“Have you heard?!?”
Vanessa wouldn’t care about the death of the ex-CEO of Apple, so I was really curious about what would get her so animated.
“Steve Jobs died!”
Wait, my technologically-adverse wife, who has forbid almost every gadget I want from entering the home and expresses to me her constant regret that I own an old 2nd-gen iPod Touch is upset about Steve Jobs’ death?
But yes, she was upset.
Olivia, our now 2-year-old, loves Apple design. Her grandmother lets her play with her iPhone constantly and has for a year, easily. Her grandfather bought one of the first iPads. Most of the apps on it were purchased for Olivia. She loves the iPad to an unacceptable-to-anyone-besides-Apple-marketing-department degree.
Each night, we have a short litany of folks we pray for: mom, dad, sister Catalina, Grandma Yoli, Grandpa, Grandma Bobbie, Grandpa James, Ruben and Jen, and iPad. Instead of telling her that we can’t pray for a consumer electronic, Vanessa shifted the prayer to Steve Jobs. We add in others each night, but those are the constants. In my little girl’s world, Steve Jobs is one of the 10 most important people she wants to pray for at night. [Let’s ignore we should work in more prayers for the Pope (whom she also loves—she keeps a holy card of him on top of her toyshelf) and other folks.]
Steve Jobs is just a guy who made some electronics that a lot of people use. But, his impact on culture and society cannot be ignored. While starting small and a constant underdog, the Macintosh line of computers are simply beautiful. Their specs might not be a big deal, but they are simply beautiful devices. People who didn’t like computers because they are grey and ugly or dull and black are now in love with the way their computer looks.
Apple, with Steve Jobs pulling all the strings, has revolutionized personal computing from something for the outliers to something invisible to most and common to all. It doesn’t matter if you own anything made by Apple. I’ve never purchased an iPod (though, received two as gifts and inherited two by marriage), don’t own an iPhone, iPad or ever owned a Mac. The impact Steve Jobs made on the marketplace set the bar.
The analogy of the iPod to modern music as the Walkman was to music in the 90s is incredibly false. The Walkman gave you another way to listen to music. The iPod, with iTunes and the sister iPod Touch, iPhone, and iPad, has created a new universe for your music. You buy it through Apple, you make it through Apple, you store it through Apple. Hell, you’re increasingly listening to even the radio through Apple (I type this as I listen to an NPR podcast through an iPod—let’s ignore the connection between the word “podcast” and “iPod”).
The iPhone set a standard for smartphones that four years later is just now being seriously challenged. My old BlackBerry Pearl is nothing in comparison to the iPhone or the phones inspired by it (read: every smartphone since the iPhone was released).
Tablets existed before the iPad, but no one, outside of certain industries, cared at all. Now, I can’t count on two hands the number of priests and bishops I know who use them when they are preaching a homily.
Steve Jobs is the first king of the modern information era to meet his maker. Not only this, but he personified his company. It is a moment of sadness because the legend is shown to be a mere mortal. The era of beautiful and functional devices is challenged—can anyone else do it like he did?
In the end, I didn’t realize his success until when Vanessa walked up the stairs. He was able to become part of our culture in such an interesting way—the techy nerd who was actually very cool. He entered the nightly prayers of a 2-year-old and through that, made a mark on a woman who couldn’t care less about technology.
Our prayers are with the Jobs family.
UPDATED: I completely forgot that Jobs, as CEO, took Pixar from a struggling imaging computer company to, well, Pixar. When Pixar and Disney officially merged a few years back, Jobs became Disney’s largest individual shareholder with over 7%. The next largest was ~1.5%.