Changes in American Products
This blog has nothing to do with software, not really. It’s about patriotism. It’s about America. In fact, it was my father who inspired this topic—a person who knows as little about computers as you possibly can in today’s age. He works in construction, and while we talked about the economy one day, he said something that stuck. You see, in his mind there lingers a fond recollection of a time when America was the unrivaled beacon of building things— things of an associated quality and standard-setting precedence. It was the time of General Motors, Proctor & Gamble, NASA, Disney and the almighty dollar. What he said to me was “I don’t know much about them, but I love that they’re American.”
He was talking about Apple, and his comment jolted me from a professional web design familiarity that often reduces the subject to a very narrow discussion. Suddenly, the United States is trailing other nations in a variety of areas we used to dominate. In the area of personal computers and internet technology, however, we’re still showing much of the world how it’s done—and just as importantly, how it profits. It’s an industry eclipsed by the brightness of U.S. titans like IBM, Google, Cisco, Microsoft and a healthy slice of the largest news and social networks. It’s Apple, though, with all its mad-scientist charm, that is arguably America’s most admired and culturally-influential export.
But again, this blog is not about software, and it’s even less about preference. Whether a person loves or hates the Apple computer experience is an issue that has faded from debate into antiquity. Punctuated by the shortening of their name from Apple Computers to simply Apple, they are a company who has broadened more than a few horizons. For all the stigmas that surround its products, Apple cannot be denied its legacy as a polarizing icon. The fanaticism of its flock is rivaled only by its haters, each group engaging the other with religious fervor.
But there’s another conversation to be had, one of nationalism in which we should all find common ground. Steve Jobs and company have built an American powerhouse that has held immeasurable influence over the world’s business, technology and culture. It’s an epic story of uncompromising vision and easily one of the great corporate dramas of all time; an underdog story in the very best American tradition.
To be sure, there are rivals boasting bigger piggybanks with different approaches. And it had often been argued in the pre-iProduct days that Apple might fare better by abandoning hardware altogether to focus exclusively on the higher-margin realm of software (especially in the face of a Japanese stranglehold on tech tangibles). But therein lies the great American triumph that is Apple, whose commitment to smaller-scale craftsmanship has single-handedly reclaimed a sizable chunk of our long-lost reputation. It’s no secret that Mr. Jobs has always considered himself an auteur, a creative visionary more akin to Andy Warhol than his high-tech contemporaries. As quoted in the TV docu-drama Pirates of Silicon Valley:
“We’re artists here, a place where raw sand comes in one end, and comes out the other silicon art.”
And indeed, it’s hard to argue with the industrial masterpieces that line Apple’s gallery of products (many of which have been inducted into the world’s leading modern-art museums). With so many milestones of innovation credited to their name, it’s no wonder that people like my father—unburdened with the many biases of tech people like me—can be proud that Apple builds things of envy and quality in an increasingly competitive world market. Good for them, and good for us.