TidBITS#1097/10-Oct-2011

Apple co-founder, former CEO, and chairman Steve Jobs has passed away at age 56, and although the event was not entirely unexpected, it hit the technology community and the outside world hard. We’re devoting this special issue of TidBITS entirely to Steve Jobs, starting with Jeff Carlson’s news coverage and a large collection of links to other Jobs-related content from around the Internet. We also have thoughts on Jobs’s legacy from TidBITS staffers Mark H. Anbinder and Rich Mogull, and from guest contributor Angus Wong. Finally, TidBITS publisher Adam Engst explores the question of why Steve Jobs’s death has been so unsettling for so many people. Look for your regular issue of TidBITS shortly.
 
Articles
 

Steve Jobs Dead at 56

  by Jeff Carlson <jeffc@tidbits.com>
  68 comments

Apple co-founder, former CEO, and chairman of the board Steve Jobs passed away Wednesday, 5 October 2011 at age 56. The news was released by Apple’s board of directors, whose statement reads:

We are deeply saddened to announce that Steve Jobs passed away today.

Steve’s brilliance, passion and energy were the source of countless innovations that enrich and improve all of our lives. The world is immeasurably better because of Steve.

His greatest love was for his wife, Laurene, and his family. Our hearts go out to them and to all who were touched by his extraordinary gifts.

On the same day, Apple CEO Tim Cook sent an email to the company that read:

Team,

I have some very sad news to share with all of you. Steve passed away earlier today.

Apple has lost a visionary and creative genius, and the world has lost an amazing human being. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to know and work with Steve have lost a dear friend and an inspiring mentor. Steve leaves behind a company that only he could have built, and his spirit will forever be the foundation of Apple.

We are planning a celebration of Steve’s extraordinary life for Apple employees that will take place soon. If you would like to share your thoughts, memories and condolences in the interim, you can simply email rememberingsteve@apple.com.

No words can adequately express our sadness at Steve’s death or our gratitude for the opportunity to work with him. We will honor his memory by dedicating ourselves to continuing the work he loved so much.

Tim

Jobs’s family also released a statement:

Steve died peacefully today surrounded by his family.

In his public life, Steve was known as a visionary; in his private life, he cherished his family. We are thankful to the many people who have shared their wishes and prayers during the last year of Steve’s illness; a website will be provided for those who wish to offer tributes and memories.

We are grateful for the support and kindness of those who share our feelings for Steve. We know many of you will mourn with us, and we ask that you respect our privacy during our time of grief.

When Jobs resigned from the CEO position back in August, we collected a series of reflections which are no less apt now (see “Steve Jobs Resigns: Reactions and Remembrances,” 25 August 2011).

Apple has set up a Remembering Steve Jobs page, with a link to an email address for people to share their memories and condolences.

It’s a massive understatement to say that Jobs profoundly affected all of our lives. It is perhaps most telling that many of us learned of his death via a device — a Mac, an iPhone, an iPad, or an iPod touch — whose creation was made possible in part through his work at Apple.

Our most heartfelt condolences to his family and friends.


Global Reaction -- After writing about Apple and Jobs for years, we at TidBITS certainly appreciate his legacy. However, we’re still surprised at the outpouring of sentiment following Jobs’s passing. Columnists, CEOs, and heads of state have written statements or remembrances, and Apple retail stores became impromptu shrines as thousands of people sought to pay their respects.

Here are links to some of these expressions of grief and respect that we’ve collected in the comments section of this article on our Web site. I know the number of items is daunting, but they’re worth it.

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Steve Jobs: Sharing the Joy

  by Rich Mogull <rich@tidbits.com>
  2 comments

The evening that news of Steve Jobs dying broke, my wife and I were at a kid-friendly restaurant with our young daughters. It’s the sort of place with lots of colors and a balloon on the way out, but I was distracted from the family fun, instead following the world’s collective grief by checking Twitter constantly until my battery drained.

Like nearly all of you reading this, I never met Steve Jobs. Unlike most of you, I was fortunate enough to attend his last Macworld Expo keynote and experience his vaunted Reality Distortion Field up close and personal. In 2008, I walked in carrying a BlackBerry. I went home with an iPhone. Say what you will about the RDF, but I never regretted that decision.

