Confessions of a Steve Jobs Zombie

by Chris Seibold Jan 10, 2007

Finding myself outside Moscone at 4 AM the morning of the Macworld keynote lead to certain, unavoidable conclusion: I was in grave danger of becoming a Steve Jobs Zombie. In my heart, I felt that I was a bit different from the other folks shivering in the San Francisco pre dawn chill, but that is the purest form of self-delusion. Actions speak much louder than words and those sufficiently immune to the spell cast by Steve Jobs masterful marketing aren’t bothering to sit on a cold slab of marble while Hadley fetches coffee. The best case scenario is that perhaps I was only a half zombie, maybe it isn’t too late, maybe this is just the experimental phase…

As with any addict, justifications and rationalization serve to hide the truth, at least from yourself. Sure, I’m waiting in line at four in the morning but I wasn’t the first person in line, the first person in line….well, that bastard is crazy. But, it is still 4 AM, the only reason you can possibly be there that early is to assure yourself that you get into the keynote. You justify this by thinking that it isn’t your fault, if only you had gotten the media pass you so richly deserve you wouldn’t be in this terrible position. So, you’re not like the other people out there, you just got the screw job on the media passes, yeah that’s the ticket.

They say you can’t get better until you hit rock bottom but that is a bit like saying something lost will be in the last place you look. The statement is necessarily true so the observation is nothing more than a parlor trick. For those waiting to see the Steve note rock bottom comes hard and unexpectedly, a friend goes to retrieve some coffee when Starbucks opens at five. Since you’re uncomfortably cold but nowhere near hypothermia the chances of hallucinations setting and relieving your pain are miniscule. Instead, you’re sincerely looking forward to that hot cup of coffee. I imagine the banter: Hadley asks for a “large” they say “Venti” he swears “speak English you pretentious ****,” everyone chuckles. This is the nadir of line waiting, when you aren’t thinking about the keynote or even particularly interested in the thing, when you’re making up lame Starbuck’s scenarios. I wasn’t thinking about Macs or iPods, I was smiling stupidly to myself because of a unfunny and imaginary Starbuck’s joke.

The realization is depressing or, at the very least, sobering. But the moment the cold facts coalesce, the line starts moving. Unfortunately, what the I initially mistook for admittance into the building proves to be nothing more than a massive line shift (Apple was asking for a line six people wide). The erroneous conclusion was easy to reach, people were literally running to get back in line.

The remaining hours before the keynote don’t leave much time for introspection, turns out that besides being obvious Steve Jobs zombies the people in line are pretty interesting. A programmer from Virginia who specializes in GPS Mac connectivity, an IT guy from a school in Texas, etc. The conversation proves interesting and diverting, the people know what they are talking and seem like the kind of folks who might be my neighbors or something. In fact, short of the obvious brain washing by Steve Jobs I was hard pressed to find anything odd about these people.

Time passes talking with quickly met (and never to be seen again) friends and soon it is time to bathe in everything that is his Steveness. I may only be half a Steve Jobs zombie but I still feel inexplicable butterflies in my stomach. This is the moment I’ve been waiting for, can Steve possibly be all people says he is? Will he recover crashed hard drives with a wave of his hand, cure leprosy, remove society’s collective memory of Chairman of the Board?

With expectations like that, I was a little disappointed when Steve Jobs bounced onto the stage and started talking. Steve has charisma but not buckets of it, he talks well but is not a great orator, he’s energetic but not impressively so. Yet, he seems to get the most out of the skills and natural talents he does have. The longer he speaks the more I started to feel completely in Steve’s thrall. I began to actively believe that the iPhone is something insanely great, that it is the only thing remotely like it on the planet, that Apple had single handedly invented the next great thing that will help the world become a happier, friendlier place. It’s a freaking Mac in your pocket, a phone, this thing is everything, damn the prices man, I’ve gotta have it! Complete zombification was imminent.

Legend has it that once you are bitten by a vampire you have a few precious hours until the next dawn to avoid being a vampire for eternity. The same is true for Jobs zombification, if you can break the spell, even momentarily, before the end of the keynote, maybe you can remain a jaded fan. For me, that moment was when Hadley pointed out that the phone said Cingular. I have Verizon, no iPhone for me.

It is in that moment of clarity that certain realizations become unavoidable. When people go to see a band they wait in line to see a band, that is the end goal. They want to see the dry ice, the laser show, the flying pigs… When you go to see a Macworld keynote you’re going because you want to be sold. I might have justified the trip because I have to know the news to write informed stuff for Apple Matters, except that the news was available as it was happening. Hence, the only reason I was at the keynote was to see Steve Jobs, to kowtow to his Steveness, to show personal gratitude for all the great products his leadership allowed me to buy.

The entire mess is more than a little disconcerting. Why should I be cheering Steve for making something I might or might not want to buy? I don’t go McDonalds and clap for the backline guy for making a cheeseburger I might or might not want to eat. It is Apple’s job to make stuff people want to buy, the company (and Steve) are rewarded with profits if they are successful in this endeavor. Naked adulation of a CEO doesn’t do anything for Apple’s bottom line, it is at best superfluous and, more likely, a dark trick manipulate the media in hopes of fomenting runaway longing for Apple newness. 4,000 people going nuts for a pretty cool phone can’t be wrong can they?

The cynical thoughts swirl as the keynote continues, righteous anger bubbles towards the surface and I noticed the people around me more than Steve. “Look at these fools” I thought with contempt, “lined up like sheep for a shearing, and actually happy to be fleeced.” Then, the picture manipulation started, Steve was dragging and flipping snap shots with just his fingers and the phone did seem one step away from awesome. Mobile internet that is actually readable? I can think of moments when I’d use that. What’s this, Google maps right on the phone? Stock market info? Why the iPhone is even better than Steve is letting on, I can think of a million more uses for the thing. Screw the grand getting out of my current contract and picking an iPhone is going to cost me, imagine the savings compared to a video iPod, PDA, small form factor tablet PC, portable DVD player, digital camera, cell phone… Oh, and don’t forget a bitchin tattoo to make you look hip. Compared to the cost of all that, the iPhone is an absolute bargain. Oh, and the keynote? I’ll make hotel reservations as soon as I get back to Knoxville. Zombification complete.


  • Chris, this is a very well written piece. Bravo!

    aathanor had this to say on Jan 10, 2007 Posts: 1
  • Thanks aathanor!

    Chris Seibold had this to say on Jan 10, 2007 Posts: 354
  • What? You forgot it needs FCC approval and won’t be available for 6 months from now? You just fell into the twilight vaporvoid.

    Robert Pritchett had this to say on Jan 10, 2007 Posts: 25
  • You sensed the field distortion from within?
    Well done young man.

    Congratulate yourself:
    Real zombies don’t have that sort of consciousness. Being able to separate yourself from crowd consciousness is one of the highest human skills. Very few have it. That’s why there were Nazis. That’s why some people still think they can win in Iraq…

    In the meanwhile…
    A question to the zombie masses:

    How many movies you reckon you can store on a 8 gig iphone? And are you really going to read the NYTimes on that thing? Yeah right. Sure you are.


    Why not offer the device with more memory, wifi,  and NO phone?

    Why not offer the device with more memory, wifi, and a bigger screen that you can take to bed with you and browse the net?

    I am thinking of Sony’s ebook reader empowered with iphone wifi OS-10 talents…


    (not some little peckerwood phone device that will make it easier to drive and dial and crash into pedestrians and cyclists. One might as well sell sugar water…)

    koreyel had this to say on Jan 10, 2007 Posts: 22
  • How many movies you reckon you can store on a 8 gig iphone? And are you really going to read the NYTimes on that thing? Yeah right. Sure you are.

    Or a simpler question. What will it be like to use a phone with no tactile sensation whatsoever? No, buttons on the phone…  I do most of my typing by rote using feel and position of the keys.

    (One more drawback… as of now, the battery is not removable. How easy will it be to use while it is charging? How long will it take to charge? I hope the phone won’t be out of commission for however long it will take to charge (meaning you will need a suite of accessories like a car charger, plane charger,etc))

    SterlingNorth had this to say on Jan 10, 2007 Posts: 121
  • haha, nice article. What you just described is essentially what the Matrix movies were about. At points in life and social situations, it feels like we are sheep, simply being manipulated and led inexorably down a path we really have no control over.

    It’d be nice to “wake up” and enter some sort of “true” consciousness. Til then, as you ended up doing, just enjoy being a sheep and let the iPhone goodness wash all over you.

    Nathan had this to say on Jan 10, 2007 Posts: 219
  • koreyel: This market space has been recently proven by Blackberry and Treo, not to mention the Palm and Handspring and the Newton.

    You can’t fight truth in proven markets.

    Mobile computing and robotics are the future of personal electronics, Gates and many other PHd’s all agree… which of course, means they are (mostly) right.

    Don’t fight the iPhone!

    Nathan had this to say on Jan 10, 2007 Posts: 219
  • Recognizing you have a problem is a good sign you don’t have one - at least in this case.  Most Apple zombies (not to mention any names) don’t realize that they are what they are.

    You, thankfully, have never come across as a regurgitating Mac-bot, so it’s not surprising you’d be capable of this kind of self-reflection.  I only wish everyone on this site had your insight.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Jan 10, 2007 Posts: 2220
  • When I got my masters in the eighties I went for a week to Firenze. I remember being hit by a painting by Botticelli and an unfinished work of Da Vinci. As a musician I’ve seen the Brecker Brothers in a small club in Belgium, and later actually met Jaco Pastorius. The first Mac did the same to me. The iPhone too. And yes we applaud those moments but not in the same matter we cheer Hitler. I could, as a psychologist, try to express the difference between the two forms of cheering. But really, bringing Nazis to this forum and with the venom of envy imbedded in this hyperactive style of frustration I feel in some postings, I don’t see the point.
    Anyway, a very nice article, well written and somehow reminiscent of the Graucho Marx quote about clubs.

