Steve Jobs (1955–2011)

by jfjudah

You can find his quotes across the web, and his fans and detractors all have something to say. Even the terms describing Steve Jobs have become repetitive: genius, brash, visionary, thief, popularizer, secretive about his personal life, minimalist, praising Apple and its people effusively in public but driving them relentlessly in private, fantastic salesman, boom. Journalists have tried to tie his name to their byline, but their stated facts are all the same and most just don’t have anything worthwhile to say.

I probably don’t either. I just want to honor someone who built a legacy and I don’t know another way except to write it.

I got my first Apple laptop on 11 August 2004. It was a 15-inch PowerBook G4 and it was spectacular. I spent the first two weeks learning it and then tweaking it. Thanks to David Pogue’s book for new Mac owners, I wasted at least a full day once I found out that it could tell me knock-knock jokes. The screen hinge broke, but it’s 2011 and I still have that laptop; a piece of me almost hopes I always will. Almost.

Apple has moved on to create better things and I’m certain I can happily move on with them. I don’t have to own frustrating crap just to feel like I have a “real computer”. Steve Jobs knew that, and he built a team that could make simplicity, beauty, and excellence a reality.

He also knew he didn’t have long to live. The best ones always live with their end in mind. Read the Psalms and Marcus Aurelius to get a feel for what that looks and sounds like.

There’s a short moment that has stuck with me from one of Apple’s famous product events. I remember it because it was such an odd kind of aside to discuss. On 15 January 2008, Steve Jobs took the stage as the Macworld keynote speaker to introduce the second iteration of Apple TV, called Take Two. Amidst the walkthrough of features and how awesome it was, he stopped to plug a practically unknown Canadian film from Lionsgate, titled Away From Her (2006). I hadn’t seen it, so I watched it with my wife that week. In it a husband loses his wife to Alzheimer’s, a loss too great and encompassing to do it justice with weak words. I thought everything about the film was superb; it is intimately human; I felt given and drained of hope intermittently; I ascended and descended with the story of a drastically changing life, when the characters expected only a steady coasting into their twilight. This film allowed me to feel something particular in such a deep way that I wept with my wife — for my wife — for our future together — for almost an hour afterwards.

Because of his relationship with certain studios, Jobs always plugs the latest work from Pixar and ABC (they are the same company), along with 20th Century Fox.

But this mention was a stark anomaly. Jobs had the slides, so it was obviously purposeful and, due to the themes in the film, I believe it was quite personal. You can even hear a little pause when he speaks about it. I believe he connected with it in a way he would not say from the stage, but which he could not deny. It was important enough that the intensely private CEO brought it into the public. (Start at the 3:00 mark. And, no, I don’t know why the audio is completely out of sync.)

I didn’t know Steve Jobs when he was alive and I know a company cannot be a bionic pal, but I’m glad both existed. So, to me, these emotions — from the joyful liberation that is possible within technology, to what is possible when art helps us feel and connect with what is priority — are what defines Apple as a company and helps me to understand Steve Jobs a bit better as a regular guy.

Our prayers are with his family and friends who have been most deeply effected through his life and in his death.