined-up, crafted, shiny (yes, shiny too!), pleasurable technology – can only come from a vision.

This kind of a vision can only come from a visionary, and Steve Jobs was a visionary and a leader of the highest order. His impact was profound, and he will be hugely missed.