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Steve Jobs: In Memoriam

Steve Jobs at the WWDC 07

Image via Wikipedia

Steve Jobs passed away October 5, 2011. It came as no great shock, as he stepped down earlier this summer due to terminal illness. It came as no great shock, but with a great deal of somber reflection. Steve Jobs helped us Think Different.

In my youth, I never really had much exposure to Apple Computer. The first 19 years of my life were spent with PCs. I ran with DOS 3.3, then later Windows 95. By the time Windows 98 was released, I was running Linux, probably RedHat, SuSE and later Debian. Macintosh was easy to make fun of back then. After all, where was the command line? Why did their computers have a single mouse button? I had heard that the memory management was behind the times. If an application crashed, it could take down the whole system. These were the days of Classic Macintosh, right around the time of the first great transition from the Motorola 68K processors to ARM.

The phrase “Think Different” certainly applied to Macintosh, but it wasn’t really clear why being different was a good thing. Then Steve Jobs returned to Apple, and everything changed.

The iMac and the first iBooks were colourful machines, bringing life and energy back to the dull beige of computing. One of my friends at the University of Waterloo had one of the Blueberry iBooks, and introduced me to the first beta releases of Mac OS X. Built upon the technologies of NeXT, it showed a new way forward in computing, which combined the power of a Unix kernel with the graphics of the Mac interface.

Under Steve Jobs’ leadership, Apple launched several new innovations in computing. The Mac Cube was largely seen as a failure today, but its heritage lives on in the Mac Mini, a smaller device.

During this time, Apple drove changes in technology. The iMac G3 was the first computer to drop PS/2 ports and floppy drives in favour of CD drives, USB and FireWire ports. The MacBook Air has continued this transition by removing not only the DVD drives, but also removing the ethernet ports from its most recent models.

Apple has continued to innovate, bringing iTunes, the iPod and the iPhone to computing. With Steve Jobs at the helm, Apple continued to redefine the way we think about computing.

Steve Jobs also changed the way people think about presenting great ideas. His keynotes are famous for what is known as the Reality Distortion Field. Apple’s presentation software is named Keynote because it was designed for his keynote speeches, which were carefully practiced stories around a product release.

Steve Jobs popularized a narrative form of presentation, backed up by slides containing images and short words or phrases he used to emphasize key points of his story, rather than paragraphs of text to be read aloud. Steve brought charisma to the role of CEO.

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes.

The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.

About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They invent. They imagine. They heal. They explore. They create. They inspire. They push the human race forward.

Maybe they have to be crazy.

How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art? Or sit in silence and hear a song that’s never been written? Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels?

We make tools for these kinds of people.

While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Steve, you changed the world. Because you were different, the world is a better place. You will not be forgotten.