We adjust the settings on our iPods with heavy hearts this week with news of the passing of Steve Jobs. The man was an innovator, who deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as other iconic visionaries such as Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, and Leonardo Da Vinci. Arguably, through Apple's iTunes, Jobs saved the music industry. With the iPhone and iPad, he may have saved the news industry as well.
I didn't grow up in a Steve Jobs world. As a teenager, it was Microsoft's Bill Gates who received top-billing as the technological guru of the day.
I remember learning Windows 95 for the first time. My collection of Pogs and Teemu Selanne rookie cards couldn't compete with the smoothness and simplicity of that operating system. I was hooked --even if it was only because it made it easier for me to play Solitaire and Mindsweeper.
(Question: has anyone under the age of 65 ever played Solitaire with real cards? For those who don't think tablet technology is going to save the newspaper, think about this: every older person I know plays still play some sort of one-player based card game (like Solitaire). I, and ALL the people I hang out with, have never once played Solitaire using real cards. NEVER. Yet, Solitaire is still played by millions of people around the world. In fact, I'd postulate that more people play Solitaire now then they did 80 years ago. Why? With screen technology, you can play the game wherever and whenever you want to. Screens saved Solitaire. Now they'll save newspapers. Done. I've solved the mystery of the tablet-newspaper dilemma.)
As Apple methodically rolled out its line of ascetically pleasing and functionally purposeful products in the latter half of the 90s and early 2000s, as a consumer and somewhat of a technological junkie, I knew there was no going back.
The iPod completely revolutionized consumerism. No longer is the CD, DVD, or book the sought after tactile experience. What I mean by that is that we would buy CDs so we could listen to the music it offered, and to have the actual plastic case with all that would come with it. Now, the iPod has become the tactile experience. Instead of seeking out the CD, we seek out the iPod. In short, Jobs took out the middle man. And if the story of Frank Lucas in American Gangster taught us anything, it's that taking out the middle man is the key to success. (or to multiple stints in prison.)
But there was more to it. Bill Gates doesn't appear like someone I'd enjoy having a conversation with. He seems awkward, nervous, and unapproachable. (And you'd be too, if you'd spent the better half of your life holed-up in a garage, working on computers while your mom ever-so-often would come in to re-fill your jug of Orange Tang.)
Jobs had a swagger to him. Apple's annual display of new and updated products was often over-shadowed by the wit and enthusiasm it's CEO would display. Recaps of the day's event would rarely go without a mention of Jobs' performance. He had the uncanny ability look like a relaxed commoner, with his patent black turtle-neck tucked into his blue jeans, yet still have the appearance of a calculated genius. I'm going to miss that. And him.