If you’re reading this posting, say a little thanks to Steve Jobs and wish him well on the next leg of the journey. As much as anyone of in the last 25 years, Mr. Jobs helped create, promote and define how we use computing devices of every sort. Less of an inventor or engineer, Jobs’ genius lay in the areas of promotion and salesmanship and in obsessive focus on elegant design and a simple interface. He didn’t invent the mouse, the graphical user interface, multimedia PCs, digital music players, cell phones, tablets or online stores, but he promoted them and refined them relentlessly to match his ideas of what such devices should be.
Mr. Jobs was reportedly no easy guy to work for or even hang around with, but his obsessive nature made Apple products among the most thought-out, deliberate objects any of us ever encountered. There are stories without end of him stopping or even killing project over things like buttons that made the “wrong sound” when clicked, an inelegant design inside a component that no one would ever see and so on. To a rare degree in a company so big and with such a broad product line, everything with an Apple logo reflected the design and functional sensibilities of Mr. Jobs.
This is not to say Mr. Jobs never missed. People who only know him for the last decade – the iPod era – know him for the successes he’s had in music, in phones, in tablets, in on-line stores, but those of us who’ve been around the block a few more times remember when he was basically forced out of the company because of his unwillingness to compromise in even the smallest of details. We remember the Newton and the Next and have – for decades – cursed Apple products for things like one-button mice and no forward delete keys simply because Mr. Jobs decided we didn’t need them. Even in the last decade, there’s been a few clinkers (using Ping anyone? Apple TV?). It is, however, a testament to the power of a determined, forceful personality and what a person like that can accomplish. It’s probably a good thing he never fixated on politics.
I will miss Mr. Jobs and not just because he ran a company that makes cool things I use. I’ll miss him because he embodied his company’s slogan:
We could use more of that in all walks of life these days.