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Steve Jobs: Among the Crazy Ones

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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