I, like many who have benefitted from the genius of Steve Jobs, can’t imagine what my life would have been like had he stopped pursuing greatness. What would the world be like today if he had given up after being fired from Apple? What if he chose to leave the technology space altogether after such a public dismissal? What if he hadn’t founded NeXT and created the core of the next generation of Macintosh computers? For a while, we had a taste of that alternate universe; a myriad of beige boxes from every corner of the universe and a flurry of Windows releases that were so far from inspired, I don’t know where to begin.
Apple’s innovations help me every single day. So frequently, in fact, that I have to force myself to stop and take notice. Just last week, I was working on a project and needed to brainstorm with a creative partner in Shreveport, Louisiana, USA. I emailed him using my MacBook Pro and asked if he could do a video iChat. In a matter of seconds, he was showing me paper sketches and gesturing movements through our interface. He then held up his smartphone to the built-in iSight camera in his MacBook Pro to demo an augmented reality app he and his colleagues were developing. While chatting, I emailed him a PDF of my presentation made in Apple’s Keynote. A moment of silence suddenly came upon us. Looking into the camera, I said to him, “Do you remember when we were in college? What we’re doing right now would have been impossible!” He replied, “I know! This is Buck Rogers stuff!” Despite our collective imaginations, the thought of emailing presentations, easy-to-use live video chats, or powerful laptops that handled everything with ease was never in our wildest dreams. We laughed realizing that life was surreal — and real at the same time.
I collect rare Apple hardware. I own a prototype Apple Interactive TV set-top box, a Newton 2100 and 130, an eMate, and a developer edition of Pippin. I own those devices because they are beautiful reminders that life is about more than just “going with the flow.” These machines represent the embodiment of the idea that being creative is about trying something new. Something difficult. Something worthwhile. You’re right if you’re thinking, “Wait a minute, those weren’t created during Steve’s tenure as CEO.” People love to think of those products as failures or flops. I don’t. I see them as brilliant examples of Apple’s innovative what-if culture that Jobs created and, remarkably, endured despite his absence. To me, an organization that continues to push the boundaries in ways that redefine or create industries — without a fearless leader — speaks volumes.
If the time between his CEO tenure at Apple is any indication, I’m more than confident that his spirit will continue to inform and inspire Apple employees, Apple products, and legions of insanely grateful Apple customers for a long time to come.
On behalf of those who prefer the bar held high, thank you Steve. You will never be forgotten.
One of the Crazy Ones