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Did Steve Jobs Narrow Or Widen Digital Divide?


Now, we'd like to take some time to remember another pioneer, one from the tech world. Steve Jobs, the cofounder of Apple Computers, died yesterday at the age of 56. He had long suffered from a rare form of pancreatic cancer.

Tributes have poured in from around the world, including on Twitter. Our senior social media strategist, Andy Carvin, sent a few our way. The Saudi Arabian women's rights activist Manal al-Sharif is a leader of the hashtag, Women to Drive Movement in Saudi Arabia. She was recently briefly imprisoned for driving. She tweeted, hashtag Steve Jobs, the man who changed our little ones and our life, RIP.

La il Gonin(ph) was one of the leaders of the Egyptian uprising, tweeted, he was truly inspiring. His company helped change the world. Goodbye, Steve Jobs. And from Bahrain, Batar Kamal(ph) said this: I dedicate our last Apple event, Geekup in Bahrain, to Steve Jobs.

To talk about his global legacy, we've called upon technology reporter Mario Armstrong. Mario, thanks for joining us once again.

MARIO ARMSTRONG, BYLINE: Thanks for having me in, Michel.

MARTIN: I think one of the things that we're most interested in is the question of whether Steve Jobs narrowed the digital divide or did he widen it? As we all know that his products are amazing, but they're also expensive. So what's your take on that?

ARMSTRONG: This is a true point. They believe in their products so much so that they charged a premium price for that and people found ways to acquire that technology because the devices really democratize how we could create content and how we could contribute to society. But I do think...

MARTIN: Talk more about the point you just made, though. You said that he democratized technology. Tell a little bit more about that.

ARMSTRONG: Well, because, you know, technology for communities of color has been so inaccessible for so long. Beyond the economics of it, let's just get into how you can develop and create and how that has transformed industries. In other words, we now have filmmakers that can realistically create a film. When you buy a computer, for example, you get iMovie. That program is substantial enough to create shorts and to create feature films if you wanted to.

So when you are a musician or an artist or trying to create a score for a soundtrack, you could be using Garage Band, another piece of software, or Pro Tools, which so many radio stations across the country use as the de facto standard for making and creating and editing music and sound.

MARTIN: I just want to play a short clip from Steve Jobs himself. This is from a 2005 commencement speech at Stanford. I just think it speaks to the point that you just made about his desire for people to use the technology and own it and put it to their own uses. Here it is.


STEVE JOBS: Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

MARTIN: When you think of Steve Jobs, what is it that you think you will think of the most?

ARMSTRONG: What I'm going to latch onto and use as inspiration and try to continue to keep his memory and legacy going is to embrace his mentality of innovative thought and vision and sticking to his ideals in the toughest of times. And if I could sum it up in one phrase or one word, I think it would be his quote: I want to put a ding in the universe. Now, your universe can be your family. Your universe could be your community or your nonprofit organization or your child's school or your universe can be an international business that you want to create and take over the world. I want to be able to put a ding in the universe much like Steve Jobs did.

MARTIN: Technology reporter Mario Armstrong is host of Digital Cafe on member station WYPR. He joined us from Baltimore. Mario Armstrong, thanks so much for joining us.

ARMSTRONG: Thank you, Michel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.