Oct
07

Thoughts on the Life of Steve Jobs – 1955-2011

Steve Jobs - The iconic visionary and co-founder of Apple passed away on Oct. 5, 2011.

Like so many billions of people around the world, I learned of the death of Steve Jobs due to complications from pancreatic cancer on Wednesday.  Apple Inc. posted a photo of him on the main page of their site and posted the following statement.

 “Apple has lost a visionary and creative genius, and the world has lost an amazing human being. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to know and work with Steve have lost a dear friend and an inspiring mentor. Steve leaves behind a company that only he could have built, and his spirit will forever be the foundation of Apple.”

I think many people knew this may happen after the gaunt looking Jobs stepped down as CEO of Apple Inc. on Aug. 24 when he was at the very top of his extremely successful career. Knowing his death seemed eminent, did not make this sad news any easier to digest. So much will be written and said about him in the coming days because of his wide ranging influence on so many people’s lives that it will dominate the media. Probably more was written about him in just the 24 hours after his death than has been written up until this point. Early news reports on the morning of Oct. 6 stated that Twitter has had a record breaking spike of  10,000 tweets per second related to gratitude for Steve Jobs’ life and his accomplishments. A later report showed instead that it was the 4th highest at 6049 Tweets per second, still a huge number.  Much of this communication is being written on devices like the iPhone and iPad which Mr. Jobs was instrumental in creating and bringing to all of us. These devices have dominated the world of communication technology since 2007. They have huge appeal across the board, with an ease of use factor that is unprecedented in such devices and they have amazing features.  These devices have allowed people with little or no technical background to easily network and communicate very effectively with their family, friends, colleagues, and the rest of the world through the mediums of written text, voice, music, graphics, videos, and thousands of apps.

Steve Jobs made a huge contribution to our culture through the combination of Science, Technology, and Art which has affected society in such a huge way that I felt strongly I should at least dedicate today’s post to him.  He was to the personal computing device as Alexander Graham Bell was to the telephone.  His influence to society was akin to that of Thomas Alva Edison as they both were instrumental in bringing huge music, motion picture, and mass communication technology advances to the masses.  

This morning on the news, during an interview with Steve Wozniak, who was co-founder of Apple with Steve Jobs, Mr. Wozniak mentioned the process that Steve used to develop products. It sounded very much like a combination of the Scientific Method and Artistic Methods we have talked about in a recent post. Mr. Wozniak used terms like “visionary” and “disciplined” to describe Mr. Jobs. He stated that it was not the fact that he actually crafted all of the innovations himself.  His talent was in coming up with a crystal clear vision of what he felt was needed, surrounding himself with very capable, dedicated and disciplined people, and inspiring them to bring the vision to life knowing that anything less than perfection as defined by Steve would be rejected.   He also said that Mr. Jobs viewed the world differently than most people.  In a interview with Brian Williams that was done in 2006, it is clear that Steve Jobs was very much into enjoying the process of innovation rather than focusing too much on the goal or worrying about the past.

The Apple Macintosh, introduced in 1984, has been the flagship product of Apple for many years.

In my career as a software developer and computer technology consultant for businesses, starting in the early 1980’s we focused our efforts on the IBM PC and Microsoft Windows. In those days MS DOS was a very open system with regard and development tools for this platform were cheap. Businesses naturally migrated toward this platform because it was compatible with more peripherals than the Apple system and the platform was very programmable. Apple, despite having very good features was more closed with regard to system documentation and programmability.  Microsoft, IBM and the clones (Compaq for instance) targeted business and engineering customers whereas Apple targeted very specific customer bases like education, publishing, photography, and art.

Even though we were Microsoft developers at the time, we were always intrigued with the innovations that Apple continually produced under the leadership of Steve Jobs. How could we not? Take the wonderful ad that Apple showed during the 1984 Super Bowl. Directed by Ridly Scott, it portrays the control of the computer industry and ultimately the control of information technology as a struggle between Big Brother (IBM) and an inspired revolutionary representative of the people (Apple). It illustrates the epitome of the in-your-face cool promotion savvy that Steve Jobs was so good at.

The iPod and iPhone changed the game for music devices and for smart phones.

Later on, the work he did with the NeXT computer, which was an amazing computer although it was not commercially successful, eventually influenced Apple’s products in a very positive way.  This raised the bar significantly with regard to the ever expanding capability and usability of computing devices. Also very influental, was the work done at Pixar under his leadership. He recognized the potential of this very innovative yet struggling animated graphics company which would come to create the burgeoning industry of feature length animated movies and change the world of entertainment.

In my opinion though, his greatest contribution was always pushing the leading edge of amazing technological innovations combining technology and art to produce the very best user experience. His user interfaces were always the best because they were the most intuitive of any device on the planet. No user manual or help was needed. The artistic flair of these devices brought us all to the table and the extreme ease of use opened up the door to amazing tools of expression for billions around the world.
 

So here’s to Steve Jobs. Thank you for having the courage to truly live your dream even under the toughest circumstances and inspiring the rest of us to live ours. Our thoughts and condolences go out to the family of Steve Jobs along with his friends and colleages. He will be greatly missed.

Related Links:

Steve Jobs’ Patents – NY Times

Time Line of Apple Innovation – Shows how Apple’s innovation thrived under the influence of Steve Jobs and was absent during the ten years he was absent. – NY Times

Eight ways the iMac changed the computer world. – Mac World

How the iPod changed everything. – The Globe and Mail

Ten ways the iPhone changed smart phones forever. – Business Insider

Paper by Ted Friedman called “Apple’s 1984: The Introduction of the Macintosh in the Cultural History of Personal Computers“.  This is a very interesting account of how the historic Super Bowl ad came about and its impact. – Duke University

     Copyright © 2011-2012 by Danny and Sandra Ringo.  All rights reserved.  Articles may not be reproduced without permission.