I find myself feeling unexpectedly shocked and saddened this morning by the news of Steve Jobs’ passing. I don’t know if it’s the (perhaps misplaced) underdog quality I associate with him, his role as one of this generation’s most successful visionaries, or simply his very key role in in changing so dramatically for the better my relationship with technology.
As I write this I’m surrounded by the output, the fruition, the product of a creative vision that puts people and user experience ahead of technology. Multiple manifestations of the idea that simple elegance is more important than endless bulleted lists of features, or functionality for its own sake. Technology and products that just work, are a pleasure to use, and are beautiful to behold. I can think of no one else in recent memory who has had, and continues to exert, such influence on my day-to-day life.
I use an iMac all day at work, pick up my iPhone countless times daily, take my iPad practically everywhere I go and sync and share data across all of them effortlessly. I rarely have to tinker, tweak, fiddle with or configure anything. I worked for a decade as a system engineer and am well-versed in the arts of tinkering and configuration. These days I have no interest in doing either, and (in large part) thanks to Steve, I don’t have to.
Steve Jobs and Apple introduced us to the idea that powerful technology doesn’t have to be complicated, or rife with idiosyncrasies and inconsistencies which just have to be tolerated. The idea that, for the things you do all most of the time with your phone or PC, if you need a manual to know how to use it, well, it’s too complicated. Microsoft has never understood this, and the various UNIXs out there don’t care to. Without the vision and efforts of Steve and the others at Apple we’d all still be spending a lot more time rebooting, ranting, fumbling and flailing. I’m reminded daily of how glad I am for now doing so little.
I didn’t know Steve, never met him, and–sadly–I never will. But I nonetheless feel close to him, and an odd kind of indebtedness for the ways in which he’s made my life that much easier, more interesting, and more fun.
Rest well, Steve. And thank you.