Remembering Steve Jobs: TUAW looks back
Steve Jobs has changed the life of every single blogger at TUAW in some way. I am not overstating this, because if it weren't for Apple Inc, there'd be no TUAW, so none of us would write for it, and we wouldn't know each other.
I'm putting this post together from an airport. I just worked on a project with two other TUAW staffers that involved iPads, and we were on a Disney property to do it. This week has had a very high Steve Factor for me, and I was actually thinking before the iPhone event about how grateful I am for what Steve contributed to the world. I said it on Twitter and I'll say it again:
Steve Jobs, 1955-2011. That was a most impressive dash.
We here at TUAW are all saddened by the loss, and our thoughts go out to Steve's family and friends. Below is a look back, courtesy of our bloggers.
My first experience with Apple was the IIe. My mom was a grade school teacher, so each summer I would help her with things in her classroom. Right before I started third grade, I was told Mrs Sharp had a new computer to move into her class, and I helped her set it up and I got to play with it. Later the school got a few Apple IIes and they put them on carts so you could roll them from place to place. Then I helped my mom put spelling words each week in a word search or a crossword, and I sat at that computer cart smelling the plastic of the Apple IIe and the hand finished wood. Sometimes if I was fast enough with the week's spelling words I could get a game of Oregon Trail in before the computer got rolled back into the A/V room.
Whenever I could I tried to hurry with whatever my mom wanted so I could get more time on a computer. I played Oregon Trail, I learned LOGO, I typed in line after line of code from ENTER Magazine so I could see what it did. I made some basic text games. I played with Koala Pads and Print Shop. I learned to type. I was sure to touch metal before ever picking up any floppy. I spent a lot of time with that computer, one of the few places I felt in control. One of the few places where I didn't feel like I was the odd one out, or made fun of for being different.
That was my entire school career: Playing with the computers whenever I had a chance, and it was always some flavor of Mac. I loved every one. I learned so much, and in high school I got to use a Mac as a city library volunteer, helping convert the card catalog to a digital system from actual cards so we could get the Interlibrary Loan Program going. It was fantastic and I loved every minute. Let's fast forward to now:-- I spend Sunday evenings podcasting about Apple with other people who share my enthusiasm.
-- I am a contributor to a website that covers Apple products (which is why I host the podcast above).
-- There are stacks of people in my Twitter feed I've never met who follow me precisely because I am an Apple fan.
-- I have friends around the world I met at Macworld.
-- There are two other podcasts I appear on semi-regularly because I am an Apple girl. (An Apple girl with a big mouth, but an Apple girl all the same.)
-- I have met more wonderful people and been afforded more opportunities (Live from the airport, remember?) as a direct result of Apple and Apple products than I can count.
I keep trying to shake off the death of someone whom I never officially met, he shook my hand briefly four years ago and I've been in a room where he was speaking twice in my life. That's all the contact I ever had with him, and yet I keep thinking of people I know or things I've done as a result of Steve's work, and my eyes keep leaking. I'll turn this over to the rest of the team, so look over there at what they wrote, I have something in my eye.
My 'close encounter' with Steve came in the early '90s, when he was at NeXT. I was working for a publishing software company and we exhibited at Seybold Seminars; I was doing demos on the show floor of our QuarkXPress-centric magazine editorial system.
Few things will shake up a demo more than the awareness that Steve Jobs is standing there watching it. I noticed him standing by the booth and tried not to freak out completely. When I finished, he walked over and asked a question -- I truly can't remember what it was, maybe something about the database behind the editorial system -- smiled, said 'Nice demo,' and walked on.
I saw him many times on the WWDC and Macworld keynote stage after that brief moment, but I always think of that tradeshow floor as "where I met Steve."
I never knew Steve Jobs, and I never will. Like many geeks my age, I've always dreamt of running into him and at the very least shaking his hand and telling him, simply, "Thank you." Thank you for changing the world, fundamentally, irrevocably, and unquestionably for the better. Moving to New Zealand made ever meeting Steve in person exceedingly unlikely, but at any point in the past several years I could have sent that message to email@example.com and expressed the same sentiment, using devices he helped craft to express my gratitude for that craft. But I never wrote that e-mail, never sent it, and now he will never read it. I regret never having had the chance to know Steve Jobs; I'm certain I would have liked him, and I'm pretty sure he would have liked me. But we'll never have the chance to talk about our favourite musical artists, geek out over the minutiae of the iPhone, or whisper conspiratorially about the humorously dumb things he did when he was a kid. Those moments are lost forever, because cancer took him before they could happen. It was neither silent nor swift for Steve Jobs; though a private man, he was also paradoxically a very public figure, and though his mind never lost its sharpness it was clear over the years that he was approaching an endpoint far sooner than any of us would have liked.
