Steve Jobs and Al Davis: Men in Black

Al Davis and Steve Jobs

Al Davis and Steve Jobs

That man in black. The outlaw. He goes against the grain. Turns the law on it’s head. He demands the fancy of the damsel, gets the respect of the foreigner, and the admiration of the youth. When he blows into town, you know that change is a’coming.

No small coincidence that the story plays out in what was once the Wild West.

Steve Jobs, a Bay Area native, and Al Davis, an East Coast transplant, both died last week within a few days of each other. Both represented and embodied two of the most influential organizations based in the Bay Area, resonating out to their respective industries.

And both wore black.

Growing up in the 1980’s, the coolest new thing at school and at home were video games and computers. I remember when the Apple IIe showed up in our computer lab in junior high, there was a sign-up sheet to use it, de-glamorizing all of the P.E.T. computers running BASIC. When I got a chance to “work” on it, did I know what to do? No way. But I just knew that it was newer and cooler.

In 1984, I had just moved to the Bay Area from Chicago and the Raiders had just moved away to L.A. Being in junior high and trying to affiliate with something that would ground you in your personality and social groups, I explored allegiances and listened to the kids of disgruntled Raider fans. It was then that I heard the name Al Davis for the first time. I recall wondering “Who is Al Davis?  Is he the quarterback, the coach?” Never conceiving, as a pre-adolescent boy, that a sports team could be defined and personified by the OWNER. This was the person who everyone was mad at? He was no one to be vilified or deified… He didn’t even PLAY the game!

This man in black. Defied the NFL. Even dared to alienate his team’s hometown fanbase, abandoning their love and seeking his riches down south. (Home of some other visionary, polarizing magnates like William Mulholland and Walt Disney)

Those orange shorts.

1984 was the year that Raiders had just won the Super Bowl. In Los Angeles. Much to the dismay of my Raider-kin friends. It was also the year that famous Apple Super Bowl 1984 ad was released and the world was about to see something we affectionately know now as…. the Mac Classic.

I’m not sure if I was taken more by the blonde in orange booty-shorts or by the coolest thing that a computer could actually do: Make it easy for me to use.

The early to mid-1990’s played themselves out like this: the Mac became a great little tool for having at home while Bill Gates commoditized the user experience and brought us the rival DOS/Windows system. Going to market with an economical and “open” development environment, Microsoft and Windows began to dominate the PC market as well as mainstream business uses. The Apple products got pushed aside as educational luxuries, relegated to the computer labs of our universities and grade schools.

Steve Jobs had been forced out of Apple, and it was now being run by guys’ guys. Corporate veterans who thought running a company was a textbook position. Jobs had gone on to found NeXT computers, so that he could do things his own way. Of course this way became so attractive to Apple, they bought NeXT for $430M. Critical was the NeXTSTEP operating system which would eventually become Mac OS X (think iTunes’ DNA). Thus, the return to Apple for Jobs in 1996 where he was re-hired as CEO.

Likewise, the San Francisco 49ers had supplanted the Raiders as the Bay Area love team. The good boys in gold. Bringing home championships. The Raiders languished in LA with a laughably large LA Coliseum to fill with easily distracted Los Angeles fans. Still adamant about his team’s “Commitment to Excellence,” Al Davis never gave up on the team he had wholly personified. Knowing he had to make a move that would reinvigorate his franchise and mobilize the fan base, in true Hollywood dramatic fashion, he packed up the Raiders and moved them back to Oakland in 1995.

Ice Cube: Star of "Are We There Yet"

In many ways, they became known as Al Davis’ Raiders rather than Oakland’s or Los Angeles.’ And this move back to the Bay Area cemented firmly in the minds of men that this team belonged to one person and one person only. The mystique around the team transcended the location of the team, the skull and bones logo, and even the storied history of the 60’s and 70’s. It was real cool to be a Raider. Mirroring the gangsta rap, anti-establishment, hip-hop culture of the late 90’s, Raider gear eclipsed America’s team’s, the Dallas Cowboys, in all time merchandise revenue. Long gone was the blonde-haired blue-eyed man-boy. It was good to be bad. It was good to be the man in black. And this all trickled down from Al Davis. Now fans became fans of him and his middle-finger to the world.

In 1996, it was the second coming of Jobs at Apple. It was here that we saw Apple turn around from lovable loser to the gargantuan-ness it is today. Jobs’ brilliance never-ceased to amaze. He was probably the person who made the term “Keynote Speech” a mainstream phrase and the event, a sought-after ticket. He entertained at every turn and filled you with a hope of a better tomorrow today. He followed his what-if’s with check-this-out. He wore a black mock turtle neck for 15 years straight. I think he never wanted to take away from his soon-to-be-released product on the screen behind him.

In fifteen years, Apple went from a whimsical alternative to Microsoft to a market shifter in several vertical industries and reshaped the way in which we consume information, music and each other. There’s a lot of Steve Jobs in every piece of tech you interact with today. Apple branded or not.

