October 6, 2011

Thank You, Steve Jobs

In 1986, I bought my first Apple IIe, and it changed my life. Back then, the choices were limited to clunky PCs with Microsoft technology, Commodores, and Ataris. I chose the IIe because it felt right. It was user friendly and I didn't have to remember complex codes for commands, as if I was some postgraduate math major. All I had to do was point, click, and begin.

It was that easy. Steve Jobs, it seemed, had created a computer just for me. Or that was how it felt.

And that has always been the secret of Apple: the individual experience. I've always thought that the difference between the Apple consumer and the PC buyer was that every Apple owner believed that Steve Jobs had created the product with him or her in mind. It always seemed as if a friend had made an exquisite gift that he wanted to share with me. It was those kinds of warm, fuzzy feelings that I've always attached to Apple products, which suggested, even in the middle of work, "C'mon, let play!" Microsoft, on the other hand, was always corporate: "We don't have time to play. Get back to work! Now!"

This is the radically different way that Steve Jobs convinced us to think about the world. For at the heart of Apple products is the desire to communicate and to make our sensory lives as rich and layered as possible. And the complex engineering is always expressed in elegant, user-friendly devices that follow the intuitive contours of our minds. For whereas the products that his competitors offer merely shift the variables, Steve Jobs has transformed the inhuman integers of 0s and 1s into a humane language that all of us can understand.

This has practical implications in our world. If we stopped thinking about "just the numbers" and more about what they meant--the values-- then we would see the human faces behind our 9% unemployment rate: brothers and sisters who have are looking for work so that they can feed their families, keep a roof over their heads, and maintain their dignity.

Steve Jobs wanted us to think about our world and the ways that we can make it a better through our individual experience. This idea is reflected in his Commencement address at Stanford University:

Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary. 
Thank you, Steve Jobs. You have expanded the possibilities of my life and the lives of my children, who have grown up doing their homework, surfing the web, and listening to music on their iMacs, iPods, and iPads. You could call us an iFamily


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