This morning I woke up hearing that Steve Jobs had died. It has hit me surprisingly hard.
Why grieve over the death of someone I never met? Someone who had his dark sides? Who made products that are not perfect? Someone who we all knew was not doing well, health-wise? Why grieve over the death of a rich white man who made expensive gadgets, while many things that are much worse happen every day?
Because I find Steve Jobs inspiring. He was a creative person who cared about quality and details, and who won. He pulled it off, he was successful both creatively and financially. His success was not something only insiders could appreciate. It is measurable in crass numbers.
As someone who is creative and who cares about quality and details, it is immensely inspiring to know that it is possible. It is possible to be uncompromising, to care, and to succeed. That doesn’t mean I can do so, but knowing that it’s possible makes me at least want to try.
And I love using Apple products. I don’t consider myself a dyed-in-the-wool, hard-core Apple fan. I’ve never used an Apple II. I used Macs at work in the 90s, but I was indifferent about them.
I bought my first Mac in 2003, a second-hand white G3 iBook, after my Windows PC, the only one I ever bought, started getting too long in the tooth. Then I bought a G4 iBook. And an iMac. Then I got a G5 PowerMac for free (long story). Then I bought my current machine, an Intel Core 2 Duo MacBook Pro. And now I’m considering buying a new Mac.
I won’t bore you with the details of my iPods and iPhones.
But I’ve obviously become a fanboy. I drank the Kool-Aid. I buy the line about control and integration leading to a better user experience. I care about user experience, and nothing is as nice to use as Apple products. They may be imperfect, but that doesn’t mean they’re not miles better than the rest. By now I have trouble understanding why anyone would not want to get an iPhone if they could afford one. Or use Windows, except for hard-core gaming or because you’re forced to, by work. It’s a mystery to me. (And I realize this might offend some people. Sorry!)
Sounds cultish? It gets worse. One reason why I’m sad that Steve Jobs has died is that, while he was alive, I knew there was someone who was actively making my life better. Who was bringing me the future, in a way that had a real impact on my life.
And now he’s gone.
This morning I started watching the 2007 iPhone presentation on my MacBook Pro. I had never watched it before. (Because I had all the time in the world. Right?) While I was watching, the screen started flickering and glitching. And then it turned black. I closed the lid, opened it again. It stayed black.
So I realized I had a MacBook Pro, that when opened would show a black screen and Steve Jobs’s voice would come out.
Jason Kottke has an excellent summary of what people wrote today about Jobs’s passing, as well as the same question I’ve been asking myself:
I am incredibly sad this morning. Why am I, why are we, feeling this so intensely?
Marco Arment, maker of the excellent Instapaper, puts it nicely:
But it feels like someone close to me has died. He was so intimately involved in his company and its products (which have become critical parts of my career and hobby life), and he has publicly injected so much vision, personality, and care into our entire industry for so long, that I do feel like I knew him, even though I really didn’t.
Panic are an excellent example of the kind of software developers that make software you just don’t get on Windows. Here they explain why (although it might be gone by the time you read this).
Be sure to watch (or read) Jobs’s 2005 Stanford commencement speech:
One more thing has been going through my head today. Jobs was 56. I’m 40. What have I been doing with my life?