My love of technology started with Apple and, to a lesser degree, Commodore. But for many years I never owned anything designed by Apple, relying instead on borrowed time in school or during visits to friend’s homes. I didn’t buy my first Mac until 2005, when I succumbed to the halo effect generated by the beauty of my first iPod. Today there are six Macs in my house, a couple of iPads, a few iPhones, and various other Apple products. Including, still, that first iPod I can’t seem to let go.

It doesn’t matter if you love Apple or hate Apple – nearly everything we do in technology today is influenced by the work of the teams Steve led. Every computer, every modern phone, and every music player is influenced more by Apple designs than by any other single source. Even the CG animated cartoons my daughters loves so much wouldn’t be the same without Pixar’s work.

My mind was more focused on Jobs than my family as we finished our meal and started to leave. Carrying my one-year-old, I passed the hostess desk, grabbed a helium balloon and slipped the ribbon around her wrist. As we crossed into the parking lot, she started giggling and batting at the balloon, a look of sheer happiness in her eyes.

Smiling down at her, I thought to myself that, as a grown-up, I rarely experience such childlike joy from an object, no matter how simple or complex, cheap or expensive.

And then, influenced by the day’s events, I remembered how, for months, I’d stare at the Retina Display on my iPhone 4. Or the cool light emanating from my first iPod. Or how, two models and nearly two years later, I’m rarely without an iPad nearby.

Not all Apple products bring back my feelings of childhood wonder. But if something with a screen and a processor does, the odds are it was designed in Cupertino.

Steve Jobs left us many gifts, but this is the one I think I’ll remember the most. For him it wasn’t enough merely to drive a new technology into our lives; he also wanted us to share in his joy of creation.

His death hit me harder than I expected. I know this isn’t the end of Apple, or the end of great products. But the entire technology world just lost the one person climbing the hills in front of us, breaking the trail, and enthusiastically turning back to wave and shout “Follow me!”

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Steve Jobs: Bringing Technology to the Masses

  by Mark H. Anbinder <mha@tidbits.com>

The last few days have been a whirlwind — of tributes, of thoughts, of emotions — and I’ve started writing this, in my head, a dozen times. As a part-time journalist who has covered Apple and the Mac industry for over two decades, I suppose I could feel “entitled” to write a remembrance on the occasion of Steve Jobs’s death. I’ve even been within a few feet of the man, first when he visited the Cornell University campus to show off his new NeXT computer and again at various Macworld Expos and WWDCs. But on reflection, I’ve realized just how pervasive Steve Jobs and his works have been in my life.

Unlike some of the folks whose thoughts I’ve read lately, my first computer wasn’t an Apple — it was an Atari 400. Before long, though, I was using Apple ][s at school, at friends’ houses, and at camp. I played, I wrote, I programmed, and I fiddled.

My own first Apple product was a 512K Macintosh, purchased freshman year at Cornell when I learned my computer science classes would require programming a Mac. I didn’t remain a computer science major for long, but what was unquestionably the turning point in my life came that winter when a Cornell professor asked me a question one day.

“Can you program the Mac?”

Now, I’m not really a programmer. But even in 1986, programming the Mac to do great things was so rational, so easy, that I could fake it pretty well!

Before long, I’d gone from programming to Mac-focused technical support, and while the details change every few years, my whole career has been about helping people make the most of the world around them using technology. It didn’t take me long to realize after Steve Jobs’s death: so was his.

Right from the beginning, when the Apple ][ was the first viable productivity computer for the masses, the arc of Jobs’s career has been about making technology accessible to the public. (Considering how long we’ve been writing about Macs, it’s a little alarming to realize how few years separated the introductions of the very first Apple ][ and the first Macintosh.)

Over the last few days, we’ve certainly heard from the detractors, who feel Jobs and Apple have corrupted or irreparably damaged any number of industries, though most have been respectfully muted in their criticisms. But music industry insiders who hate the drop-off in compact disc sales are balanced by industry players and performers who love being able to sell 99-cent songs with little overhead. Photo labs struggling in the wake of film’s decline are making money as digital photographers order prints from iPhoto. Software developers grumbling about the increasing control Apple wants over the developer ecosystem are balanced by those discovering an unexpected source of considerable revenue. Magazine publishers who wish subscriber revenue weren’t cannibalized by Web site freeloaders are just beginning to appreciate a new paying audience on the iPad.