I have asked myself several times over the past day why the loss of a man I never met and who never even knew I existed has affected me this strongly. Why I shed tears for a stranger when I've not done the same even after the loss of members of my own family. The answer is not so much that I mourn the man himself, but what he represents. Gene Roddenberry, Jim Henson, Carl Sagan, and Douglas Adams are all men who have lived in my time and profoundly affected my view of the world, and while I have now outlived them all, their influence on me continues. The same is true of Steve Jobs, a man who transformed technology from dumb instruments of metal and glass into something else entirely. The world of 2011 has about as much in common with 1976 as 1976 had in common with 1876, and while the changes of the past 35 years are not all down to one man, a lot of them are. Had I been born in the 1940s instead of the 1970s, I'd have grown up in a world of typewriters and mimeographs, and the idea of being able to communicate with people on the other side of the world, instantly, as though they were merely in the next room, would have been but a dream. Instead I have always lived in a world where the personal computer is a fact of life, and over time the device has put less emphasis on the "computer" portion and more on the "personal" aspect. That has culminated in the iPhone and iPad, two devices that feel as though they are extensions of myself, seemingly as necessary to my daily life as the fingers I use to manipulate them.
The world that Steve Jobs changed spins on without him, and that is a hard thing for me to face. Because if a man who was larger than life and who changed so very much about the world he lived in can vanish from it, then there is no hope that any of us can avoid the same fate, including me. Steve was only a few months older than my mother, only 22 years older than I am now, and his death is a stark reminder that everything and everyone I now know will eventually be lost to me, including my very self. It is not a thought I particularly relish.
Even so, while I certainly feel grief and sadness, one thing I do not feel is despair. If anything, Steve Jobs's career proves the futility of despair; most people would have been content to fade into obscurity after being ousted from the company they helped create, but instead Steve Jobs returned and transformed Apple into a juggernaut like nothing the world has seen before. In the process, the past 14 years has seen the world changed, too; tell anyone from 1997 what the world would be like in 2011, and they probably would have scoffed at so much change taking place in so short a time.
Yet here we are - and though Steve Jobs's life has ended, the changes he brought to the world while he walked upon it are only beginning. Inertia, even in its metaphorical form, is a difficult force to overcome. The engines of change that Steve Jobs helped set in motion will not stop merely because he is no longer here to stoke their flames. The fact that his legacy will outlive him, very possibly in perpetuity, is the closest thing to immortality there is.
My father had a heart attack two weeks ago. My dad has never been in great shape, but he's never been in bad shape -- I remember him having a weight loss contest with my uncle back when I was a kid, and he beat my uncle handily. He and my mom have been touring around the country in an RV for the past few years, so they live a pretty active, exciting lifestyle. But nevertheless, my dad started having some issues with his chest, scheduled a checkup, and the night before felt so bad that he had to rush to the hospital. They opened him up that night, and a few hours later he had some stents put in, and gotten some stern warnings from the doctor that it was time to slow down just a little bit.
That hit me kind of hard -- he's now fine, and except for some extra medication, it seems like everything will be all right for now. But my dad is pushing 70, and the whole thing happened so fast. It was a serious indication to me, more than anything else, that time is always moving on, and that what we have now might not always be there in the future. My dad has always been there -- whenever I needed advice or help or encouragement or just a stern talking to. And this was the first time I really felt, really realized, that he might not be there sometime in the future.
I also bought an iPad this week -- finally, yes, for the first time. For so long, I just figured I didn't need one; I have a MacBook, I've had two iPhones, and I've got a Mac mini to go along with my gaming PC. I have an Xbox and a PS3 and a Wii, and I figured I didn't need yet another device laying around. But of course, as with every Apple product I've purchased, it's already become a part of my daily life. It's cliche to say it by now, but I'm amazed at how different it really is from an iPhone -- how it's used, what it feels like. I am convinced, more than ever, that this is the device Steve really wanted to make. The iPhone was cool, sure, but the iPad really is the personal computer that Steve always hoped for. If nothing else, I am glad that he was able to see it happen, and it's pure coincidence that I finally got with the program and realized his vision this week.
