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The loss of Steve Jobs

October 6, 2011

I remember my Apple ][e so well.  It cost a lot of money for a kid  (I must have been around 10) and I splurged and got the 128k deluxe model (double the memory).  128k of memory in one machine… so much power!!  I loved that computer.  My best friend Aaron, who had bought an Apple ][ +(not an e) and I used to do so many things with the computers.  His was used and came with a whole pile of things.  It even had the first ever 3-d modelling software.  It was incredible.  You would program in points and tell it which points to connect with lines.  You could make vector 3d images and view them from different points in space.  I remember we made an X-Wing fighter.  It took forever to make, and by every current standard it wasn’t much, but damn it was cool.

Aaron also had some programming books and a couple of different language compilers.  Pascal and Assembly.  The pascal was fun and all, but the assembler was my dream.  Pascal allowed for writing great  programs, but we didn’t know how to create libraries for drawing graphics so we were stuck with boring math programs or text adventure games.  We had the assembly codes for moving pixels around the screen and that had me enthralled.  I never did get very good at assembly, I think the photocopied manual I had was crap, but it may have been me.  Even by University I wasn’t great at assembly.  Still, I was on that computer all the time.  We played Scott Adams games-mission impossible could be the greatest game ever created,  early EA games-hard hat mike I think and evolution, created maps and simple adventure games and later played Ultima.  Finally Aaron ended up getting a modem and we used to find numbers of bulletin boards and we would share games and images.  Almost all of what we do today was there, way back then.  Sure it was primitive, but the excitement from each and every thing we do today was there then.  From searching to online porn (it took hours to download a picture of a topless girl, line by line) to sending messages to sharing with people around the world to games and 3d modelling, nothing that we have now is a far leap from what was possible back then.  What is staggering though is the saturation and depth of penetration that the computer has had on our life and how this itself has changed the world.

Of course, very few of us remember Apple from those days, after all, they have brought us so many more things in recent years it is mind boggling to think of the impact that they have had.  The iPhone, iPad, OSX, MacBook Air.  Hell, just the fact that he killed the floppy disk should grant Jobs a historic place in the annals of computers.  Of course he killed the CD-Rom too, but it just doesn’t know it yet…

I guess the thing above all else that I morn with Steve Jobs’ passing is his commitment to design.

“The only problem with Microsoft is they just have no taste. They have absolutely no taste. And I don’t mean that in a small way, I mean that in a big way, in the sense that they don’t think of original ideas, and they don’t bring much culture into their products.” – YouTube

Here was a man who was committed to the belief that taste and culture and design were what mattered.  He was losing a computer battle and he ended up losing his company because of his dedication to style, because of his unending commitment to art and yet he never lost faith.  In the years he wasn’t with Apple they ended up building boxes just like the PC’s, they outsourced their construction to other PC Manufactures and lost what was quintessentially theirs.  They lost market share and bled money, but then Steve Jobs came back and re instituted his love for design.  Even though the market had never been willing to pay for this beauty of design on a large scale, never fully embraced his ideals, those who did, loved it.

“We don’t get a chance to do that many things, and every one should be really excellent. Because this is our life. Life is brief, and then you die, you know? And we’ve all chosen to do this with our lives. So it better be damn good. It better be worth it.” – Fortune

I think Apple will continue on and do great things.  I think the market has now shown out that when you do things that are really truly excellent, people will pay for them.  I think that everyone at Apple for now and until the end of time will try to measure themselves against Steve Jobs and I can’t think of any challenge better.  Still, what makes me sad is that Steve Jobs is one of the only people who is not an actual designer who understands the fundamental soul of design:

“In most people’s vocabularies, design means veneer. It’s interior decorating. It’s the fabric of the curtains of the sofa. But to me, nothing could be further from the meaning of design. Design is the fundamental soul of a human-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers of the product or service.” – Fortune

I work in a design field and still, I am shocked everyday by designers and architects who simply don’t get it.  They still think that design is veneer.  They think that we should be called in at the end of a project.

In any case, what I wanted to leave you with is the closing part of Steve Jobs Stanford Commencement speech.  Most of you will be familiar with it, but I want to share it with you because I think for us, the unfit, it is especially poignant.  I don’t mean to imply that this is better advice for us than others, just that we spend a lot of time looking in the mirror and not liking what we see:

Look in the mirror everyday and ask, “if today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am doing today?” If the answer is no for many days in a row, you need to change something. Remembering you are going to die is the most important tool to make big decisions in life, everything falls away in the face of death. External expectations, pride, fear of embarrassment or failure are all things that don’t matter in the big picture. Remembering you are going to die is the best way to remember you have nothing to lose. “You are already naked, you have nothing to lose by following you heart.”

In relativity, death is the best invention of life. It’s life change agent, it clears out the old and brings in the new. Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life, don’t let the noise of others opinion drown your inner voice.  Most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition, they truly know what you want to become, everything else is secondary.

I think Steve Jobs was meaning that metaphorically, but I think it works quite literally.  How many times have you looked in the mirror and not liked what you saw?  You have nothing to lose if you commit yourself now to changing your life.  When you take actions to control it you will understand that everything else is secondary!

Steve Jobs died at a very young age.  Start now.

By the way, I have a mint condition Apple ][ in the basement in its box. Maybe I will get it out tonight and try to do some programming (of course I will have to look up instructions on my iPad and MacBook Pro, maybe text some friends on my iPhone) while my children watch Toy Story and I think about how big of an impact 2 guys in a garage had on the world ….

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