I knew I’d be writing this article sooner or later but I was hoping it would be later… much later. Unless you’ve been living under one of the world’s largest rocks you’ve likely heard that Steve Jobs died last night. It’s strange to see the passing of a business man garner so much publicity but I believe that speaks for the impact he had on the world. Along with Steve Wozniak, Steve Jobs literally changed the world.
If it wasn’t for Steve Jobs I can honestly say I wouldn’t be where I am today. I say this not because Steve Jobs was a man of inspiration for me in my youth, but because the invention he helped nurture into fruition kicked off the personal computer revolution. People will rightfully point out that Steve Wozniak was the man who invented the first marketed personal computer but it would be an act of absolute ignorance to say Steve Jobs had no part in its success. Of the two I’m obviously closer to Wozniak, I’m an engineer who loves to invent and tinker but I have no clue how to market or sell. Jobs’s genius was in his ability to sell the product. Through my career I’ve worked with numerous sales people and I can say without any uncertainty that I truly understand why they’re as important as they are. Without Wozniak there would have been no personal computer as we know it today and without Jobs we would have never heard of the computer Wozniak built.
Whether you love or hate Apple you have to admit Jobs did something few can lay claim to; he changed the world. But the personal computer wasn’t the only thing Jobs could lay claim to, he also revolutionized the music market and the mobile device market. After his return to Apple Jobs took the failing computer and turned it into one of the most successful companies in the world. A major part of that turn around involved the iPod. Although the iPod wasn’t the first MP3 player on the market it was the one that moved MP3 players from a device known only by geeks to a device owned by a great number of people.
Another success under Jobs’s belt was the iPhone. When the first iPhone was released I was still on the Palm Treo 755p so I didn’t see what all the fuss was about. Yes the iPhone looked nice but it couldn’t run any applications and had limited functionality compared to my phone running ancient Palm OS. Like most things Apple introduced though, the iPhone slowly evolved into an incredibly powerful tool. When the news of Jobs’s death arrived one of my fellow computer science graduates called me to talk about it. During this conversation we got on the topic of all the things Jobs accomplished and I remember saying, “Hell, I’m talking on his legacy right now.”
Technology has become so pervasive in our lives that we rarely stop to think about all of the blood, sweat, and tears that went into getting our devices from the prototype stage to a completed product. When you sit down in front of your computer you barely ever think about the efforts of Alan Turning who came up with the theory modern computing is based on. When you pick up your phone you probably never stop to consider the great amount of effort it took to make the device function as well as it does.
Part of what made helped rocket Jobs into success was his attention to detail. If there was one thing Jobs brought to the table, above all others, it was his extreme attention to detail. This is pervasive in all of Apple’s current product lines. The MacBook Pro I’m typing this story on is a beautiful piece of technology that is not only insanely powerful but a work of art in of itself. My phone is a very powerful and complicated piece of machinery that remains simple to operate. This page you’re now reading was uploaded to your computer by a tiny Mac Mini sitting underneath my television.
Many who knew Jobs said he was arrogant and often very difficult to work for. I didn’t know the man personally so I can’t comment on his personal life but there is something to be said for a man who is seen as arrogant yet able to attract some of the greatest talent in the world to his employ. Jobs was a visionary who helped change computers from giant room-sized devices that only large businesses and laboratories had to small device that many households hold many of. He was never one to back down and always followed what he thought was right. To sum the man up it would be easier to say he had balls. It’s rare to find a man who is so incredibly talented that he changed the entire world. What’s even rarer is to find a man who changed the entire world in a positive way.
So long Steve Jobs and thanks for everything. Life on this planet would be far different had you and Wozniak not come together to revolutionize the world. We’ll miss you and I can honestly say the world is diminished without your presence.