And then, yesterday, I saw on Twitter that it had finally happened. Mike Rose is right -- we knew. When Steve left the company, it could only have been because he just couldn't stay, and while the pundits of course hypothesized that he was just taking some time off, we all really knew that the end was close. That doesn't make it any less sad, however. Still, the best way to remember him is by celebrating what he told us all along: That life is built up one day at a time, and that you should always strive to make the best things you possibly can. I wasn't alive when Leonardo da Vinci was around, or when Edison was inventing, or when Einstein was doing his thinking. But I followed Steve Jobs, and I watched him work. And I can follow his example: Make the absolute best of what we have, stay one of the crazy ones, and do our best to change the world with whatever time we've got.
I saw my first Apple product in 1978. It was an Apple II and I was pretty much floored. A lawyer friend in Des Moines had one and I was smitten. The thought of owning a computer was a pretty new concept for me, but I pretty quickly grasped that, as a journalist, writing without carbon paper and white-out was a pretty radical idea.
As Apple grew, and the Mac came in I gave more and more tasks to my home computer. When the Mac II finally offered a color display, I was able to combine computing with my graphic and photography pursuits.
Like most of us, I spend many hours using Apple products, and of course my computing platforms have evolved to include the iPhone and iPad. They are a part of all of our daily experience, and have changed our lives irrevocably. So thanks to Steve Jobs, and Steve Wozniak for changing my world.
I've also learned to spend more time experiencing the world beyond the computer screen and increasingly appreciate the joys of being outdoors surrounded by a beautiful landscape or under a starry sky. As a bonus, Apple has given me the tools to capture and share those moments in a way I never could before.
Thanks for all the great moments using your products Steve, extending my knowledge, my reach and my senses. It's a powerful legacy.
I came late to the Apple party. Growing up, I was a nerd's nerd; I built my own PCs running DOS, reluctantly moved to Windows, and graduated to Linux in my early 20s. Eventually, shortly after starting my PhD, I grew tired of battling printer drivers and the endless configuration problems and half-working software. This was 2002, by which time OS X had settled into a stable and mature Unix-based OS, exactly what I needed for my research. Cardiff University signed off a budget agreement and with some trepidation I took delivery of a fully stacked 12" iBook.
For four years that iBook went everywhere with me. I loved it to bits. I worked on it non-stop through five logic board failures, the last of which happened just minutes before I finished my final 450-something page PDF of my thesis -- I literally worked it to death! Since then, I've had an old G4 tower, a MacBook Pro, plural iPhones, one iPad. They're not perfect, but they've come far, far closer to the "it just works" ideal than any other computers I've ever used.
Steve Jobs certainly wasn't afraid to make enemies, wasn't afraid to be disliked, and plenty of people did dislike him and the way he did business. But I don't think anyone would disagree that he was a very smart bloke and we need all the smart blokes we can find in this world. People are saying that when we look back in decades to come his name will rank with the great industrialists and visionaries like Edison and Ford and Disney. Time will tell on that, but I think they're probably right.
Of all the tributes and remembrances that have appeared on the Internet since the news broke, my favourite was actually from back in August when his neighbour, Lisen Stromberg, [wrote about him](http://lisenstromberg.wordpress.com/2011/08/29/my-neighbor-steve-jobs/). She paints a rare view of Jobs as just another guy, crying with pride at his son's graduation party. Like my friend Mike said; some kid has lost his father. A wife has lost her husband. That's worse than anything any of the rest of us are feeling.
Still, though. It is impossible to work in technology and not owe something to Steve Jobs, both to his vision and to his ability to make that vision a reality. Every day, whether I'm using Windows or OS X, Eclipse or Xcode, I am standing on the shoulders of giants. Jobs was one of those giants who made my career possible, who made my career exist. For that, I salute him.
In late 1978 my dad walked into a bicycle shop, and amidst the Altairs and other gadgets in the "computer hobbyist" part of the store in the back sat a brand-new Apple II with paddles, a cassette player and some tapes. My dad was in graduate school at the time, and we didn't have a lot of money, but Christmas that year saw our first computer as a family gift. That's where I started to learn about Steven P. Jobs.
As I grew older I started to read BYTE and as many tech magazines as I could get my hands on. I learned AppleSoft BASIC, a smidge of other languages, and created animations and games to dazzle my friends. My lifelong love of technology began at a tender age, thanks to two Steve's -- one I would meet, one I would only glance briefly as he headed for the car after a Macworld keynote.
