Thanks to one of the most brilliant minds of the 21st century.
A decade and more has past since I first adored an Apple product. Even now, the moment in which I was first able to afford a new Macintosh computer is undefinable. I’ve been pleased to find, though, that the same wonderment of attraction I enjoyed during that first experience has come attached like a bonus to each and every new Apple toy I have purchased over the years. No other toy, be it from Sony or Microsoft or Canon or whomever, has brought to me quite the same degree of fulfillment and satisfaction that Apple products have been able to deliver.
The legacy that is Steve Jobs will remain. We will continue in some fashion to enjoy and to remember fondly those things and those moments he was responsible for. History books will not ignore him. But the reverberation of that big bang that was his influence on so many lives around the world because of the products he masterminded will slowly fade until all that will remain of him is just that. A history. We all must go, but we really weren’t done with him yet. Were we? And that I believe is what makes losing Steve Jobs just a little sadder than the loss of others who aren’t a part of our inner circle of family and friends. The fact that we carry around products that erupted creatively out of his mind and into our hands and daily lives makes him part of how we interact with those we do care a lot about. Because of that trust, a personal connection was built to a man most of us personally didn’t even know. That dynamic does not happen very often. Perhaps to a special news anchor like Walter Cronkite or an entertainer like Johnny Carson, both of which whom were invited nightly into homes of millions for many, many years. With Jobs, we daily invited his genius into our lives because his success was easily translatable and adoptable as our own. When he succeeded, so did we. It was an easy and a comfortable arrangement..
Steve Jobs was so adept at inspiring this generation by simply steering us into places we never even thought we would enjoy going to. That was exciting. And fun. So much so that we got caught time and time again attempting to suppress the child-like glee of one of those very first Christmas mornings each time another fascinating Jobs-patented Apple invention was released. It wasn’t because we felt like we needed to, but because of his record of successfully pleasing the majority of us, we knew that we could.
In light of looking at the big birds left in today’s influential roost, those who could help, or lead, or fulfill a need or point to the horizon and inspire us: politicians, entertainers, CEOs of other companies and the like, all are in a rather uninspiring and disappointing flock. They seem to be either motivated to act in order to gain or fulfill something born out of self aggrandizing welfare or reverse-philanthropic chicanery, and not out of becoming someone who can benefit the world simply on its own merits, we can only ‘meh’ their existence. Most are simply bereft of enough charisma for us to care. Pause for a moment for Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook or Steve Balmer of Microsoft and ask yourself at what level you are inspired by their motives or their products or their announcements or even personalities. Understandably, these people don’t exist to please us. There isn’t some magic code that says that in order to truly succeed in life you have to not just become rich by doing what you do well, but engage and inspire the rest of us while doing it. But there is something right about someone who can succeed so well and bring us along for the ride to an extent that a vacuum is created and felt by so many when they’re ultimately gone and the ride is abruptly done. And that’s what Steve Jobs did. There will be something missing for some time. And staring into that vacuum causes a good deal of melancholic pause.
Whether intentional or not, Jobs made it seem as if he wasn’t in it just for himself. But that he truly wanted to bring something to us that we wouldn’t have been able to enjoy had he not been given the opportunity to mold it for us. That made it easy for us to celebrate his life and genuinely curious as we witnessed it. We likely would have had other music players and computer programs and laptops and phones, but not ones with his imaginative design. Or brilliance and motives. And almost certainly not with the resulting fun simplicity.
Think of what life would have been like had Windows been our sole choice for interfacing with a computer. On second thought, that likely wouldn’t have been possible as, had it not been for Jobs, Bill Gates’s would have delivered a very different version of himself. And of his stuff.
In any case, the few things remaining that were touched by his imagination will last for a little while longer. I find myself not really giving those that are now in the unenviable position of following him a great deal of credit, or credence, or attention, after seeing the keynote by his replacement. And glancing around the room of technology, I”m filing my expectations away for now. Experience has shown me that there are, as there has not been since I heard that startup chime on that first Macintosh, zero people in existence today that embody anything close to the formula in which Steve Jobs was able to concoct. That may change in the future. I really would like to think it can. But until then, Jobs will remain in a class all his own. And the absence of his remarkably adept and charismatic presence will be felt.
Goodbye Steve. And thank you for that first startup chime; and for each and every one that followed it.