Black Turtleneck Friday Honors Steve Jobs Legacy

Friday has been proclaimed Black Turtleneck Friday as an homage to Steve Jobs, timed to coincide with the launch of the iPhone 4S. I've washed my black turtleneck and am wearing it as I test the 4S.

Silly, perhaps, but it's my way, our way, a way, to acknowledge our appreciation and respect.

I'm not the only one who feels we've lost a singular presence in our world. Jobs' visage graces the covers of nearly every major national periodical — Time, Newsweek, Bloomberg Business Week, Fortune, The Economist, The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, even People, somewhat ironic considered how guarded Jobs was about his personal life. I can't remember the last time a non-politician or non-performer garnered such widespread regard from the news and business press.

But the world has a short attention span. Jobs is venerated today, but fickle history will be the final judge of Jobs' memory.

Even Jobs' rivals are honoring his memory. Earlier this week, ASUS introduced its first ultrabook, the impressive looking and performing Zenbook. Before his product presentation, however, ASUS chairman Jonney Shih paid his respect to Jobs and his family with a moment of silence and a respective bow.

And Samsung, currently locked in a legal death struggle with Apple over patents and intellectual property suits that threaten Samsung's entire Android business, delayed its latest smartphone introduction for a week out of respect.

Jobs even managed to unit divisive Washington. Laudatory quotes came from all ends of the political spectrum, including an unusually heartfelt presidential eulogy.


But hagiography is hard. After all, human beings are imperfect. Even the most accomplished suffer from some breach of moral turpitude we gloss over out or respect for the recently deceased.

As a result, no matter how beloved or respected someone is, there is someone who ain't so impressed.

Where Jobs is concerned, the blogosphere is clogged with naysayers. He sent a lot of manufacturing jobs to sweatshops factories in China. He never "invented" anything - he was just a good salesman and media manipulator. He turned Apple into the Big Brother he once railed against. He ignored his first child. He was a mean-spirited tyrant behind the scenes. He wasn't the philanthropist Bill Gates is. Or he's not God.

No, he wasn't. But how much do character hiccups detract from a person's accomplishments and our celebration of same?

For instance, one of the business leaders Jobs often has been compared to is Henry Ford, who is remembered as the man who remade the world by making cars cheap enough for everyone to buy.

But Ford was perhaps the most virulent and active anti-Semite who ever wiggled his prejudiced behind into a leather office chair. As a result, my parents (and many Jews) refused to ever buy a Ford automobile.

Do I ignore Ford's Jew-hating? Obviously not. But, as Hyman Roth logically pointed it out in The Godfather: Part II, "it had nothing to do (phlegm!) with business!"

Or, as Sir Frank Crisp advised:

"Scan not a friend with microscopic glass;

You know his faults, then let his foibles pass."

I acknowledge Steve Jobs was not the second-coming of Jesus Christ. But he changed the way we regard and use technology in a way no one has since Thomas Edison. Or maybe since one other guy who history — and us — seems to have forgotten.

David Sarnoff.

History: The Final Judge

David who?


David Sarnoff ran RCA for 52 years (1919-1970) — do you even remember RCA? Sarnoff was the real king — or more precisely, the general — of all media and consumer electronics through most of the 20th century.

In many ways, Sarnoff was Jobs and Rupert Murdoch combined. Under Sarnoff, RCA became the leading promoter and seller of both radios and televisions and, later, VCRs, plus owned the RCA Records (Caruso's and Elvis' label) NBC radio and TV networks and what later became ABC. During Sarnoff's tenure, RCA was unchallenged as the nation's top technology and media company.

But few recognize Sarnoff's name today. Perhaps Jobs will one day share his historical fate.

But that's one day. Right now, the whole digital world mourns the loss not only of the man but his unfulfilled potential. For instance, we still await perhaps Jobs' final industry disrupting product: the Apple HDTV.

Meanwhile, I will thank Steve Jobs by the simple act of donning a black turtleneck as I play with my new iPhone 4S.

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