It’s an odd feeling writing this post, especially as I recently started reading The Little Kingdom, purely by coincidence. As everyone knows by now, Steve Jobs passed away yesterday. By now, shrines have been popping up at your local Apple store. No, I’m serious. Go check your local store. There’s probably one there.
I never met the man, but knew him by reputation and by his products. I remember Apple in the early years. The first computer I used regularly and learned to program on was an Apple II. I’m sure that many who grew up in the ’80s had an Apple computer in their classroom. This was in the days when the Apple logo was rainbow-colored, and had not yet become the current classy metallic apple.
I remember the hard times for Apple. Most considered them a dying voice in the computer industry during the ’90s, as the PC took over the market and shoved Apple to the side. I remember Steve Jobs being forced out, and the company being driven further down. But at the time, Apple was so iconic that my class was assigned to learn about Jobs and Woz during one computer class in middle school, during the early ’90s.
And I remember Steve Jobs’ return to Apple, first as the interim CEO, then as the permanent CEO. And Apple’s triumphant rise, lead by the release of the iPod. And Apple became a force to be reckoned with again.
The above was a brief recollection of Apple and Steve Jobs’ influence on its story from my perspective growing up at the same time Apple did. But for Jobs’ personal influence on people’s lives, I can say this: He made computers cool and technology fun. I have little doubt that consumer electronics would not be where they are today without him. Because of Jobs’ design and influence, he made technology and computers accessible to the layman, something that had primarily only been used by the military and major corporations until Jobs’ and Woz’s little company came along. And in the last decade, he made it cool with devices like the iPod for music lovers, and iPhones changing the way we communicate (some say that Star Trek was the inspiration for a lot of technological advances, but the communicator had nothing on the iPhone). I would even go so far as to say that Apple became sexy. The home computer market grew and developed as new versions of the Mac were released, providing ease of use beyond where others had failed. With the founding of Pixar, Jobs made computers even cooler and led the way in feature-length computer animation, something that inspired my own studies in college.
Yes, Steve Jobs did have a reputation which preceded him. He was known to be demanding in the best of times, and even a jerk at others. But he was a perfectionist with a vision, something that’s not necessarily bad. He marched to his own drummer, in spite of what others said or did, and look at the result, becoming a legend in his own lifetime. Not to mention that when you get that powerful and influential, these kinds of stories will come out. Walt Disney has had similar stories about him, a man whose legacy has ironically intersected with Jobs’ own. But even people who derided Jobs for his perfectionism still seemed to love and respect him for his vision.
There are many words that people have used to describe Steve Jobs since his passing yesterday. Pioneer. Visionary. Genius. Personally, I feel that trying to describe the man in one word would invariably come up short. I will say that he was the coolest of nerds, and he ultimately helped to make the world a smaller place by connecting everyone a little more closely, whether it be through direct communication or through simply being part of a community, whether they be Apple enthusiasts, music-lovers, or simply family who communicate through the technology he created. At the same time, today my iPod’s screen looks a little darker.
I’ll leave you with one of the more inspirational videos I’ve seen, and it happens to be of Steve Jobs’ commencement speech at Stanford University.
Steven Paul Jobs, 1955-2011
Credit for the Apple Logo with Steve Jobs’ silhouette at the top of this article, titled “Thanks Steve,” goes to Jonathan Mark Long.