I have spent a lot of time between yesterday and today reading others memories of Steve Jobs. There are so many people who knew him well and wrote so eloquently that writing my own tribute seems almost a decadent waste of words. I can’t help myself though so please bear with me. I did not know Steve Jobs so my tribute will start by recounting a vignette with someone completely different.
The year was 1998 and I was returning to school to get my MBA. In preparation for starting I decided to buy a laptop. At that time, Jobs had just returned to Apple and the computers being sold by the company were not part of my consideration set. Instead I called Dell, who was on the top of its game at that time, and ordered a computer. I asked the agent who talked me through the order what the laptop looked like. He responded, “uh, I don’t know, black.” I asked him for more details and he said, “you know, it is a black laptop.” When I expressed sadness that the laptop would have no color or personality he responded with, “I will tell you what, if you buy it I will come over and paint it for you.” His response was dismissive of my feelings that the technology could be not just useful but beautiful as well. I can’t help but think that if I had that same conversation with that same individual today it would be a completely different experience.
Steve Jobs changed the way we think about so many things. He changed the way we saw, the way we used and the way we interacted with technology. His reach extended from technology, to music, and to all forms of media. His technology had detractors and yet there is no question that his vision moved the bar for everyone, even those most critical of his work.
I feel this loss personally because I can’t help but think that I would not be where I am, doing what I do without the work of Steve Jobs. I do my work on an Apple MacBook Pro, getting regularl infusions of news from my Apple iPad and when I get out for a bit I check back with my Apple iPhone 3gs. I relish the comfort that my backup on my Mac Mini gives me. Obviously, I buy into the Apple product line. But when I say I couldn’t be here without him I mean that in a deeper way. I work with small businesses on optimizing their web presence. That is possible because Mr. Jobs mainstreamed technology and made it accessible to everyone. Without him and the work he did to bring technology into our homes and into our hands, there would be no need for people like me.
Thank you Mr. Jobs. Thank you for everything.
Note: The lovely image above was designed by Jonathan Mak, a 19 year old living in Hong Kong.