Engineering Elegance

Saint-Exupéry on a 50 franc note

Image via Wikipedia

I’m still thinking some about Steve Jobs since comments are still flowing through the things I read on the internet this morning.

One of the things that has driven Apple is the sheer engineering elegance of their products. The best definition of engineering elegance that I have seen is by French author and aircraft designer Antoine de Saint- Exupéry:

“A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

Now look at an iPhone compared to almost any other smart phone. See what I mean.

This has been the mark of engineering excellence since engineering began. This provides the light airy design of Gothic cathedrals, as well as the elegance of a railroad yard.

Complexity for complexity sake is the mark of poor engineering in all fields. This has been one of the knocks on Microsoft products since-well-forever. In software it’s called bloated code and, one of its downfalls is that it is nearly impossible to maintain.

In engineering one need to put everything one needs in, and then stop. No extras to make it pretty or because you might have gotten your sums wrong.

What it really is, is competence written in hardware and it is rare. It celebrated in engineering but not much seen in consumer marketing. This is one of the things that Jobs did so well: Elegant design. It was a world-changing winner for him and Apple.

The other lesson Jobs leaves us is this: Be productive. He changed a lot of our lives with his products; but how many livings did his products provide: for app programmers, iStore workers, Apple shareholders, and yes, even those Chinese factory workers.

That’s capitalism at work, and few made it work as well as Steve Jobs did. Not because he cared particularly whether I succeeded or failed, because he cared whether he did. Whether I do is my problem, whether Apple did is Steve Jobs’ problem.

Here is a sampling of what I’ve read about this today. First from Michelle Malkin:

From “I, Pencil” to iPhone: The Spontaneous Order of Capitalism
There is perhaps no greater image of irony tonight than that of anti-capitalist, anti-corporate, anti-materialist extremists of the Occupy Wall Street movement payingtributetoSteve Jobs — the co-founder, chairman and former chief executive of Apple Inc., who passed away this evening.

While the Kamp Alinsky Kids ditch school to moan about their massive student debt, parade around in zombie costumes, and whine about evil corporations while Tweeting, Facebook-ing, blogging, and Skype-ing their “revolution,” it’s the doers and producers and wealth creators like Jobs who change the world. They are the gifted 1 percent whom the #OWS “99 percent-ers” mob seeks to demonize, marginalize, and tax out of existence.

Inherent in the American success story of the iPhone/iMac/iPad is a powerful lesson about the fundamentals of capitalism. The Kamp Alinsky Kids scream “People over profit.” They call for “caring” over “corporations.”

But the pursuit of profits empowers people beyond the bounds of imagination.

Read the rest here.

And Simon Black has similar thoughts here:

You’ve undoubtedly heard by now that Steve Jobs passed away yesterday after a long battle with cancer; it’s been all over the news with wall-to-wall coverage, and iCandle vigils have sprung up all over the world. Jobs is being remembered as a pioneer, a technological revolutionary, a visionary.  Rightfully so.

But it’s important to give credit where credit is due, and the world owes a tremendous debt to Steve Jobs for something else. He was perhaps the greatest living example of ‘philanthropy’ in action.

While people like Warren Buffet are pleading with the government to raise their taxes and give away their wealth to sycophantic bureaucrats, Jobs showed time and time again that the best way to improve people’s lives is to create value and be productive.

Read the rest here. He also has some excellent quotes from Steve Jobs.

So the lesson of Steve Jobs is: Be productive, work hard, do it right. You just might change the world. And trust Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand.


About NEO
Lineman, Electrician, Industrial Control technician, Staking Engineer, Inspector, Quality Assurance Manager, Chief Operations Officer

One Response to Engineering Elegance

  1. Pingback: Time to rethink the Steve Jobs iShrines? | A Slice of Life

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