Steve Jobs's Legacy

December 22, 2011
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On October 5, 2011, Steve Jobs, the driving force behind the ongoing technological revolution, passed away. He will always be remembered as a genius and innovator, as well as for the strides he made in person-to-machine interfacing. However, this is the same interface which may tarnish his legacy he has built over his lifetime. According to Eric Sofge in his Slate article “Good Touch, Bad Touch,” Apple may have pushed the touchscreen concept too far, ruining Jobs’s legacy as well as the products which put him at the top of the technological tower.

Sofge explains how the touchscreen, among other Apple technologies, has been applied in the past, how it is being applied in the present, and where it will most likely go into the future. While it is inarguable that the touchscreen is the perfect interface for the iPhone, it is a different story for other devices. The old iPod click wheel, while still touch sensitive, did not require full attention, or even two hands to operate. However, modern touchscreens require complete attention to be used easily and efficiently. This is because touchscreens lack affordance, or as Sofge explains, “a lofty term for an object’s built-in ability to tell you how it works.” The click wheel was simple: a circle with buttons to feel and push. The touchscreen gives the user no inclination of how to operate it based on touch alone, requiring much more attention and control to accomplish the same task. The touchscreen works well for everything, but cannot compete with technologies specifically designed for one purpose. As Sofge says, “[The touchscreen is] an interface for everything, and a master of none.”

Apple created its first mp3 player in 2001 with the iPod (known today as the iPod classic), a small brick with a mechanical scroll wheel, auxiliary buttons, 5G of memory, and a battery that could last for about four hours on a full charge. Soon after they developed the touch sensitive wheel in 2002, but had yet to move the buttons onto the wheel itself. In 2004 the iconic Click Wheel was created, moving the auxiliary buttons onto the wheel itself. The iPod kept shrinking on a consistent basis with the iPod Nano in 2005, and the Shuffle in 2009. However, in early 2007 the iPhone came in and changed the future of the iPod forever. Later in 2007, the iTouch came out, which was simply the iPhone without the phone. The touchscreen soon came to dominate everything that it could. In 2010 it took the old iPod Nano and shrunk it to the size of a 1.54”x1.54” square, with a touchscreen on the front. The only things that were left unaffected were the Shuffle, which doesn’t even have a screen, and the Classic. Everything else was either scrapped, replaced, or converted.
Soon after, other companies followed suit. Touchscreens were placed on everything from competing cell phones to portable GPS units mounted on car dashboards. This can become a potentially deadly hazard. Older cars had a button or knob that would do one thing, turn the volume up; new cars now have touchscreens, which require more attention and create more distraction while driving. The new mentality of most technology based corporations seems to think touchscreens belong on everything everywhere, even though most would be better without it. The mouse for a computer works great, but HP wants to make them touchscreens. They don’t see that the majority of people want to move their arms around when a simple flick of the wrist will work much faster.
As corporations are growing, their technology is shrinking. Touchscreen-enabled devices are a rapidly growing product field, even though most are not the best at what they are so elaborately designed to do. The only advantage a touchscreen offers is the ability to do more than one thing. Steve Jobs was, and always will be a technological icon. He inspired a worldwide movement and advancement in all handheld devices. However, Apple may have pushed this idea too far and will forever ruin the legacy he has worked so hard to create.





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