I learned about the death of Steve Jobs via one of his greatest creations: the iPhone.
If it weren't for Apple Computer's dominance in the classroom, their ease of use, the approachability, I probably wouldn't be who I am today. My first introduction to Apple was in elementary school, playing Math Munchers and Oregon Trail on an Apple IIe. My first impressions of Apple Computers were connected to education. The only places I ever saw Apple Computers growing up were either at school, or at the homes of friends who had a parent who was a teacher. This all lead to me being interested and comfortable with basic computing and the advent of the World Wide Web. Even though my first personal computer was, in fact, a PC when I started high school, Apple paved the way for me.
Fast forward to art school; with labs upon labs filled with Macintosh machines, I had to port my PC knowledge of Photoshop and layout over to the new (yet comfortable and welcoming) platform. It was then I remember being shown a film in computer science class, entitled Pirates Of Silicon Valley. It was a made-for-TV movie originally broadcast on the TNT network, starring Anthony Michael Hall as a young Bill Gates, and Noah Wiley as a young Steve Jobs. It was this clever and quaint (and awfully nerdy) movie that introduced me to the fathers of modern personal computing.
The whole biographical tale of both men (genius, visionary college drop-outs) and their technological pursuits that affected each other and effectively changed the modern world really struck a chord with me. Moreover, I found myself fascinated with Jobs. In the movie, he was portrayed as more of a visionary and designer than a computer geek (which stands to be true). Gates was the geek; Jobs was the artist. Instead of paint and canvas, Jobs used ideas and technology to bring other creative people an insanely great new tool to wield: the personal computer.
Of course, the movie also showed how volatile he was, and how his perfectionism and search for beauty and harmony sometimes lead him down a destructive path, ultimately leading to his eventual firing from Apple, the very company he created in his garage with his best friend Steve Wozniak, outside of Cuppertino, California. The movie was made several years before the big come-back by Jobs, after pursuing other innovative ventures, like NeXT Computers and investing in a bunch of other creative individuals who wanted to use some of the technology he developed, forming a little studio called Pixar, allowing them to thusly create some of the world's most amazing and beloved characters, and influencing countless other creatives, and still do to this day.
It was after learning about his own personal origins, and the origins of Apple Computer, the company, and being surrounded by machines and tools all bearing the familiar fruit emblem, I knew I was on the right track as a person pursing my creative calling. The big "come-back" for Apple had just occurred a few years prior, and over the next few years, I witnessed the hard and fast evolution of Apple products happen literally beneath my fingertips. The machines became sleeker, faster, more robust in their capabilities, allowing us to create more, allowing our ideas to flourish and manifest more easily than any point in time prior. And it just kept going.
By the time the first iPod was announced, I was squarely a devout Apple disciple, and working in a design career that was made possible by the tools that Jobs had created, fostered, innovated, and continued to develop. Thanks to being single on a generous advertising agency salary, I was able to place an online order for the first iPod. Digital music was still a novel concept at the turn of the century. The general populace was still wrapping their heads around a new term: "MP3," and more so, they were still trying to figure out the best way of using that technology, and make it portable. There were some early portable MP3 players out there, but they were all clunky, limited, and uninspiring. When Jobs announced his latest invention aimed at making portable music more elegant and smarter, I was sold. I shelled out the high dollar price-tag (which, then, was unheard of, for such a small item... now look at what people are willing to pay for such "small" products... just as long as it has that once-bitten logo on it) and when it arrived at my desk, I was one of only a handfu of people in the entire agency who actually had this newfangled device. Myself and the other Mac nerds were gushing over the little marvel. The HUGE screen, the cool way to navigate HUNDREDS of songs with the spinning wheel, the super FAST Firewire connection. Not to mention that not only could it store nearly ALL of my music (easily added by way of a new piece of software called iTunes, so intuitive and well designed), but it also doubled as a portable hardrive, perfect for taking home work files and vice versa. SO small!
That was in 2001. Look how far Steve has brought us in just one decade, never mind what he catalyzed between 1976 and today.
Our entire world, our modern existence, as well as my own life, personally, has been affected by the ideas, tenacity, and creativity that Steve Jobs possessed and gave to all of us. I've already heard comparisons to Henry Ford and Thomas Edison, how Jobs was our own version for today's generation. I say, he was the first Steve Jobs. The only. He was an inspiration, a visionary, and a relentless pursuant of better things and better ways of doing them. He was a beacon that many followed to better, smarter horizons, in ideas, in design, in making technology so good it became invisible. He was a champion of marrying creativity and technology to beget insanely great things. He embraced and fostered innovation and thinking differently.
Jobs himself put it best:
"Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- they're not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do."
Rest in peace.