We were in Barnes & Noble when my wife suddenly looked up from her iPhone and told me that Steve Jobs had died. To be honest, I wasn’t surprised. Saddened, perhaps, but not surprised. When Jobs resigned as Apple’s CEO back in August, I think we all knew that it was only a matter of time before the end came. But if I had to give a name to my primary emotion upon hearing the news, it’d probably be gratitude.
Jobs, as I wrote back in August, was a visonary in the truest sense of the word, a man who had an incredible impact on the way that we think about, and interact with, technology. And he did so, not simply by making the technology bigger and more powerful — though that occurred as well — but by making it simpler, more elegant, and more beautiful. My iPhone is a beautifully enginered device, and I’m thankful — truly — that I have something so beautiful, and yet so functional, in my possession.
I don’t pretend to be a tech pundit — I’m just some guy who has used and loved Apple products for nearly two decades — but this is what I think Jobs’ ultimate legacy will be: he helped us realize that the smartphones, MP3 players, and computers in our lives are not merely gadgets or trendy trinkets. Rather, they can be tools that have the potential to actually enrich and improve our lives, if we are able to harness them well. Geeks and nerds may have always thought this, but Jobs was able to communicate that idea to distinctly non-geek audiences (like my in-laws, who recently bought an iPad) and then empower them to make it a reality like noone else could.
Or, as Brett McCracken put it:
[Jobs] was a populist advocate for technology, bringing it out of the provinces of geekdom and making it more user-friendly, accessible, intuitive. In an era when technological progress sometimes felt overwhelming and gizmos and gadgets too complicated to bother with, Jobs and his Apple brand focused on simplicity, user-friendliness, and an attitude of “even you can understand this device!”
So thank you, Steve. Thanks for the beautiful devices, like my iPhone, that you played so crucial a role in developing. Thanks for the relentless and inspiring pursuit of excellence and elegance. Thanks for getting it, for understanding and communicating the human side of technology, that technology is no good unless it allows humans to develop and flourish. And thanks for making it possible for more people to do just that.
Thanks, and rest in peace.