Steve Jobs made music more fun
Aug 25th 2011
STEVE JOBS, who has resigned as the boss of Apple, is departing the stage rather the way he used to at those over-controlled press conferences. And rightly so, because he is a huge figure in technology and business. But one of his achievements is in danger of being overlooked. It’s in the field of music. Sure, he shook the foundations of the music industry, but that’s just an industry. The music is the thing, and Mr Jobs, along with his chief designer, Jonathan Ive, has made music more fun.
The iPod isn’t just an elegant design and a miracle of compression. Putting it in shuffle mode is the most satisfying way yet devised of enjoying your record collection. It allows the present and the past to intertwine, which is how music works anyway. If you’re a rock and pop fan, it gives you a stream of songs that is eclectic, unpredictable and serendipitous.
Thanks to shuffle, you can create a radio station of a kind that died out when the broadcasters allowed niche playlisting to become a tyranny. And it doesn’t have any chit-chat or jingles or adverts. The music really is the thing.
Some people, as they look round a crowded carriage at all the commuters lost in white headphones, see isolation, self-absorption, atomization. What they don’t see is a lot of people enjoying an art form, and turning the dullest stretch of their day into a treat. The iPad is beguiling, but it's essentially a slimmer, sexier laptop; the iPhone is just first among smartphones. Mr Jobs's greatest hit, the Apple gadget that has done most to enrich the fabric of daily life, is still the iPod.