As you’ve no doubt heard (and if you’re on Twitter, you have been bombarded since this morning) Steve Jobs has passed away, after a long battle with pancreatic cancer.
Let me preface this by saying I am not a techie person (hell, I write – I could probably make do with a blackboard and chalk). I own a single Apple product, so am hardly a fanboi (fangirl?). However, I felt a bizarre sense of loss this morning. In fact, I feel it still. Steve Jobs has changed our lives and the way we live. His impact on the world and the cultural zeitgeist is immense.
As a long-time fan of the Apple keynote speeches, and a curious observer of social media phenomena, Jobs was the epitome of charisma. He had everything a front man needs – chutzpah, humanity, humility, and above all, a kick ass product. Dude was a rockstar. Whenever a new Apple product was announced, it was touted by the blogosphere as a sort of modern day version of when The Beatles came to Australia in ’64.
I do not think it is an overstatement to say that Apple’s aesthetic has served as a standard from which all modern design is a derivative of, nor do I think the impact of this company is limited to specific industries. Let me be clear – he has changed the way in which we view the world and consume media.
And now he is cited amongst the upper echelons of modern inventors, alongside Marconi and Edison. I personally think he was better than that, the closest thing we will have to Tony Stark. I mean, he gave Barack Obama an iPad pre-release, something the President himself cites as ‘pretty cool’. And in the tablet market, let’s be real – there are iPads and then there is everything else. But I digress.
Apple is a part of our lives, whether you own a product or not. Raise a hand if you don’t have iTunes installed on your computer. Nobody? Thought as much. And I siriusly (sorry, had to) doubt I am the only one who has chucked an iTunes gift card under the Christmas tree for that nebulous friend-of-a-friend. The logo gleaming out from the decks of a DJ gig is ubiquitous, as is the row upon row of Macs when you enter a graphic design lab. Apple is synonymous with innovation, and has reached the holy grail of branding – it’s not a ‘like to buy’ it’s a ‘must get’.
As a somewhat nostalgic and sentimental person, I adore the genesis of the company, and how that results in the triumphant empire that we see today. He took his garage tinkering to Silicon Valley, and swept us up in the magic. And yes, he stumbled along the way, with NeXT running through $250 million in 8 long years and giving the arse to 200 employees. But he got up, shook himself off and kept at it, soon becoming Chief Executive of a little animated company named Pixar. You might have heard of them, they did those ‘kids’ movies such as Toy Story and Finding Nemo? Rings a bell doesn’t it? I find that courage and dogged determination to see his vision materialise inspiring, and comforting.
Pixar alone would be a dazzling legacy. But what is the real story here? Accessibility. He made computing accessible. With Garage Band your untalented deathmetal friends can release songs on iTunes. With Final Cut, indie filmakers can release their short stories onto Youtube. He allowed us to touch our dreams, make them a reality. His technology serves us, not the other way around. He is also responsible for bringing about a cultural paradigm shift – my friend’s 3 year old calls the laptop the ‘big iPad’. His style, the trademark cleanliness of design and freshness of innovation is breathtaking. As a non-tech person, I consistently marvel at the Star Trek devices we have available, and feel remarkably grateful to live in these times. An iPod, which costs less than $300, can hold 40 000 songs. Can you imagine storing even 1000 vinyl albums in your house? Amazing.
I understand this supposition is not profoundly erudite, but I feel, as we reflect on how our daily life has been ‘Appled’, that it needs to be said. The official statement is that he passed away peacefully, surrounded by family. His personal ethos of staying true to your vision and doing what you love is also touching. All great leaders have a succession plan in place, for both their position and their company; and as a man who was so grandiose in his ideals of what consumer computing could be, I am in no doubt that Apple will be fine. Anyone who has a keen eye for fashion will know that the loss of the creative lead is difficult, but not insurmountable. Take a look at Versace, or McQueen – still strong in both profitability and point of view, despite the tragic loss of the key people at the top.
Still unconvinced? Still part of that asshole group of the world who is saying “who cares?” Think about this: try to imagine a world if Apple disappeared today, or worse still, had never existed. Not pretty is it? Also, quite unfathomable. But this is another offshoot – our generation has become one of expectation. We expect things to be smaller, faster, cheaper - better than before. And we expect them every year. Some might say this is over-entitlement, and yes, I would agree. But it is also an indirect result of Apple and these technologically expansive times – the bar is so high, we are constantly reaching further and further into the future, and making our most ridiculous, sci-fi fantasy devices a real, tangible product. He has taught us all, in the words of Buzz Lightyear, to reach for the sky.
So thanks Steve, for changing the way we look at the world, making it easier to do stuff, and showing us that if you can think it, you can do it.
Adieu, et merci.
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