This is a day I have dreaded since his first leave of absence in 2009. Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Inc., has died at the age of 56.
I guess I just thought he had more time. That’s the only thought I had in my mind as I walked home from dinner this evening after learning of Jobs’ passing. We knew he was sick, that he had been struggling for years, that he could no longer function as CEO. I just thought he could fight on a little while longer, given his penchant for stubbornness. And yet here we are. The tech industry is reeling from this news. Blogs, analysts and news agencies are all launching their obituaries and condolences. The internet tonight is dedicated to Steve Jobs.
I come at this from a very personal place. Steve Jobs was an icon to me since I first became cognizant of his existence over a decade ago. Any adjectives I can use to describe him seem to fall short of capturing who he really was, especially since I only know of him from his public appearances. Suffice to say, he was a man of vision. He saw a seemingly unattainable future of personal computing and has never stopped reaching towards that future. Some call him a “master of the sales pitch”, the “reality distortion field” others say. Apple fans ascribed to him a sort of prophetic quality. His word was law. His vision became reality. Steve Jobs oversaw the development and release of the greatest personal electronics the world has ever seen. The Apple II, The Macintosh, the iMac, the iPod, OS X, iOS, the iPhone, and the iPad are all his children. These devices – simple amalgamation of metal, circuitry and plastic; bits and code – have had lasting effects on our world. They have elevated the realm of computing from something utilitarian into something elegant and beautiful. It was Steve Job’s vision of perfection, of a device without compromise, that lead to these groundbreaking products.
Steven Jobs started Apple Computers Inc. in 1976 with Steve Wozniak. Their first major product, the Apple II, was built entirely by Woz and became one of the first truly successful personal computers. In 1979, Jobs visited the XEROX PARC and saw the first use of a graphical user interface. This was the future and for the next five years Jobs slaved away on the single most important product the computing world would ever see: the Macintosh. With one fell swoop, Jobs had changed computing forever into something accessible for actual people. 1985 saw Jobs’ departure from Apple. As remarkable as his products were, Jobs could be overbearing and violently stubborn in his managerial style. It was too much for the company to take.
Jobs did not go quietly. Instead, he founded Pixar Animation Studios and went on to head one of the greatest animation studios in the world. He also started NeXT, a company that would eventually be his ticket back into Apple. Returning to Apple when NeXT was acquired in 1997, Jobs found his company almost bankrupt and embarked on a quest to save it. He ultimately did, never stopping in that quest until the day he died. Today, Apple is the largest company in the world and has released in the past 10 years more industry defining products than any other company in consumer electronics. This is owed to Jobs’ perfectionist style, his eye for simplicity, his desire to make computing accessible for everyone.
It is poetic that Jobs passed away the day after the announcement of the iPhone 4S. I know he desperately wanted to be there to launch that phone. While it remains to be seen, I think that Siri could be his final and more important gift to the world. An artificial intelligence that can truly understand our requests. How much more accessible does it get than that? This industry that I love so dearly, that I am devoting my life to, is indebted to the efforts of Steve Jobs. As am I. He made me care about technology. To look at computers not just as tools, but as devices to enrich our lives. The world owes much to Steve Jobs, more than is readily apparent.
Jobs is survived by his wife Laurene Powell, and their three children, a son and two daughters. His other daughter, Lisa, from a previous relationship and for whom the Apple Lisa is named also remains to pass on his memory. As does all of Apple.
My readers around the world: grab a drink and raise your glasses to Steve Jobs. He’s off to the big iCloud in the Sky.
Below is the official announcement from Apple: