‘The claim that followed the death of Steve Jobs was consistent across the media. He changed the way we live. This was a man who left his mark. This may not be the easiest challenge to write but it is the least difficult to meet. As soon as Bono made the comparison between Steve Jobs and Elvis there was little left for this blog to do but analyse the nature of the relationship.
Rock and roll also changed the way we live, and Elvis was a key player in helping the music to have an impact but, like technology and Jobs, rock and roll did not begin and end with Elvis. He required influences and after he left his mark others came along and utilised the shift in behaviour and taste to have additional impact. Unless the apocalypse is well ahead of schedule others will do the same in the future. The same will happen with technology. Generations will come along and make innovations and impose values to make modern day iPhone huggers uncomfortable and complain that the world is not what it used to be. Old-fashioned rock and rollers like me say the same when we listen to modern music.
Inevitably, the debates are already starting around Jobs as they did with Elvis. Was Jobs the key player that his myth proclaims? Are there others who made more significant contributions? Soon people will argue that innovation is not just about individuals but reflects the process of history. Those who need authenticity are in full pursuit, and some believe that they have discovered it in figures with lower profiles. Dennis Ritchie, the software creator, has already been mentioned, and no doubt a cult will build around him. Posterity invites a debate between the relative importance of Jobs and Ritchie similar to which exists between the aficionados of Fats Domino and Professor Longhair.
Jobs and Elvis may not have been the only creators in their fields but both were significant because they introduced cool. Before Elvis, people listened to rhythm and blues and country but nobody assumed that these musicians were stars capable of inspiring mass sexual hysteria. Before Jobs, technology made machines work and function. After him, the machines were desirable, a source of pleasure. Fashion, status and image became involved. Both Elvis and Jobs understood that there could be consequences others had missed.’