Thursday, October 6, 2011

Steve Jobs: Farewell to the King of the Computer Nerds

I’m saddened to learn of the death of Steve Jobs. There’s no question that his creative mind touched my life, as well as the lives of those around me. Not that I’m an early adopter, by any means. Back in the 1980s, when we were shopping for our very first personal computer, I could imagine myself buying a Apple product, because the little icons that dotted its screen made sense to me. But my husband, the engineer, vetoed the purchase. A fan of complex technology, he decided the user-friendly Mac system was “too simple.” So I became an IBM gal, now and forever—but one who has succumbed to the lure of an iPhone and (yup!) an iPad.

Jobs was a rare combo of technological savvy and showmanship. There’s no question that his Apple brand revolutionized Hollywood, starting with a groundbreaking commercial directed by Ridley Scott that aired in 1984 during the third quarter of the Super Bowl. Look at what Pixar (acquired by Jobs in 1986) has done to change the face of American animation. For better or for worse, the hand-drawn animated features that made Disney’s name have been almost entirely stamped out by the advent of Toy Story and its ilk. On a smaller scale, every ambitious kid can now use his or her home computer to make, edit, and distribute movies—and most of those creative types prefer Macs. The Apple brand soon became invaluable for creating cheap campaigns too. Which is why a Roger Corman underling, Michael Amato, quickly became a Mac expert.

Amato was named Concorde’s head of marketing in 1993, at a time when the company’s direct-to-video sales were in decline. Corman’s solution was to make ever more films on ever slimmer budgets. With only one assistant, Amato was asked to crank out ad campaigns for thirty-six movies a year, while also handling promotional materials for the major film markets. (By contrast, Concorde’s main competitor at the time, Trimark Pictures, released twenty-two in a year, and its marketing staff numbered eleven.) At first each of Michael’s campaigns cost about $4,000, mostly for the hiring of freelance graphic designers. Then Corman decided to slash costs by using cut-and-paste methods. When told that modern advertising required computer technology, he sent Amato to his house to create ads on his son’s home computer. They weren’t great ads-—but to promote Corman’s sex-and-violence cheapies they were surely good enough.

Since I’m hardly passionate about technology and business affairs, when I think of Steve Jobs dying at the age of 56, my mind goes elsewhere. First of all, I remember all those Hollywood weepies in which the focal point is an attractive person who dies young. (To me, let’s face it, 56 seems youngish.) Hollywood was practically founded on such movies. Like Camille and Love Story, where beautiful young heroines become even more beautiful as they succumb to dreadful, but flattering, diseases. And the many films (Dead Poet’s Society and a host of others) in which a sensitive young man dies because he can’t survive the harshness of the real world. Yet Steve Jobs, for all that he was a visionary, was very much a part of the world of today. And he was less an ethereally beautiful young person than a bespectacled computer nerd. In fact, in his black turtlenecks and jeans, he managed to make nerd-dom chic. In the movies and TV shows of today, nerds are frequently viewed as heroes. Maybe Steve Jobs should get credit for that as well.


  1. For a man who gave so much advancement to an ever changing field, it's a shame he was disgraced by those Westboro Baptist church lunatics and they apparently were using his inventions to spread their psychotic jargon!

    Speaking of LOVE STORY, I now have that films main theme stuck in my head again, lol. My mom used to watch that movie incessantly. The sequel, not so much, though.

  2. The sequel??? What? -- she comes back to life? No, wait . . . I think there was a follow-up about poor Oliver suffering. I certainly didn't see that. What I remember best about Love Story was the hilarious parody on the Carol Burnett Show.

  3. OLIVER'S STORY I think was the name of it. I used to love watching the CAROL BURNETT SHOW! I do wish those DVDs were available in store or online as opposed to that infomercial that's on seemingly every night, lol.

  4. The world would be a different place if we hadn't had a Steve Jobs. Oliver's Story - my main memory of that movie is it constantly playing on Showtime in the early 80's and making me wait for the much better movie coming on after it!