Friday, October 7, 2011

Remembering Steve Jobs

Since the day that it was announced that he was permanently stepping down as CEO, I've been trying to find words that seemed to do justice to all that is and all that has been Steve Jobs. As someone who never met him or dealt with him personally, it might seem a bit silly to express some grand sense of loss. And yet, as it sometimes happens when moments like this come around, you find yourself rather encumbered with an exceptional and overwhelming sense of loss.

As a kid in Palo Alto back in the late seventies, I remember attending a local computer fair (probably 2nd West Coast Computer Fair, 1978 San Jose) with one of my friends from school. I remember the Pet computer. I remember Apple. Of course, life being what it is, I found myself being relocated back to the south and it wasn't until my senior year that my high school got several Apple IIs and I found myself programming them to solve calculus problems. After that, my on-again off-again relationship with technology kept me mostly away from computers until 1989 when I was introduced to the Apple Macintosh in a document design class. Who could have guessed that this little device would be such a force in the threads of my life.

My instructor for that document design class was physically disabled, but the Macintosh included settings that enabled him to work with it -- something that I don't think was available on the PC at the time. I remember being awed by this technology platform that wasn't just technology -- it changed lives, brought hope, and enabled the future.

Looking back to the PC/Mac wars, as Mac users we often faced inquisitors and skeptics -- PC users pushing the idea that a computer was a computer, that there was no art, no design, no meaning, no purpose. The technology was just a tool. They called us the "cult of Mac", religious zealots dreaming of some crazy ideal, duped into buying a crappy product at three times the cost of a low-cost PC.

In that great culture war, Steve Jobs wasn't just some brilliant marketing guy at the head of a global business, he was Joan of Arc. He wasn't just selling products, he seemed to understand something deeper -- that the essence of what we were dealing with here, if done right, could be transformational. We could change lives, make the world a better place, think different. Philosophy and principles, not just technology at the lowest common denominator. His part was cornerstone, it was the foundation, and it was the focal point for where we were headed. In this mission, we were a community, a family.

Years ago, as my mother suffered through a painful process of dying of cancer, we endured many months of draining decline. By the time she passed, the inevitable had long since been written and the painful conclusion seemed more like a welcome release than a dramatic loss. Tragic. Sad. But finally, relief that the suffering was over, that it would get no worse.

This is where I found my thoughts going when they announced Steve Jobs stepping down as CEO. Amidst all of the other events in my life and the current events in the world, a part of my thoughts were with Steve Jobs and his family.

Steve Jobs changed the world. He made our world a better place. You probably can't throw a rock without hitting someone who's live he has touched -- and improved. I never met Steve Jobs nor dealt with him personally, but -- like many -- I surfed some monster waves from the ripples he created. And I feel a tremendous sadness in his passing.

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