By Jason Poggioli
Last week an iconic figure of the technological age passed away, sparking dozens upon dozens of articles, memorials, essays, and remembrances. Everyone seems to have an opinion about Steve Jobs, ranging from hate to love, but hate ir love, it’s undeniable that he had a huge impact in the world of computer technology.
It’s difficult to know if Steve Jobs was the kind of man you’d like to have a beer with. Most accounts paint the picture of an extremely arrogant, yet intelligent man, who did not suffer fools easily. He was known for being a micromanager of design details, one time famously returning a newly designed iPod to the drawing board at the last minute because the headphones didn’t make a satisfying “click” when plugging them into the jack. Regardless, he led Apple through its most prosperous times to date, at one point raising it to be the most valuable company in the world, above even the giant among giants, Exxon-Mobil.
His career reads like a ready-made Hollywood success, failure, then success again story – the very essence of the American dream. Steve was an adopted child from a fairly ordinary middle-class family. After co-founding Apple with Steve Wozniak in a garage, his company rose to contend with the likes of IBM until he was ousted by the board of directors in the mid-80′s. Feeling betrayed, Steve founded another technology company, called NeXT, as well as acquiring the computer graphics division of LucasFilm which would become Pixar Animation Studios. After heading up the team that would bring us the classic movie “Toy Story,” the first film entirely in CGI, NeXT was purchased by Apple in 1996 and Steve found himself back where he started.
It’s undeniable that Steve Jobs was obsessed with elevating computer technology and to the status of the “every man’s tool.” Apple was always focused on creating not just a device for businessmen and nerdy hobbyists, but to create a machine that was as simple to use as a toaster and infinitely more versatile – a true computerized appliance. The products of Apple embodied this idea by revolutionizing existing technology rather than inventing them from scratch. There were already MP3 players on the market, but the iPod and iTunes took the concept to an entirely new level. There were already smartphones on the market, but the iPhone made them beautiful and powerful. The idea of a tablet computer was already prevalent, but the iPad was the first to occupy that niche successfully.
Less is known about his personal life although he was married with children including having fathered a child in his early years, out of wedlock, and whom he denied was his for many years. A glimpse into how he thought about life can be found in his Stanford commencement address from 2005, which is a beautiful and heartfelt speech that I strongly encourage you to read. In it, he explains how he learned the importance of bringing together technical science and artistic beauty to make a superior product. He also implores us to find what they love and to chase it unapologetically.
Perhaps the most poignant insight into Steve Jobs’ character can be glimpsed when, just a few weeks before his death, he explained why he had authorized a public biography of himself – to be published in two weeks – after years of leading a private, secluded life.
“I wanted my kids to know me,” Jobs was quoted as telling his biographer. “I wasn’t always there for them and I wanted them to know why, and to understand what I did.”