How did Steve Jobs affect my life? I am struck by this talk Steve gave for the Library of Congress, about how computers are like bicycles for the mind. I think that Steve truly did want to change the world, for the better, and that's how he was going to do it. By making humans more efficient, we could live up to our true potential. Computers can be used to enhance our lives, expand our horizons and yes, change the world. Steve was a rare breed, like Da Vinci, he saw further than most. We are all lucky that he met Woz and was in a position to act upon his vision. When you forget about all the rest, the petty squabbles, the palace intrigues, the strict control... what's left is a man who wanted to change the world, saw how to do it, and actually did it. If my life is any indication, we are better because Steve Jobs was here.
For the past 27 years -- half of my life -- much of my career has been shaped by the vision of Steve Jobs. I never met him in person, but the company he co-founded and the products that he had a strong, guiding hand in creating have been key to everything I've done since 1984.
It started that year when my boss and I went to a Nynex Business Center in January of 1984 to see the first Mac. Having used a MITS Altair, a friend's Apple II, a Commodore 64, and a Sanyo MBC-555 PC Clone up to that point, I was stunned by the power and ease of use of the Mac. I was able to hold out only until that December, when I bought my first Mac -- a 512K.
After that purchase, I started going to Denver-area user group meetings, where I met friends who I'm still in contact with. I brought that 512K "in the back door" of the company where I worked, and before I knew it I was not only the IT director of the subsidiary, but was overseeing a statewide network of almost 300 Macs. Our subsidiary was swallowed up into the parent company in 1994, at which time I worked on a group of almost 1,200 Macs. Regretfully, that company outsourced our support team to IBM in 1995, where one of my first projects was to help migrate the Mac users to Windows 95. I hated that project, I hated working for IBM, and I couldn't help but think of those great years with the Macs (and I still had several at home). It's no wonder that when I finally decided to quit IBM in 2004, I chose to work only with Macs.
I started writing about Macs in 1986, when I began a BBS (Bulletin Board System) called MAGIC -- the Mac And GS Information Center. That BBS ran until 1994, when my first website (designed on a Mac, of course) went up. The experience with that BBS and the website prepared me well for my current career as a writer and editor here at TUAW.
In 1993 I fell in love with a non-Jobsian Apple product, one that he would eventually kill -- the Apple Newton MessagePad. Of course, when I had my hands on my first iPhone in 2007, I realized why he killed the Newton. It wasn't ready for prime time.
My best memory of Steve was watching him on the stage at Macworld Expo 2007 announcing the iPhone to the world. It was one of the most exciting experiences of my life, a feeling of "everything just changed." That moment was so profound to me that I ended up outbidding a bunch of folks on a Nitrozac (of JoyOfTech fame) painting of it -- you can see it at the top of this post. Every day I look at that painting at least once, and it inspires me to do my best.
Thanks, Steve, for giving us the future.
Walk into a room and most likely you'll find something that Steve Jobs has influenced -- whether or not it's an Apple product -- and that includes whatever device you're reading this on. Even diehard Apple-haters are acknowledging what Steve Jobs has done for technology and to push our lives forward regarding everything from computers to accessibility to media such as music and movies. He didn't just do this once, but multiple times.
One of my earliest memories was playing the Oregon Trail at age 6 on an Apple II in 1986. I used Macs exclusively throughout school because that's what was in our classrooms. I didn't appreciate Macs until college. I built my first newspaper pages on a G3. I typed my first news stories on Macs purchased in 1992 that filled The Crimson White offices at the University of Alabama. My first iPod lasted two years longer than the relationship I acquired it during, but the original tracks are on my current iPod thanks to iTunes. The purchase of my first iPhone in 2007 happened to coincide with my now-husband and I beginning to date. He's in the UK and I'm in the US, but because of the iPhone, we were able to communicate with each other without driving up hideous phone bills. We used iPhoto and MobileMe to publish pictures of our wedding in 2010, and I keep track of his immigration in iCal and Mail. Whether it was luck or happenstance, I can't think of a single aspect of my life that hasn't been positively influenced by Steve Jobs.
The following quote is from Walt Disney, who was most likely the Steve Jobs of my grandfather's generation:
"Somehow I can't believe there are any heights that can't be scaled by a man who knows the secret of making dreams come true. This special secret, it seems to me, can be summarized in four C's. They are curiosity, confidence, courage, and constancy, and the greatest of these is confidence. When you believe a thing, believe it all the way, implicitly and unquestionably."
Steve Jobs was all of these, and he believed in his vision implicitly and unquestionably. Thank you for everything that you've done, Steve.
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