When I read the news, on my 11th Macintosh, I felt a great shock. Suddenly something huge but unnoticed inside me was gone, and I felt dizzy and hollow.
Sure, I knew he was sick, but this? Unthinkable. How could he be gone? How could we all be living in a post-Steve Jobs world?
In August, after he stepped down from Apple, I read a post by someone who figured this must mean that Steve was dying. Nonsense!, I scoffed. Even with plenty of evidence of his illness, I literally couldn’t imagine that Steve Jobs might die.
Who could possibly replace him? He could see the future, and then make it happen.
By my count, he was responsible for five, maybe six, separate industrial revolutions. This sort of thing only happens in science fiction space opera! Dick Seaton, Tom Swift Jr. and Sr., and Bruno De Towaji spring to mind, but Steve Jobs beat them all, I think. (Well, maybe not the last one.)
Here are Steve Jobs’ revolutions in chronological order.
- Personal computers as an appliance you can buy (Apple II, copied by IBM as the PC)
- Personal computers with graphical user interfaces (Macintosh, copied by Microsoft as Windows)
- Digital music (iPod, iTunes Music Store)
- Computer-animated movies (Pixar, which became Disney’s animation studio)
- Smart phones (iPhone)
- Tablet computers (iPad). A little early to tell, but looks like another revolution.
That’s four separate industries – computers, music, movies, and mobile phones. Probably trillions of dollars worth of the world economy.
Note that he didn’t come up with these ideas. He saw them when they were in their infancy, saw the future that included them, and then set about making them ubiquitous.
Looking back, I can see that Steve Jobs was a genius. Not of physics like Feynman, not of music like Mozart, not of literature like Shakespeare – but of industry. Those guys only remade their corner of the world. Steve Jobs is more like Isaac Newton, a genius of math, science, physics, astronomy, and surprisingly economics.
Newton’s accomplishments can be traced back to his invention of calculus, which was such a powerful tool that it immediately explained huge swaths of the universe. With calculus in hand, Newton could look in any direction and explain things that had mystified people since the dawn of history. Steve Jobs saw a similar tool in the computer, which is the wellspring of all of his revolutions. He called it a “bicycle for the mind“. With his vision of the potential of this machine that amplifies human intelligence, he looked around him and saw the future. And then with charisma and ruthless focus, he left his dent in the universe.
I used to wonder what it would have been like to live during the time of Newton, with the modern world being created while I watched. Well, now I know. I wouldn’t have noticed until he died.
From the shock of his death, to awe at his life.
Well done, Steve.
Edit: I finished the above post at around 2 in the morning and started getting ready for bed. Idly, I wondered what Apple’s home page looked like now, pulled my iPod Touch out of my pocket, and saw this:
And to my great surprise, I began to cry.