Steve Jobs died today at 56. A whole lot of people in the world will recognize the name of the man who invented the personal computer and all of the iThis- and iThat-Wonders that have followed in the last decade or so. I want to offer an appreciation and a thank you to a man and a company that changed my life.
I choose to use an unusual word to describe Steve Jobs from the perspective of his meaning in my life: saint. I don’t mean saint in the traditional religious sense. Nor do I mean to imply that Steve Jobs was a holy man, a superman, or any sort of spiritual teacher. So I have to unpack the word saint to dump the baggage and uncover its pristine meaning. The saints I know are all ordinary saints. They weren’t super human, but they were powerfully human. Steve Jobs was powerfully human in four ways that touched my life.
People use the word iconic to refer to Steve Jobs. He was Apple Computer. He was its visionary spokesperson and evangelist. He was passionate to a fault about his life mission. Steve embodied a mission larger than his own life.
Steve’s mission was to change the world by empowering people. He assembled a team of geniuses and workaholics, and was notorious as a perfectionist and a tyrant. Steve had an immense capacity to inspire other people.
Steve was a perpetual inventor. He could imagine things the rest of us hadn’t even dreamed of. He had a sense of the long-term trajectory of people, society, and technology. Steve looked beyond what his eyes could see.
Steve was playful. He spoke often about his love of music. He used failures as doorways to the unexpected. He founded Pixar and made great animated films. The iPad sprang into history years after the Newton. Steve was radical creativity.
If the stories I’ve heard are to be believed, Steve challenged and stretched and sometimes infuriated a lot of people. He and his company challenged and stretched me. In 1985, I was ready to graduate from a borrowed Kaypro to my own AT&T PC 7300. A friend warned me, “Don’t buy that thing until you’ve looked at the Apple Macintosh.” I’d missed the Apple II and admired the Lisa, but fell head over heals in love with the Mac Plus…and Aldus Pagemaker.
The visual, intuitive, common sense, works-as-you’d-expect experience led from itinerant activist, to desktop publisher, to creative services, to writer and editor. I never dreamed that I’d edit manuals, make bookmarks, publish books, make web pages, and take on learning ePublishing. A large measure of my own creative passion over the last twenty years was awakened and empowered by riding the wave with Steve Jobs, Apple, and the Macintosh.
Steve died today and I’m experiencing a world of grief. I never got closer to him than his Keynote Addresses streaming live from Cupertino. But some of the way Steve was a human being has rubbed off on me. He influenced how I live in the world of steep learning curves, software glitches, long distance clients, and friends who go “Wow!”
This man was a funky, cranky, inspiring ordinary saint and I am very grateful.