• Eulogizing the Insanely Late Steve Jobs

    I came to be a Mac owner by happy accident about nine years ago when I needed a computer for my project studio. It was a Quicksilver 2002 G4 tower. After two weeks of using OS X, using Windows at work felt like going back to the Stone Age.

    Some months later, I arrived to work just in time for a meeting to start. We all sat there for ten minutes waiting for my standard-issue work laptop to wake from sleep so we could begin. That same laptop had pulled a similar trick on stage at a conference I was speaking at earlier in the year.

    It was the last act in a long history of abuse I’d endured from Windows PCs. I handed that shitty Dell contraption back in to the IT department and shelled out over $2K of my own money for a sleek new PowerBook G4, just so I could finally get some work done without wanting to constantly punch myself in the face.

    I’ve never used a PC since.

    I’ve been called an Apple fanboy, but the truth is far simpler: I’m impatient and I like well-made things. Things like Japanese cars. German synthesizers. Modern furniture. The Ritz-Carlton pens I steal when I stay at their hotels. I value efficiency and aesthetics enough to pay extra for items that are a pleasure to use, do what they’re supposed to, and last long enough to deliver value for my money.

    Put simply, our time on this Earth is finite and there’s no point in wasting it putting up with schlock.

    Steve Jobs understood this principle so intrinsically that he built an entire corporate culture around it.

    I believe there’s a widespread misconception about Apple. They’re not innovators: they’re exceptional Monday-morning quarterbacks. With every invention that’s shown up in the last ten years, the team at Apple watched, waited, secretly refined, and weren’t afraid to throw away everything they had done until their product represented the essence of an idea’s simplicity in functional form. Then they rolled it out in high style and crushed the competition.

    They didn’t get it all right. MobileMe was kind of a flop, AppleTV never really took off, and they still haven’t fixed the Finder. But their successes far outweigh their failures.

    Apple became masters of showing up late to nearly every party and stealing the spotlight.

    First, they took a stable, cryptic, 30-year-old operating system and made it so amazingly simple that my mum can use it, while leaving in all the power-tools goodness that so many techies such as myself have come to rely on for their livelihoods.

    Then they remade the music player. In the same act, they achieved the seemingly-impossible by pulling the music industry’s head out of its own ass and introducing it to the Internet.

    The iPhone was such an incredible step forward in mobile computing that it might as well have been delivered to us by an advanced civilization. Do you remember what cell phones were like before that thing came along?

    And most recently, tablet computing. I once used a WiFi-enabled Windows CE tablet. It was a touchscreen slate running what looked liked Windows NT for the desktop, which was totally inappropriate for the form factor. In fact, it was so bad of a product that it took those genius bastards at Apple another ten years to do it right with the iPad. The tablet industry had already collapsed upon itself, but Apple recycled the whole thing with the Big Bang of the iPad.

    And then there’s the technologies and standards Apple had to invent and/or heavily embrace to get the rest of the universe into a state where it was ready to receive their Next Big Thing (TM). Things like WiFi, Firewire, Thunderbolt, and an entire cloud-based app store.

    You could say that these are just products – technological idols fawned over by a Western civilization that’s lost touch with real issues like poverty, war, and world hunger. And you’d be right.

    But that doesn’t mean that Apple products haven’t had a meaningful impact on people’s lives. I no longer fight with my computer when I’m at work, so I get more done and come home happier. I get more done when I get home, whether it’s scanning and archiving years of family photos, making music, editing videos, or programming. I can carry 1,000 photo albums, my entire music library, and nearly every book I’ve ever owned on a device smaller than a single paper notepad. I can stream a movie, catch up on news, or just goof off and play GeoDefense Swarm while waiting in line. When wandering unfamiliar streets on trips far away from home, everything the city has to offer is right there under my fingertips.

    In short: I get more enjoyment out of the things I enjoy, and I get to enjoy those things wherever I may be.

    As he makes his way up to the iCloud in the sky, I’d like to thank Steve Jobs for everything he’s done to advance technology & entertainment, and for the positive impact his company’s products have had on my life and the lives of so many family, friends, and colleagues. But greater than this, I’d like to thank him for showing us just how great we can be as a species when we come together with a common purpose, an unwavering vision, and a solid commitment to not give up until we’ve found the perfect solution. The way things are in the world right now, a little more world-changing could go a very long way.

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