The common theme here is that Apple, under the renewed stewardship of a Steve Jobs who returned from NeXT and Pixar with hard-won wisdom and drive, has been successful while simultaneously helping consumers do great things with content and helping an impressive variety of industries profit from it.

Will the grumbling continue? Of course, and while some is certainly warranted, we also must appreciate that every sea change claims victims, whether it’s farriers suffering as horses were replaced by cars, lamp oil companies losing out as everyone moved to electric lighting, or, soon, cellular carriers watching text-message revenues decline as iMessage helps us bypass artificially expensive SMS text messages.

What will Apple accomplish next? We can just barely begin to imagine the evolutionary items in the pipeline that Steve Jobs himself had a hand in, never mind the revolutionary ones that will arise from the environment he fostered.

Steve Jobs didn’t invent the computer, the Internet, or the mobile phone. He just helped make them worth using. What’s next? We’ll see.

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Steve Jobs: Among the Crazy Ones

  by Angus Wong <atkw@anguswong.net>

Let’s look at three stories today.

No big deal. Just three stories.

The first story is that of the personal computer.

Not to diminish the many contributions from others, but it’s entirely possible to imagine that, without Steve Jobs, “personal computers” might never have entered the mainstream. HP dismissed the idea outright, and IBM took a relative eternity to participate after seeing the promise in the market that Jobs helped create. Without personal computers, the Internet as we know it might be unrecognizably restricted to soldiers and scholars, and who knows what inspiration Tim Berners-Lee might have lacked had he not been working on a NeXT machine at CERN.

The second story is about users.

Like Prometheus, Steve Jobs brought technology to the great unwashed masses, to “the rest of us.” Freeing great ideas from incubation in ivory towers and the unlit dens of hobbyists alike, Jobs was the harbinger of the future. Graphical user interfaces, USB, wireless connectivity, user-generated HD content, touchscreens, app stores. He brought to the wider world leading edge innovations in almost every iteration of Apple’s products. And he did so with impatience, with certitude, via transitions that were made with a firm gaze fixed on our shared future, not with a hesitant eye glancing backward to compatibility.

The third story is about connections.

Steve Jobs connected us. He gave disparate people a common language of movement and motion. Geeks and gurus. Techies and typographers. He fused together the sheer power of raw computation with entrancing beauty, forming a team that produced images that bring joy to children, while reminding adults of the big picture. He transformed how we experience music, movies, and books, and how we keep in touch as we roam through a hungry, foolish world.

I reminisce about more than three decades of using technologies gestated by Steve Jobs as I type this article in Pages, on my MacBook Pro, on my birthday. It has been a grand, electrifying road trip, but now we’ve lost one of our most prescient drivers.

Where were you when you heard the news? For me, it was a beautiful day in Hawaii, a place Jobs enjoyed visiting. The sun was bright and the clouds were light. It was strange to be told that something was amiss in the universe, and yet, like millions of others, I first received word of his passing via a news alert on my iPad.

Jobs might be amused to know that, even in his passing on, he generated tremendous goodwill and awareness for Apple. And, maybe underscoring the point of his Stanford speech just a tiny bit more, he has skated to where the puck ultimately will be for all of us.

I came across this unaired version of Apple’s “Here’s to the Crazy Ones” ad, narrated by Jobs, which unwittingly eulogizes him in the kind of poignant, poetic way he probably would have initially hated, but ultimately approved of. “Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world… are the ones who do.”

Glorify or vilify him, Steve Jobs was, and always will be, obviously and irreplaceably, insanely great.

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Mourning Steve Jobs

  by Adam C. Engst <ace@tidbits.com>
  2 comments

In 1997, our friend Cary Lu, one of the pre-eminent Macintosh writers of the 1980s and 1990s, died of cancer (see “Cary Lu Remembered,” 29 September 1997). During his last few months, in which we spent more time with Cary than when he was healthy, he commented that some people reacted to his impending death by pulling away, whereas others became closer. The same was true in the immediate aftermath, with several of us collaborating to finish Cary’s final book (see “The Race for Bandwidth,” 21 September 1998).

