And just like that, Steve Jobs was gone.
(Note: I rarely cross post the same piece to multiple blogs. But in a tribute to Steve Jobs, I’m going to do so with this post. Steve liked to say that he worked where technology met the liberal arts. His work crossed a lot of boundaries. In that spirit, I’m going to share this on the many blogs I contribute to where the subject cross various boundaries.)
I have always found it interesting to assess how I react to the passing of people whom I never got a chance to meet. But despite that, they’re still people that have played a significant role in my life by inspiring me, adding joy, and impacting my life in so many positive ways. It always takes me a while to collect my thoughts and find that proper clarity. Clarity that helps me determine the proper perspective and context of the significance of the person the world has just lost. As clarity emerged for me late last night, too late for me to start writing anything, I realized that the last time I felt this deep sense of loss (for someone who I had never met) was when Jerry Garcia died.
Like Jerry Garcia, Steve Jobs infused a lot of joy into my life. Jerry did it with the sounds of his guitar, the songs he played, and the festive parties1 we both participated in. Steve jobs impacted my life with technology. Life changing technology. As Steve would put it, it was (and is) technology infused with the liberal arts.
I did not grow up an Apple user. I do not have a story that involves my first Apple II. In fact, I learned computing on TRS-80s, Commodore 64s, and IBM PCs. On those systems, I learned how to write programs in BASIC, how to operate MS-DOS, and how to launch computer games via the DOS prompt.
Back in the 80s, my mother was involved with desktop publishing and, as you might expect, involved with evaluating Apple products and desktop publishing software. My first exposure to Apple and the genius of Steve Jobs was the Macintosh she brought home to evaluate The Macintosh – a personal computer with a graphical user interface that made a fun, somehow appealing deep tone announcing its presence whenever you turned it on. Mom may have brought that home to evaluate for work, but I was the one really evaluating it.2 This only child found an instant playmate. MacPaint. Solitaire. Just moving the mouse around and seeing the cursor move with you was a thrill. It felt like…the future.
You would think that such an experience would create an Apple fanboy for life. But it didn’t happen that way. The main computer in the house remained an IBM PC. That’s what got me through high school papers and college applications. Attending the University of Vermont meant having a PC as well. And so it went for me. Developing early computing proficiencies that do this day have me primarily working primarily on a windows machine. Nevertheless, the windows machines were life changing and would not be the same without Steve’s innovations with the graphical user interface. I use computers every day. Personally and professionally. I can manipulate, absorb, and produce information in countless ways. Ways I never would have imagined as a 13 year old boy. If Steve doesn’t evolve personal computing with the GUI, I’m probably not writing this blog post right now. Or working in the job I have right now. Or living in the house I am right now. Thank you, Steve
No, Steve Jobs didn’t start impacting my life with his own life altering inventions until the iPod came out. That was the first Apple product I ever owned. When I got one, my music collection was already spinning out control. Having to select 10 CDs to take with me in the car or to work was not only hard to do due to having to think ahead about what I might want to listen to 4 hours from now, but also time consuming. The iPod changed everything. I could put the bulk of my music and have it at my fingertips for any moment. And it was the size of my wallet. So small that it was easy to misplace. I once wrote that if my house was on fire, I would first make sure my family was safe then see if I could run back inside and grab the iPod. It was a device that infused my life with a constant soundtrack. Thank you, Steve.
And Apple and I went from there. The iPod was a gateway drug device. The iPhone. I can’t even tell you how much the iPhone has changed my life and so many others. All this information from every corner of the globe. In my pocket. Thank you, Steve.
The evolutionary device of the iPhone, the iPad has once again shown me the future. All I need to do is watch my kids with an iPad. It’s just like when my Mom brought that Macintosh home. I have given my kids zero instruction with an iPad. They are three and five years old and they can both find a movie on Netflix, browse maps, play Angry Birds, and launch apps to help them learn spelling, math, and music. It is the future. My kids thank you, Steve.
They also thank you for Pixar. And the most impressive family friendly animated films the world has ever seen.
The inventions of Steve Jobs continue to infuse the life of this family. A family slowly morphing into an Apple household. My wife now has a Macbook Air. A machine so impressive that I myself have thought of ditching the windows laptop and purchasing one.
It is perfectly natural, that I learned about Steve Jobs on his invention. An iPhone. I then used the same device to connect with friends on Twitter and Facebook. And then used an iPad to read news stories and coverage of his death. His legacy and impact will be felt for generations to come. It is hard to sound full of hyperbole with Steve Jobs. He was the Einstein and Henry Ford of our times. He will be missed and there will never be another.