The legacy of Steve Jobs by Richard Stallman

06 October 2011 (Steve Jobs)

Steve Jobs, the pioneer of the computer as a jail made cool, designed to sever fools from their freedom, has died.

As Chicago Mayor Harold Washington said of the corrupt former Mayor Daley, “I’m not glad he’s dead, but I’m glad he’s gone.” Nobody deserves to have to die – not Jobs, not Mr. Bill, not even people guilty of bigger evils than theirs. But we all deserve the end of Jobs’ malign influence on people’s computing.

Unfortunately, that influence continues despite his absence. We can only hope his successors, as they attempt to carry on his legacy, will be less effective.

27 October 2011 (Steve Jobs)

In my first posting about Steve Jobs, I misquoted Mayor Washington’s words. According to this radio program, his exact words were:

When he says that he would hope that I would have all the good qualities of past mayors, there are no good qualities of past mayors to be had. None. None. None. None.

I did not mourn at the bier of the late mayor. I regret anyone dying. I have no regrets about him leaving.

I remembered two sentences (“I regret…leaving.”) of what Washington said, but got the words wrong. The error did not alter the meaning, but accuracy requires this correction.

Overall, Washington’s statement was harsher than mine. He criticized Mayor Daley as a person; I criticized Jobs’ public activity. My feelings about Jobs as a person are not strong, since I barely knew him. The important thing about Jobs is what he directed Apple to do to those who are still living: to make general-purpose computers with digital handcuffs more controlling and unjust than ever before. He designed them to refuse even to let users install their own choice of applications — and installing free (freedom-respecting) applications is entirely forbidden. He even tried to make it illegal to install software not approved by Apple.

Jobs saw how to make these computers stylish and smooth. That would normally be positive, but not in this case, since it has the paradoxical effect of making their controlling nature seem acceptable.

Jobs’ death inspired a flood of articles lauding him for these very devices. That further increases their potential for harm, which is why now more than ever we must focus attention on it. We must not let secondary considerations about Apple or Jobs distract us from this threat until we have thwarted it.

Jobs also made it a personal crusade to attack Android with software patents. In practice, Android is not entirely free software, but it is a big step closer compared with the iPhone. If Apple’s guns hit Android, they could wipe out all possibility of free software portable devices that are attractive to use. Jobs’ final legacy may be the patent disaster we have warned about for 20 years.

Source: Stallman, Richard. “Steve Jobs.” Oct-2011. Nov-20-2011.

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