While President Obama has pointed out that “much of the world learned of his passing on a device he invented,” it’s easy to forget that Apple founder Steve Jobs’ impact on our daily lives goes much deeper than that – before putting computers in our hands via mobile phones and portable devices, Jobs first put computers in our homes. It was under his vision that Apple ushered in the first era of the personal computer and desktop publishing in the late 1970s. His products, concepts, designs and overall philosophy have been, and will continue to be, hugely influential. And perhaps it is because of the way his personal taste shaped each of his creations that his death has touched so many, so deeply.
Indeed, with much of the nation’s attention wrapped up in protests against corporate greed on Wall Street, the death of a CEO of a particularly large corporation – one that temporarily surpassed Exxon Mobile as the world’s most valuable company earlier this year – inspired nothing less than worldwide tributes and a unified outpouring of love, respect and remembrance this week. But Jobs, who died Wednesday after a seven-year battle with pancreatic cancer, was no ordinary CEO. He was an extraordinary one.
On Wednesday, after news of his death spread, tributes began flooding the Internet, including tweets written by everyone from celebrities to next-door neighbors. Eulogies were published throughout the evening and into the night on countless websites, ranging from news outlets to music, tech and even literary publications. Musicians also illuminated the positive and significant impact that Jobs had on the music industry – and on their personal lives. “Thanks for the tools, the inspiration, the possibilities,” wrote Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails. The Grammys tweeted, “Thank you for revolutionizing the way we listen to music. Your vision will not be forgotten.” And rocker Sebastian Bach wrote, “Thanks for allowing me to put my whole CD collection in my pocket. You have made air travel a lot more fun among other things.”
Other public figures, from actors like Danny DeVito (“…miss you from the planet have you with me every day on earth”) to news anchor Terry Moran (“‘I want to put a ding in the universe.’ –SteveJobs. Fair to say the universe has been good and dinged.”), weighed in with their thoughts. His colleagues, coworkers and even competitors in the industry – including the CEOs and/or founders of Microsoft (Bill Gates), Google (Larry Page), Yahoo (Jerry Yang), Twitter (Dick Costolo), Amazon (Jeff Bezos), Facebook (Mark Zuckerberg) and others – all made statements that added up to the same thing: Steve Jobs was inspirational, monumental, unforgettable and simply irreplaceable. His successor at Apple Inc., Tim Cook, in an email to employees, acknowledged the shoes that he cannot completely fill: “Steve leaves behind a company that only he could have built, and his spirit will forever be the foundation of Apple.”
Apple retail stores – another entire business that sprouted under Jobs’ watch – were reportedly flooded with tributes and memorials. While plans for more official memorial services were just coming together on Thursday, instantaneous tributes emerged worldwide, often through use of the very technology that Jobs invented. By Thursday afternoon it was reported that some Apple stores, including one in Tokyo, displayed a flickering candle image app on their iPads and iPhones, which were displayed alongside flowers and other memorial items.
It’s easy to forget that this was a guy who dropped out of college, dropped acid and was once booted by the very company that he helped create. In fact, while his life’s work had global reach, his story is singularly American – he lived the dream. Born in the Bay Area in 1955 and raised by adoptive parents, Jobs spent time at a hippie commune in Oregon – an apple farm, as it were. After that, he sold his Volkswagen to get seed money for Apple. And he launched the business from his parents’ garage. Eventually that business would turn into a company that, in 2011, briefly held a higher market cap than any other.
Jobs overcame odds, sure; but he also showed us all that sometimes the best way to do something is to do it differently than anyone imagined it before. “Think different” became a slogan of his company. Jobs embodied this not only with with home computing, digital music and mobile phones, but also with the very way in which he lived his life. A YouTube video of his 2005 Stanford commencement speech spread throughout Facebook pages on Wednesday, while quotes from that speech appeared in countless status updates. So while the modern planet has been significantly impacted – and improved – by the technology that Jobs placed, literally, in our hands, he also had that rare ability to inspire us on a spiritual level as well. Not just with his backstory but with his everyday actions, philosophy and ethos.
In the end, he was also a beacon of light to those affected by pancreatic cancer. The average lifespan for someone diagnosed with the disease is less than eight months. Jobs, who had a rare and less immediate form of the cancer, not only lived for seven years after diagnosis, but during the majority of that time, he still helmed his company as CEO, still introduced groundbreaking products to the planet, still rocked our worlds.
When loved ones pass away it is not uncommon for those they left behind to say, metaphorically, that they will take them with them everywhere they go. With Jobs, millions of people worldwide will actually take a piece of him with them – in their pockets, pocketbooks and handbags – for many years to come.
(This article was written on a MacBook.)
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