A Look At Jobs' Legacy

Oct 6, 2011
Originally published on October 7, 2011 12:28 am
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Much has been made of Steve Jobs's immediate legacy, how his inventions have changed entire industries - computing, telecommunication, publishing and, of course, music. But how will all these contributions be seen 50 to 100 years from now? Was Steve Jobs a modern Edison, an innovator who belongs in the pantheon of the greatest American inventors? To help us answer that question, we're joined by Walt Mossberg. He's the personal technology columnist for The Wall Street Journal.

And, Walt, put Steve Jobs into an historical context. Is it a leap of faith to say, you know, Ford, Edison, Whitney, the Wright brothers, Steve Jobs?

WALT MOSSBERG: No. I don't think it's a leap of faith. I don't know a lot about how he compares to every one of those people you just mentioned, but I am absolutely convinced he's a historical figure. He - without him, we wouldn't have the personal computer, for instance, and that alone puts him in that category.

RAZ: Help us understand how Steve Jobs has changed the way we live today, to the same scale that, let's say, the automobile has.

MOSSBERG: Well, just going back to the personal computer and the Apple II, can you imagine life today without computers?

RAZ: Not at all.

MOSSBERG: And Steve Jobs is the guy who made that a kind of household item. He's the guy who didn't build one of these computers for just geeks. He built it so that normal people could use it.

RAZ: Is there anybody living today that is remotely his peer, anywhere close to his genius?

MOSSBERG: Well, I am a technology writer, and I, you know, there may be people in other industries and other walks of life, but certainly in the technology business and in American business in general, I actually don't think there is anyone. You know, if you look at the headline of the print Wall Street Journal this morning, it just simply says Steven Paul Jobs, 1955-2011, over six columns. And we've been talking here on our - in our staff trying to think of who other than the president of the United States would merit a headline upon his death in The Wall Street Journal of that magnitude? And we just can't think of anybody.

RAZ: Walt Mossberg, you got to know Steve Jobs over the course of your career. He was a complicated person.

MOSSBERG: Yep. He was a complicated person. And I think some of those other people you mentioned were also very complicated people. To get radical ideas - ideas that are laughed at, ideas that don't seem economically viable at first - to get those ideas through institutions, to get them built, to get them adopted, you can't always be a nice guy. And he wasn't always a nice guy. He was in many times a nice guy, and there are stories of him - very humane stories and touching stories.

But there's an equal number of stories of him being rude and tough and almost impossible to do deals with because there were certain things he simply wouldn't compromise on. And he - once he decided, you know, X is the right course, he pushed relentlessly for that, and it rubbed some people the wrong way. And it made his company, Apple, a pretty bad company at partnering with other companies but a pretty good company at turning out brilliant products.

RAZ: That's Walt Mossberg, personal technology columnist for The Wall Street Journal, on the legacy of Steve Jobs. Walt Mossberg, thanks.

MOSSBERG: Glad to be here. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.