The worlds of technology and popular culture lost a true visionary yesterday with the death of Steve Jobs at age 56 due to complications from pancreatic cancer. We remember the man’s countless contributions to our daily lives through everything from phones to iPods, from click wheels to talking fish.
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There’s something to the idea that Steve Jobs died just a day after the first product announcement from Apple since his departure as CEO, the reveal of the iPhone 4S.
Many column inches and pixels were spilled on how “disappointing” the announcement was. This iPhone 4S wasn’t a revolutionary device. It didn’t deliver a new and unexpected form factor destined to influence consumer electronic design for months.
Instead, the iPhone 4S represents perhaps Jobs’ greatest gift to the world, and especially to technology: A constant evolution forward, sometimes in giant leaps and other times by inches, toward the ideal experience for the users of his products.
I’m watching Leo Laporte on TWiT.TV right now, and his words seem so apt: “I really felt as though Steve represented us, the users.” All of Jobs’ innovations and inventions, whether ideas that transformed our culture or these iterative evolutionary steps forward in existing products, were focused entirely on how they would impact the users of his technologies. Where other hardware and software seemed almost to work at odds with the user, Apple’s products always elegantly guided the user toward accomplishing whatever task they could imagine–write a term paper, carry a jukebox in a pocket, instantly view family and friends across the world.
And yes, he did not invent the telephone or the mp3 player or even the tablet computer. He just created versions of these devices that managed to capture the imaginations of people around the world with their beauty, simplicity, and power. It happens all too rarely outside of Apple’s campus in Cupertino, CA, but wherever there is an attempt to improve the lives of others through technology, a sincere effort that priortizes quality and beauty alongside profits, Steve Jobs’ spirit will live on.
I was a PC user for my entire life…well, at least since PCs became available. Then I ordered my first iPod. When it arrived in the mail I was anxious to get at it, but my first impression of the product was from the box it came in. It was so beautifully designed and executed that it took me awhile to even look at the iPod within. It was at that moment, when I realized that Apple was a company that would put that kind of imagination into the mere box that their product came in, that things began to change for me. Soon an iMac followed, then a MacBook Air, iPhone, more iPods, Airport Extreme, and Airport Express.
Rest in peace Steve. You certainly changed my life, and the world.
>>Sent from my MacBook Air<<
I never met Steve Jobs. But I know enough about him to know that he accepted only the best, every time, from himself and from everyone who worked for him. Like many a dedicated Apple user — OK, let’s be honest here and just say “fanboy” — I would occasionally imagine myself working at Apple, and wonder how I would measure up to those exacting, unremitting standards. What might have happened if I’d had the opportunity to lay some freshly written copy into Steve Jobs’ hands? The truth to which I have resigned myself is that, on most occasions, the response would have been, “That’s not good enough,” or more likely, simply “That’s shit.” And he would be right to say it. It takes tremendous reserves of energy, and an unstoppable belief in yourself, to pour everything you have into every effort — to swing for the fences every time. I know I don’t do that. Steve could and did — he couldn’t do anything else. Because anything else was shit.
But occasionally, I complete a piece of writing that exceeds even my best expectations, something that I marvel at with the perfectly innocent wonder that all creative people know: the quiet voice that says I did that. And at those rare times, I allow myself to think, That was even good enough for Steve Jobs.
Steve will live in on in Apple, and in the minds and hearts of all of us who measure our best efforts against his example.