We were already off for the day when we heard the news. You already know it, of course, because it spread like a virus. Steve Jobs, dead, at 56.
The very first computer I ever touched was an Apple ][, it’s a pretty common statement among people my age. I used to walk down the block to my friend’s house and we’d play video games all day. It’s funny to think of now, but in the early 80s, Apple dominated the gamer’s market, and that lead didn’t vanish until the Apple Board of Directors fired Steve and decided to go their own way. Probably they had good reasons, because everyone’s heard how the man could be a total jerk, but without him the company sort of floundered. They still had some great concepts, like the handheld Newton and the early Powerbook, and we all know that twenty years later those ancestors would evolve to the backbone of the Apple line. But without Steve’s magic, nobody seemed to care, and all those cool ideas were just for nerds...
People have talked about Jobs and his “reality distortion field” many times. Maybe it was some magic power he picked up in the 60s. But more likely was that Steve was a rare human being, a person who was comfortable with the computer world AND had an innate understanding of what it meant to be cool. And this is why, when Steve came back to a weakened Apple, he made a tiny change that instantly reworked the brand. He brought style.
If you’re touching a computer right now, and it isn’t a hazy beige, you owe Steve Jobs a debt. If you aren’t typing command line, you owe Steve Jobs a debt. If you started programming in Applesoft BASIC, or if you’re happier without a floppy drive, or if your computer looks like a part of the room instead of some looming outsider, you definitely owe Steve Jobs a debt. And that’s not even getting into his many other fields of interest.
We know as well as anyone that your brand is only as much fun as its marketing. We certainly try to be honest in our writeups, but our first goal is to entertain, because that’s what people like the best. Steve Jobs seemed to understand that nobody watched TV for pure information, and if you didn’t give them a story, they’d just wander away. Compare these two ad campaigns and you’ll see clearly the difference the man brought to his company.
That’s perhaps what was the most amazing thing about Steve. He didn’t just shake up one field, he shook up them ALL. Take a look at the coverage all around the net, or the feelings he’s generated on Twitter, or the stories on various blogs or magazines. Each one starts the same, and then talks about something different. “Steve changed movies” and “Steve changed education” and “Steve was about design” and “Steve brought accessibility” and “Steve changed the music industry” and so much more. Rarely can a person be eulogized in so many different ways and have them all be correct.
You can’t say the Internet is in mourning today, because most of us didn’t lose a friend. We’re jaded, we’ve seen it all, we know Steve saw us as dollar signs in a ledger. But if that’s so, please pass the offering plate again because no one more deserved our money. Steve used those dollars to push technology, design, usability, and interaction, and even the hardest, most cynical PC users are still grudgingly admitting that Steve Jobs died too young, and that he could have done more.
Steve Jobs, without you, we probably wouldn’t be in the tech industry, and @Wootlive would have nothing to say on Twitter. Thank you for what you gave us, and thank you for what you changed, and we hope you maybe noticed our jokes and our praise, and it made you smile at least once or twice. You gave all of us here so much more than we can repay. Rest in peace.
What have Steve Jobs and Apple meant to you over the years? Let us know below...