Steve Jobs passed away on Wednesday, and the tremendous outpouring of sentiment from Apple fans and people in general has been amazing. Here at TAB, we can’t claim to have a special relationship with Steve Jobs, but we can claim to have had our lives deeply affected by his work. These are some stories of how.
There are two people who greatly influenced the path my life took: Steve Jobs and my father. Both died this year of pancreatic cancer.
In the ’90s, I had just finished a failed attempt at architecture school. The day I walked out of Wentworth, the building industry collapsed. I would never work in the field I spent five years learning about. Around six years earlier my dad had bought me a Macintosh. As the desktop publishing industry was growing out of nothing, I was there in the early days. I helped steer two print shops into the digital age. One of them was with my dad. Had Jobs not created that industry, I would have likely enlisted in the Marines.
When I look back on the last months of Dad’s life, I remember there was a point where he could no longer do the things he loved to do: cooking and photography. When he died in February, the new camera he had bought in December had less than 10 photos on it.
In August, when Steve sent out his note saying he was no longer able to function as CEO, I thought that was one of his turning points. He wasn’t able to do what he loved: run Apple. I knew then that he didn’t long have to live. Writing that letter must have been one of the hardest things he had to do. Today is a hard day. I can’t help but think of my dad and the influence they had on my life. Thank you, both of you. I wouldn’t be the man I am today without either of you.
I got my first Apple product, an iPod nano, in 2006. Ever since, I’ve admired the love and attention to detail that Apple puts into its products. Steve’s DNA is in Apple. Even though he’s gone, the things we love about him will continue on in Apple’s products, employees and fans.
But Steve was more than just Apple’s co-founder and CEO. He was a person as well. When he realized that he was going to die, he was afraid. But he turned that fear into a message of hope by telling us his story, and that takes immense courage. He taught me how precious life is and how much one person can accomplish in his short amount of time.
Every day, millions of people use Apple products to create, to learn and to share. Every day, I see students and teachers using them to make the future. Every day, I use them to better myself.
Looking at that same iPod nano from 2006 after Steve’s death, it means a lot more to me. I still use it almost every day.
Apple and I first met in grade school, when I was taking computer programming classes in the evening at the local high school. My grade school only had Logo running on Commodore 64s, so the high school experience of programming a graphical tic-tac-toe game in Apple Basic felt very different from moving that turtle around the screen.
After high school and throughout college I remember maintaining a series of floppy boot, application and data disks that I used on various Macintosh computers. I was quite good at mastering the art of creating RAM disks back then.
Fast-forward some 20 years and there I was, developing apps and sitting front and center with the press taking photos of Steve Jobs onstage announcing the iPhone 4 at WWDC for TheAppleBlog. Now I have two children that each have their own Macs, iPhones and an iPad. I could not imagine growing up without Apple. I did not even know who Steve Jobs was when I first started using his products, but I have since grown to appreciate all that he has accomplished along the way. I owe a lot to Steve Jobs. Thank you, Steve, for everything.
When I heard the news of Steve Jobs’ passing, I was about to start tonight’s previously scheduled Lawrence Apple Users’ Group meeting. How ironic, since it was that group and our mutual love of Apple products that helped me meet my spouse.
Steve Jobs’ obsessive commitment to what he believed in was inspiring. So many of us cut corners in our lives to fit in, to do what others want us to do. Not Steve. Throughout his history with Apple he stood fast to his principles. He viewed technology not as a way to get from point A to point B more easily but as a way to make the world more accessible and to make lives better. From the early start of desktop publishing to web design to photography and videography, his company provided the technology for the rest of us. Even when he was wrong, he was right because of his passion.
The changes he made to this world are bigger than any one man. As the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer said:
All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.
Apple was seen as a bit player with a niche product, then it was seen as a failure. Even Apple’s own board originally opposed the vision Steve created. Finally, we all see Steve’s vision for how we should interact with technology to be self-evident.
Thank you, Steve. Not just for introducing me to so many great people but for providing the environment for so many others to produce greatness. You made us see how brilliance and beauty are indeed self-evident.
I heard the news as I drove in to the Apple Store for a quick errand. I walked inside and was greeted by a longtime employee that I know fairly well. We chatted for a second and then I asked if he had heard that Steve had just died. It was surreal to watch as the news spread around the store among the staff. The specialists were trying not to cause a scene but would quietly walk up to one another and simply say, “Check the apple.com home page.” Some were tearing up, some were somber, some looked simply shocked. Everyone was affected.