With Steve Jobs passing away this past week (see “Steve Jobs Dead at 56,” 5 October 2011), I found myself thinking of Cary’s death, trying to figure out just what it was I did feel. It wasn’t exactly sadness, because unlike Cary, Jobs wasn’t a personal friend, and I was no more aware of his physical condition than anyone else. I met Jobs only twice, once in the late 1980s at the opening of the first public room of NeXT machines at Cornell University when Tonya and I were undergraduate student supervisors of the computer rooms, and once again briefly on the floor of Macworld Expo when he was walking around with my friend Jeff Robbin, whose SoundJam had been purchased by Apple as the basis for iTunes. I don’t think I spoke to Jobs the first time, and if I said anything on the second occasion, it was a simple thank you.

So sadness isn’t the right emotion — I didn’t know Steve Jobs, and he didn’t know me. I have no idea if he even ever saw TidBITS, though it’s possible, since we do count other high-ranking Apple executives among our readers.

And yet, after the rush to post our coverage of Jobs’s death on Wednesday night, I had trouble accomplishing anything productive on Thursday and Friday, an experience shared by numerous others who have spent years orbiting Apple. While I couldn’t bring myself to write anything then, I couldn’t resist reading every article about Jobs I saw shared on Twitter, and I found myself wanting to collect and curate them, as if by bringing together the most eloquent and interesting articles I could somehow fill the void in my life that had opened up. You can see my efforts in the comments on our coverage.

Ironically, it was a Windows-using friend from college who made me realize why the loss of Jobs was so... unsettling. It was telling that such a friend, with whom we exchange email only a few times a year and see once a year at most, thought the event significant enough to send us a note of condolence. And in further discussion, he pointed out that Jobs and Apple were front and center in the computer revolution of the 1980s, such that he was an iconic figure for everyone who came to computers during that decade, regardless of whether they used Macs. Our generation wasn’t alone — while the founding of Apple was a pivotal moment in the computer revolution for the geeks of the 1980s, Jobs’s return to Apple in 1996 and Apple’s subsequent success with the Mac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad meant that Apple was, if anything, more prominent in the lives of many millions of people coming of age over the last 15 years.

It’s not that any of us really knew him, or even felt that we did, it’s that he was always there, always coming out with the next big thing, always offering a reliable touchstone for design and innovation.

That feeling was echoed by another friend, who reminded us that Tonya and I were the first people she knew who she met at Macworld Boston in 1995 after hearing that Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead died. We asked, merely by way of making conversation, how she was doing and she replied, “I don’t know yet. I just heard Jerry Garcia died, and I’m a deadhead.” In her email to us the day after Jobs died, she said the feeling was exactly the same, that life had just changed and while it was hard to see how, it was, and always would be, different in some way.

None of this is to imply that I have any fear for the future of Apple, Inc. I have too much respect for the abilities of the people who work at Apple to think the company will change in any significant way in the foreseeable future. We’ve been through those arguments before, when Jobs took medical leaves of absence, and when he resigned from the CEO post, and there’s no reason to believe that Apple’s overall direction will change this time.

But the fact remains that Steve Jobs is gone, and regardless of how well he has inculcated his way of thinking and working into Apple, the technology industry has lost a much-needed part of its soul. At the risk of sounding even geekier than I actually am, Steve Jobs’s death truly is a disturbance in the Force. That’s why so many of us have felt aimless and unfocused since, and if you’re feeling a similar sense of loss, just know that you’re not alone and that it will slowly become the new normal.

After two days of being unable to work effectively at the Mac, I spent Saturday outside in the autumn sunshine with Tonya and Tristan. We shook hundreds of pounds of apples out of our trees, went over to a neighbor’s house, and pressed cider for the rest of the afternoon. I won’t pretend that I’m fully engaged yet, but working with the fruit of our land, preparing food for the upcoming winter, was a good reminder that loss — that feeling of emptiness as something comes to an end — is an essential part of the cycle of life.

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