    WAWA had this to say on Jan 10, 2007 Posts: 89
  • Chris, the Mothership would like to have a word with you. You have been scheduled to Room 101. Please be prompt. Don’t keep the brotherhood waiting. Reprogramming will commence upon your arrival…....

    For a moment he was alone, then the door opened and O’Brien came in.

    ‘You asked me once,’ said O’Brien, ‘what was in Room 101. I told you that you knew the answer already. Everyone knows it. The thing that is in Room 101 is the worst thing in the world.’

    The door opened again. A guard came in, carrying something made of wire, a box or basket of some kind. He set it down on the further table. Because of the position in which O’Brien was standing. Winston could not see what the thing was.

    ‘The worst thing in the world,’ said O’Brien, ‘varies from individual to individual.

    It’s time to change the posters: Don’t think, Buy.

    Steve Consilvio had this to say on Jan 11, 2007 Posts: 47
  • nd yes we applaud those moments but not in the same matter we cheer Hitler.

    I was watching a recap of the keynote in Quicktime and my wife commented, “That’s got to be the cheesiest audience I’ve ever seen.  It’s a little off-putting.”

    That’s why I love her!  smile

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Jan 11, 2007 Posts: 2220
  • The first person in line….well, that bastard is crazy. CS

    First off, have to say this is one of your best CS, if not Da Best!

    With 4000 adulating and smitten Stevelets, how the heck were you not completely zombified? Even Chris H. was RDF’d completely “Up Over” helplessly clicking and clicking RSS feeds.

    As for that “bastard” person in line? Was he from Burbank, CA by any chance? Mac parasite, indeed!

    Robomac had this to say on Jan 11, 2007 Posts: 846
  • WAWA and Nathan…

    Those were nicely written rebuttals to my post.
    Gentle and well-reasoned.

    Don’t get me wrong: the iPhone indeed changes everything, just as the first Mac changed everything.

    Jobs has yet again, as he was wont to say in the 80s, “put a dent into the universe.” Cell phones will never be the same. That’s a given. Everything else out there now looks like a bulky, shit-brindle Zune. Or if you will: like an IBM Peanut (if your memory goes that far back) next to a Mac SE.

    My angst stems from not what this device is—but what is SHOULD have been.

    Like the first Mac this has all of Steve J’s strong and weak points inherent within it.

    Do you remember that the first Mac was basically a marketplace failure?

    Not enough memory.
    No slots.
    No software.
    Do you remember disk-swapper’s elbow?
    Do you remember the falling Mac sales numbers?
    Do you remember that few could afford it?

    Those were the Mac’s initial failures.
    And rightfully we can lay those failures on SJ:

    He said no slots.
    He bungled the software packages and insisted on a closed architecture.

    But also… regarding that first Mac:

    It was beautiful was it not?
    It was gloriously simple to use was it not?
    It changed everything… did it not?

    See what I am getting at?

    The iPhone is just like the first Mac.
    I am pissed because I see the SAME mistakes being made.
    I am pissed because I realize I am going to have to wait through upteen interations of the iPhone (just like we had to wait through a dozen different Macs) until someone finally gives me what I want.

    For beginners:

    I don’t want sign a two year contract.
    With anybody.
    I want to be able to access and READ web pages COMFORTABLY.
    On the sofa.
    In bed.
    On the lounge in the back yard.
    Without burning my lap.
    Without having to plug in.
    Without having to struggle with a machine’s weighty carapace…

    That’s what will change my life.
    Anything else… is mere yakety-yak and yadda yadda yadda.
    Or if you will: A cell phone splashed with sugar water.
    Mere iCandy baby…

    koreyel had this to say on Jan 11, 2007 Posts: 22
  • My son led me to Apple.  I was reluctant to follow the advice and ways of the young - but I went.  I have been sucked into a vortex of great design and magical powers and saw for the first time the hypnotic ways of a master enticing people to a new world of useful, beautiful, tactile sensuous pleasures!  I am reeling with disbelief and wonder at this new world and am mystified how I was so accepting of mediocrity.  I too am a zombie and if I wasn’t living at the other side of the world, I too, would have been in that queue at 4am!  My first impression on hearing about iPhone was that it was too expensive.  After Steve Jobs 2 hour keynote presentation (which I watched in its entirety) I just wanted to hand over my money and get a phone at the earliest opportunity and be proud to have such an impressive product.

    Convert had this to say on Jan 13, 2007 Posts: 1
  • Who has climbed El Cap by the most routes? Who has climbed it the greatest number of times? I’ve got the goods here, comparing the resumes of over 40 El Cap climbers.


    nobelboy had this to say on Nov 02, 2011 Posts: 14
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