On the Shoulders of Giants
Eulogy for Steve Jobs
“It’s the job of technology to work for people, not the other way around. “
- Mark Heyer, 1981
As a person whose career as a pioneer of interactive media was intertwined with Steve Jobs and Apple from its beginnings, I wrote a eulogy to commemorate his death on Oct. 5, 2011.
Each generation provides a few remarkable individuals from whose broad shoulders the next generation takes flight on its own journey of life. Notably, Jobs built the model from which Elon Musk has accelerated his own career, and who in turn, is showing the way for coming generations.
October 6, 2011
At the beginning of my career in the early 1980s, I worked for Sony in New York. We used Apple II computers to run our videodisc-plus-computer technology demonstrations. My mantra then and now is: "Computers are supposed to work for people, not the other way around."
More than any other human being on the planet, Steve Jobs not only understood that philosophy but made it manifest in the world - in the process sparking the fastest, most pervasive technology revolution in human history so far - the smartphone. Now with AI coming soon, it seems appropriate to honor the shoulders that we all stand on to see our future.
Many commentators exclaim that Steve Jobs had the vision for the iPhone, the iPad, and so on. That is not exactly correct. The vision for what computers might become was shared by many of us in the industry, and many at Apple shared those visions. The difference is Steve MADE IT HAPPEN.
“Those who are crazy enough to try and change the world are the ones who do.”
Of many experiences, I will always carry one special vision of Steve Jobs in my memory: The first Apple Store, near our home in Palo Alto, CA, had been open for just about a year. It was 10:30 Sunday morning. The store opened half an hour ago and was already humming with activity. Well over a hundred customers and twenty or thirty blue-shirted Apple employees filled the room.
People sat at the Genius Bar, surfing the web or talking with each other. Individuals and groups of people sipped coffee in relaxed conversation with each other and the employees. An informal class formed with an Apple employee showing people how to use iPhoto. Kid-sized tables, chairs, and cushions hosted a bevy of delighted children and their parents, exploring children's software. 10:30 Sunday morning.
Through this happy maelstrom, Steve Jobs himself, clad in faded and torn blue jeans and a three-day beard, moved like a living ghost. Many in the store didn't recognize him, but all of us who did ignored his presence entirely, as if he were just another customer.
With his signature bemused smile and sparkling eyes, Steve silently observed every facet of the store activity, taking special interest in the kid's section and unobtrusively eavesdropping on conversations. I noticed that not one of the Apple employees, even with the Big Boss standing next to them, changed their behavior or conversation one iota in his presence.
As I watched the opening of the new Apple Store in Shanghai, with exactly the same mood and dynamics that I witnessed that day in Palo Alto, I could almost make out a shadowy figure moving among the throngs of new Chinese customers - smiling, watching, and thinking.
Apple may have lost its parent, but it goes forth into the world as a mindful adult, talented, accomplished, confident in its own skin and ready for really big things in the future, with an entire generation of employees, designers, programmers and marketers steeped in the Steve Jobs focus on making technology truly useful for people - you and me.
There are vast horizons to be explored in the ongoing development of our relationship with thinking technologies. Longer term, our iPhones will sprout eyes, arms, legs and personalities. I would bet money that the first truly desirable household robots will sport an Apple logo.
Unlike other moguls of the day, who retired to indulge their fortunes, Steve never spoke of wealth or power or influence. He worked every day, driven by the knowledge that it might be his last, following his love and his dreams. He died a very happy man. One thing I know for sure - he won't be resting in peace - he'll be organizing the angles, negotiating with the devil, berating, cajoling, and mentoring all concerned to make heaven a more user-friendly place for all of us. Go for it Steve…
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