Article: One More “One More Thing…”

by on October 7, 2011

Over the last 36 hours, I’ve read quite a bit about the passing of Steve Jobs—personal memories, anecdotes, well-wishes for those affected by the loss, and it’s been a bit surreal. Although I didn’t know the guy personally, obviously, the things he helped develop and that legacy have affected me.

I’m amazed at the media coverage, but then again, this seems to be the norm when any big celebrity dies—usually an entertainer or performer. It’s beaten into our heads for days after with people providing speculation, their two cents, and just not offering much respect for the sake of “coverage”. Apart from our initial, but then expanded post, and the upcoming episode of SchwarzTech Radio, we’re not going to post much on the topic. The Internet has plenty of content if you want to know more, and I don’t think I can offer much that hasn’t already been said.

What I can offer, is a bit of reaction and reflection on the matter, especially since I would agree with the various statements thrown around that he was my generation’s Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, and Walt Disney all rolled into one.

Being a Chicago Cubs fan, I’m reminded of last December’s passing of former player and then-current radio color commentator Ron Santo. He had lost his chronic battle with type 1 diabetes and bladder cancer, and it did come as a bit of a surprise, especially due to it being the off-season. Fans loved him because he was a fan, too, maybe being a little too into the game instead of bottling up his own emotions. I would often listen to afternoon games on the radio while driving, working, or just if they were not televised in my area, and that eventually lead to streaming through the At Bat app. Even though I never met Santo, he was likable, honest, and in your life so much, so you felt like you knew him. His funeral was attended by numerous people—fans, players, old teammates, other baseball broadcasters to the point that the crowd was just a tad overwhelming. I think the other reason why this was so jarring was that it happened in the winter, a time when most people stop thinking about baseball.

In some ways, I felt the same odd sense of loss on Wednesday night. Being a Mac user for the last two decades and also running this little dog-and-pony show, I felt like I knew Jobs just a little bit. Some people have stories of Jobs being difficult to work with, demanding, and caring about every minor detail. I think that came with the territory of what he had to do when he came back to Apple in 1997. I think it had to continue for Apple to gain some momentum and be a successful company again. Clearly, the man enjoyed what he was doing and wanted to be the best at it. Judging by the stories from various tech writers that have appeared, it seems that often, especially outside of work, he shared those same qualities—likable, honest, and personable.

Obviously, if you ask anyone, he was one of the few in the technology field who also had somewhat of a rock star status, especially with the under-thirty demographic. By leading a great team, high tech was accessible by the non-geeks, and there was a bit of showmanship. Plus, hanging out with political dignitaries and actual rock stars helps.

I don’t know if Apple will be the same from here on out—all of us fans of the Mac and iOS devices have worried that we might see some mistakes along the lines of the twelve years between Jobs’s tenure. What I do know is that in fourteen years since his return, Apple is in just a slightly better state, and is actually seen as cool and innovative, unlike the days when I was trying to argue that System 7.6 was better than Windows 95 to my PC-using friends.

I think Apple is in capable hands with Tim Cook, and the environment seems a bit different than the “bad years”—there are a lot of capable and smart people that understand what makes Apple what it is. Obviously, people get caught up in the notion of Apple being more than a technology company, and some may be right, even the bottom line is that Apple must sell products to survive.

If anything I’ll remember Steve Jobs for the attention to detail, idea that technology can be powerful, yet also beautiful and simple. Before the news broke, people were complaining about the form factor of the iPhone 4S being the same. In my opinion, I’m glad they kept it—it is arguably one of the most gorgeous piece of technology that I own. Obviously, a year from now we’ll probably see a completely redesigned iPhone, and it may be better, but I think the glass-meets-steel design of the iPhone 4/4S exemplifies what Jobs brought to the technology industry. It may not be the most powerful thing out there, but it certainly feels the most cohesive and enjoyable.

I think we should remember Jobs for how he lived, his passion for what he did, and not the sad final months. His success should be a lesson for anyone working with technology—specs don’t always matter, especially when it becomes art.

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