Archives for steve jobs



Legacy of a Jerk

Season 3, Episode 5

Since the beginning of civilization, human waste has been considered worthless at best and quite often dangerous. What if it turns out we were wrong? In this episode of Freakonomics Radio, host Stephen Dubner explores the power of poop, focusing on an experimental procedure called a fecal transplant (some call it a “transpoosion”), which may offer promising results not only for intestinal problems but also obesity and neurological disorders.  We’ll talk to two doctors at the vanguard of this procedure and a patient who says it changed his life. Read More »



Apple vs Samsung: Who Owns the Rectangle?

This week in San Jose, a trial opened that may be the World War III of patents. Apple is suing Samsung, alleging that the Korean tech giant has knocked off many features of its iPhone and iPad. Apple wants $2.5 billion in damages – a record in a patent case — and a court order forbidding Samsung from selling some of its most popular phones and tablets in the United States. Samsung claims that Apple is the one stealing, and that some of Apple’s patents are invalid because they are so commonplace.  

With respect to at least one of Apple’s patents, Samsung has a point. A patent at the heart of the dispute. Design Patent 504,889 — which lists Steve Jobs and Apple design guru Jonathan Ive, among others, as the “inventors” — is a claim for a rectangular electronic device with rounded corners. That’s right, Apple is claiming control over rectangles. The full claim is only 2 lines long, and amazingly broad – Apple is claiming all devices with the basic shape shown here. Read More »



Legacy of a Jerk: A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast

Our latest podcast is called “Legacy of a Jerk.” You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, listen via the media player above, or read the transcript here.

The gist: what happens to your reputation when you’re no longer around to defend it?

You’ll hear a variety of stories, and theories, about legacy in general and the legacy of jerks in particular. We discuss “strategic jerkitude”; the ancient injunction against speaking ill of the dead; and the fascinating, complicated legacy of Steve Jobs.

Among the highlights:

The death of a Pennsylvania woman named Carole “Fritzi” Miller Roberson and how lives like hers live on at Legacy.com, where roughly 5,000 new obituaries are posted every day. Read More »



Question of the Day: What Boomerangs in Value?

Our latest podcast, “Weird Recycling,” is about the unlikely reuse of cast-off items. A reader named Gavin Castleton just happened to write in with an appealing riddle in the same vein:

Has there ever been a good/product whose value was reduced to zero, but somehow rose again? If so, could you shed any light on the market dynamics or social catalysts that revived it?

To put my question in context: I’m researching the music industry’s rocky transition from goods to services (download/physical goods to streaming music subscription services). Journalists, industry folk, and consumers are all quite fond of declaring “Music will be free. It’s obvious and inevitable.” But I started to wonder if it really was all that inevitable. So I started looking for other examples of a product that lost its monetary value completely, but somehow returned from the dead.

Read More »



It’s No Major Major Major Major, But …

… this was still a puzzling sign to behold. It’s on Lenox Ave. (a.k.a. Malcolm X Blvd.), in the southern end of Harlem:

Did your mind get stuck for a minute when it read those words, or did it quickly skip ahead and fill in a blank? (Danny Kahneman writes nicely about this phenomenon in Thinking, Fast and Slow.)

Once you walk a few steps further south, the sign becomes complete.



Steve Jobs’s Final Product?

As a fan of both Walter Isaacson and of Apple products, I have happily begun reading (along with a few million others) the new Steve Jobs biography. So far I find it to be as compelling as expected. Just a few pages into it, I was struck by this thought: as much as Jobs is known for the iPod, iPhone, iPad, etc., I couldn’t help but think that the book itself is in some ways Jobs’s final product.

In the introduction, “How This Book Came To Be,” Isaacson — who, it should be clear, is a true heavyweight — relates how Jobs approached and repeatedly pursued him to write the book. The terms were clear: Jobs would participate fully, and give others (including those who might be hostile to him) the go-ahead to do the same, and Jobs would have no right to approve or edit material. “He didn’t seek any control over what I wrote, or even ask to read it in advance,” Isaacson writes. That said, it becomes clear that Jobs was infinitely interested in shaping the book. To wit:

His only involvement came when my publisher was choosing the cover art. When he saw an early version of a proposed over treatment, he disliked it so much that he asked to have input in designing a new version. I was both amused and willing, so I readily assented.



Confessions of a Steve Jobs Fanboy

This is a cross-post from James Altucher‘s blog Altucher Confidential. His previous appearances on the Freakonomics blog can be found here.

I saw the news this morning when I looked at my iPad. Whenever I wake up, the first thing I do, before even going to the bathroom, is turn on the iPad and check the news. My heart sank when I saw the headline: Steve Jobs, dead at 56.

From my first Apple product (an Apple II+), to doing all my homework in college on the first Macintosh, to reading this news on my iPad, to typing this sentence on my Macbook Air, so much of my life has been influenced and changed by this man. Very sad day. My question for readers (please answer in the comments section) is: what was your first Apple product?

And now, here’s an essay I’ve written about Jobs:

I was standing right next to Steve Jobs in 1989, and felt completely inadequate. The guy was incredibly wealthy, good-looking: a nerd super-rockstar who had just convinced my school to buy a bunch of NeXT computers, which were in fact the best machines to program on at the time. I wanted to be him, badly. Read More »



What if They’d Just Called it the iPhone 5?

Unless you’re living under a rock, you’re probably aware that Apple unveiled a new iPhone yesterday. At what turned out to be a relatively muted Apple product launch, it was new CEO Tim Cook‘s first chance at replacing Steve Jobs as product pitchman. It seems he did just fine.

The new iPhone is loaded with cool new features that the market was anticipating, with one exception: it’s not called the iPhone 5, it’s called the iPhone 4S.

By the time it became obvious that Cook wasn’t going to introduce anything called an iPhone 5, (about 1:50 pm EST yesterday), the stock price began to plummet pretty quickly, as you can see in the chart below. From 12:15 pm to 3:15 pm, the price dropped more than 6%. Also, note the spike in volume at the bottom. Read More »