My personal history with Apple starts with the Apple ][+ about 30 years ago. I lived next door to Palo Alto and Cupertino, where Apple was born and then grew up, so I knew quite a bit about Steve Jobs. But the first time I met Steve was in college, when he visited UCSB to introduce the new NeXT Computer. I remember being blown away by the transparent alpha channel in the windows of a sports car and the showmanship of Steve Jobs.
One of the personal stories about Steve Jobs that I have is when he came and visited the older brother of a dear friend of mine. My friend's brother, Tracey, was something of a child prodigy with computers. He wrote some cool games for the Apple ][ and started his own software company, selling floppy discs out of his house while he was in high school. Steve Jobs was, naturally, Tracey's hero.
After Tracey was diagnosed with brain cancer, Steve came and visited him at home a few months before he died. A few days later, Tracey was given a behind-the-scenes tour where Steve worked. Steve spent hours with this high school kid who just loved Apple computers, and he did it purely out of compassion. I wasn’t there, and I don’t know what was said, but I do know that it was the highlight of Tracey’s life and a kindness that still affects my friend when he considers all those that loved his brother and spent time with him before he passed.
For me, Steve Jobs was like a kindly wizard with a mischievous streak who periodically delivered wondrous devices that I was amazed to find myself allowed and able to use. I never had any personal encounters with Steve, and I never even saw him in person, since I work from the frozen wastes of Toronto. But even before I really knew anything about him, he was changing my life.
My first introduction to Apple computers came through a friend, whose house I basically lived at on weekends in high school. He had Macs, which at the time was a rare treat among the people I knew. I grew to love Mac OS by playing Warcraft over a wired LAN against him and participating in the BBS communities he introduced me to. My friend had two (!) Power Macintoshes, and I was in love with the looks of the computers themselves, with Mac OS, with the cute little Susan Kare icons and with the basic animations you could easily create with the computer. Upon returning home, I would beg my dad to get a Mac, but he’d always talk about cost and compatibility with his work files and stick with PCs.
Until about six years ago. That’s when, now moved out of my parents’ house, I bought a used eMac on Craigslist, my first Apple computer. That eMac proved a key turning point along the road to the life I currently lead, and it would be the first step that led my mother, father, brother and eventually sister to all switch to Mac, too.
That’s what still amazes me to this day: the power of what Steve Jobs created to make converts at a touch or at a glance, that look of delight you know means someone is an Apple customer for life. You recognize it when you see it, because it’s the same excited twinkle in the eye that Steve often had onstage when first revealing his newest magical creation to the world.
The Macintosh SE was my second computer. It let me play Yahtzee and Shuffle Puck and had a paint program that let me draw pictures of houses and flowers. You know, the kinds of things six-year-old girls like to do. It also had a program so that it made a barfing sound whenever you ejected a disk.
That computer, which sat on my desk for years and was over time replaced by a string of Macintosh SE successors, is why I’ve been comfortable with technology from a very early age, and it is why I’ve always just expected any gadget or computer I use to be completely intuitive and just . . . work. And for it to be, above all, fun. Steve Jobs humanized computing and made it accessible to people of all ages and technical abilities, but he also inspired many to think in new ways about what was possible with technology. That I would one day wind up being in a professional position to write the Macintosh creator’s obituary was inconceivable at the time I was producing those MacPaint works of art.
I’ve seen Jobs speak in person many times, though I’ve never interviewed him. At a press event for the MacBook Air last year he spoke to one of my former colleagues who was standing right beside me. The moment seemed to go by in rather slow motion and I didn’t pipe up because 1) the question he asked wasn’t directed at me, 2) he was walking away from us as he was talking and 3) I was kind of stunned he was even looking in my direction. I still feel like I should have said something while I had the chance, but the moment passed too quickly. Just like him.
The press was always hard on Steve Jobs, even when he was taken drastically ill. I think that they, and so many of us, should have taken the time to step back from commenting on his every move and to look at him as a whole, and as a person.
Some of the decisions Steve made may not have been the best ones at the time they were made, but they have certainly turned out to be the best things to have happened to the tech industry recently. Often, when a celebrity passes away, that celebrity is called a genius in his or her field. And while most of the time I disagree with that statement, here is one situation where it is appropriate. Steve was more than a genius. He made more of an impact than probably even he could have imagined.
He was not only great at what he did but was also a great person. Look at the CEO of a lot of other companies and you’ll see a typical businessman who mostly cares about himself and profits. Not Steve. He wasn’t a typical CEO. Hell, he didn’t even wear a suit to work. He showed as much as he could that he cared about more than moneymaking and stock prices. He cared about us, and he wanted to make sure he changed our lives for the better. And he did.
Even though I never met Steve Jobs and I never said a word to him, I’m upset by his passing. I know that without Steve, the past five years, at least, of my life would have been completely different. Thank you, Steve.