BitDepth 805 - October 25

On October 19, UTT decided to honour the life of Steve Jobs with a lecture event. This is what ensued.
UTT salutes Steve Jobs
Andrew Barnes, Apple senior engineer architect, shared anecdotes and advice at UTT’s tribute event on Steve Jobs. Photo by Mark Lyndersay.

The advertisement promoting UTT’s Steve Jobs tribute lecture set off some early warning bells. The lengthy text of the advert, running more than half the length of Jobs’ legendary address to Stanford University, spent an awful lot of time on UTT’s business.

So let’s offer the university a “C” for consistency and truth in advertising. Last Wednesday’s event, also spent an irritatingly long time strapping the institution’s programmes to the late Mr Jobs’ principles and practices with threads that were often tenuous and energetically stretched.

Give UTT chairman Curtis Manchoon this at least, in a quotation-rich presentation full of hip business concepts, he found the time to bluntly state his mission for the event, describing it as “an opportunity to talk about the role of the UTT in Trinidad and Tobago.”
It also seemed, mostly, to be an opportunity to trot out every lecturer at the university involved in something remotely technical as well as a few who seemed to have jumped onto Apple’s successful bandwagon with the iPad.

What began as an iffy proposition quickly began to have a distinct whiff of opportunism until Ricardo Sandy, the local authorised dealer for Apple’s products, took the stage with a very personal slideshow and a lifestory that saluted the serious and deeply felt influence that Jobs and his products had on this young businessman.

It was all there in the photos, images that captured the entrepreneur at the company’s Infinite Loop campus, in front of a crowd gathering for an Apple Keynote and in Sandy’s throaty gasp as he said, “Thank you, Steve Jobs,” his voice trailing off. 
Give Sandy this though, as he walked away from the microphone, he caught himself,  remembering that his company had given an additional doorprize and had a delightful moment to say, “Oh, one more thing...”

It was a welcome and long overdue bit of humour at an event that had been drowning in reams of readily available quotes about Jobs, business book platitudes and recitals of commonly known facts about the Apple founder.
The evening’s true gem was Andrew Barnes, a Trini who migrated to Canada, found his way to Steve Jobs’ Next computer project and came over to Apple when the struggling Macintosh maker bought the company for its Unix based operating system.

I’m pretty sure that Barnes meant to say that the process was like a guppy swallowing a whale, though what he actually said was the exact opposite of that, and his careful talk, answering questions put to him by UTT president Rodney Jagai, was more open about Apple’s operations than most employees usually are in public.

Barnes, a senior engineer architect at Apple, spoke of the experience of presenting work to Jobs and having him focus on one, utterly unexpected aspect of the product. 
Jobs was, Barnes said, on one of the rare occasions in which he spoke of the late founder in the past tense, “a self-appointed custodian of tasteful computing.”

More typical of his talk, in which the presence of Jobs was referred to as a continuing, palpable thing, was an engineer’s in-joke at the company, “We have only one customer at Apple...SJ.”

“Joke,” he told the audience, “joke! But we do spend a lot of time thinking about what the customer wants.”
The event could, and really should have ended with Barnes, but this fathershow, the absolute, slogging seriousness of which precludes the use of any diminutives like “pappy,” would proceed to jump the shark with a new calypso by Professor Hollis Liverpool, who would sing, rather inaccurately, about “the king of technology,” while missing a reputation salvaging opportunity for a chorus of “job-ai, job-ai!”
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