Al Davis’ passing was as profound as Jobs’ in that his loss was greatly felt by not only Raider-lovers but football fans worldwide. The halo effect he had on today’s modern-day football game, arguably the most important and valuable entertainment commodity in this country, should never be underestimated. He was the first to hire a black head coach, a hispanic head coach, the youngest head coach and the first woman executive in all of football. He was instrumental in the merger of the AFL and NFL, thereby subverting the loss of teams like the New York Jets, New England Patriots, the Chiefs, the Chargers and the Dolphins.

Both Steve Jobs and Al Davis were entities that were greater than their material selves. That transcendence is the envy of CEO’s, coaches, bull-fighters and parents around the world: to be bigger than you are. These two were bigger than life and have left an indelible mark on the world we consume today. They have fed our love for entertainment and drama and showmanship and inspiration. They were both creators of something that was on one side or another of a love/hate conversation. Either way you have an opinion. And it takes quite a person to make millions of people in the world love your product or hate your product. But they will always respect your passion.

Extremely speaking, if you’re a football geek and don’t care about technology, or tech geek who doesn’t care much about watching the gridiron, one day you will pull out your iPhone and check a football score. And right there will be the shadow of two men in black.


Info Graphics

Map of Rapper names: Ain't no future in yo' frontin'

Let’s get back to bloggin….

Check out this Infographic on Rapper names.

It’s from  a company called Poke around. They got some cool stuff.

I got lost looking at that graphic for a good 20 minutes. I plan to go back for more.

Analog vs. Digital Clocks. Original is Better.

Time is telling.

So this has always been a pet peeve of mine. I’ve never liked them since the days of the Casio waterproof watch that made my wrist smell like rotten broccoli: Digital clocks.

Then I see this Audi commercial where the camera flies through this home saying “good night luxury, stuffy and outdated.” Panning across an old victorian home fit with chandeliers and overflowing cups of jewel-encrusted cufflinks…  Then the camera cuts to the new Audi, all of the lights go on and the futuristic robot mom countdown-to-1 voice starts staying “good morning illumination. Good morning innovation….” And what is in the middle of this out-with-the-old and in-with-the-new scene? Its an analog clock.

That’s a clock with hands. Tick tock.

After all that “technology driven,”  “illumination,” and “innovation”….you can’t design anything better than an analog clock. How awesome is that.

I don’t need to know EXACTLY what time it is. A general round number would suffice. Visually, it’s easier to pick up the cue from the position of the hands on the face of the clock than it is to read and discern what “value” is displayed on the clock. A digital face, an exact time….it’s just less comfortable to read.

I know there’s a need for digital watches and clocks for people who need to time things down to the second or millisecond. Those people are racing or scuba diving and are training, competing or working in an exact environment. They are taking the essence of time and working with it on a much smaller scale than most regular people do on a day to day basis.

It would be like the difference between a chef and a chemist. Both are working with chemical reactions, one is just much more precise about his measurements.

That’s just too much for most of us. Especially when it comes to time. I know what 15 minutes looks like. So when it’s 7 minutes to 7 pm, I don’t want to have to do any math to figure out what 15 minutes from now is on a digital clock. (Clue 1: after 59 you start at 1. whaaa?) . I want to be able to look at my watch and see when I need to start running instead of walking.

0 is the same in km/h and mp/h.

The same concept of the analog clock can be carried over as you look to your left at the speedometer. Digital speedometers kill me.  They might be worse and could possibly have spurned my scorn for digital clocks.

I don’t need to know if I am going 54…. 55….. 56….. 55…… 54….. 55….. 54….. then watching all the numbers flash into blinking 8’s, rapidly descending as I brake…..or is it going up because I accidentally hit the gas!?

No thank you. The dial is good enough for me here, too.

I am glad to see that Audi, who takes much pride in design, is able to feel like they can leave perfect alone.

Post: In this photo you’ll see the Ferry Building in SF amidst a lot of visual noise. Check out how easy it is to make out the time on the building. If that clock were digital, it would much less discernible and probably much more ugly.

The Lady and the Reaper

Death is going to be very difficult….

The Lady and the Reaper. An animated short. Nominated for and won several awards. Created by Javier Recio Gracia. One of the producers is Antonio Banderas….

I really think this is well written and clever. Makes death a little more acceptable?

See it here.

Yuba Bicycles: Cargo And More!

Yuba Mundo Cargo Bike

A friend of mine started this company and product. It seems inevitable that as bikes become mainstream (in America) that more different types of bicycles continue to be developed and experimented with.

Yuba makes a cargo bike in a single frame. They are made locally (to me) in Sausalito, CA. I love the idea of the cargo bike for many reasons. The obvious ones are the use of transporting groceries and sundry items without the use of the car. It also acts a pickup in the sense that you are not restricted to height or length as you would be in the trunk of a car (don’t go there SUV, 17 mpg).

Ben Sarrazin, Founder, and his boxes

But the less than obvious benefits are the ability to transport the family around with all that equipment. Time together with your wife, husband, girlfriend or boyfriend and of course all the kids. As places like San Francisco become more bicycle friendly, products like this will be even more high profile.

Don’t be surprised when you see surfboards, kayaks or whole families on one pedal-pushed vehicle.

Go see more about what Yuba is up to at

Emily and Océanne

Check back here for more information on what people are doing to update and make relevant a technology from the 18th century.

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