by Dennis Portello
Farewell Steve, you touched my life in so many ways and inspired me. I’ve always appreciated your brutal approach to everything you do, because it was done with passion. You knew that the best things were never compromised. While all of your products weren’t for everyone, they generally hit a note with most. I used your products designed by Woz (can’t take all the credit) as I attended school in California in the 80s. I used to argue with my teachers about Apple Basic, yes, “?” is a correct shortcut for print, only fools type out the whole command. I learned to type on an AppleII. The original Macs wowed me. You also inspired my older brother John (RIP) who once was part of the home brew club, and was trying to design a computer of his own. Recently your business acumen was the most inspiring. See the rise of Apple from near death with you at the helm was astonishing. Not every product you made was a success, but like the best minds, you took your failures as lessons, and made sure your folks knew the level of failure, to not repeat it. Yes, sometimes you tried past failures again, like the Cube, that was so NeXT.
I even had my hands on a NeXT for some time. It was that machine that made me want to study computer science seriously. It was also the NeXT that brought us the first web browser with the amazing developer friendly development environment. Sun tried to one-up you with Java, but never came as close. That OS and environment lived on to be OSX when Apple begged you to come back after their own next gen OS failed. Those dev tools became XCode, and now they’re widely used. No you didn’t invent Objective-C, some nice chap named Dennis Cox did that and hardly got recognition, but at least I got to know him through the BBEdit user list since he was an avid Mac fan.
I will miss you greatly like a loss in my own family. I will not shed a tear though, I knew this was coming for a long time. I’d rather remember the best things you’ve done. I suppose if were an Apple employee getting their ass chewed out by you I might think differently.
One more thought on Steve. I’ve always felt he was a role model in that he did not follow the most traditional path through his career. He attended some school, that is to be questioned, but I do believe he got what he needed from it and learned there were far more lessons in the business itself, if you were always learning. He met all his cohorts at Atari in the 70s. Found a brilliant engineer in Woz, and set out to collaborate. He was not a manager from the start, but he learned that he can not always be a ego-maniacal tyrant. Though I think his ego was usually in check from self reflection. After getting booted from his baby, he was in the weeds, searching for the answers. He realized that he was a bit of an ass and would always be one upped by some shirt and tie asshole unless he learned to be one and keep his soul. He did this with NeXT, but this was also a lesson to him that the most amazing and advanced products are not going to win in the end. He also realized that b2b was not fun. He’s most brilliant thing was selling all the work back to Apple, then taking them helm like he was Black Beard lost at sea.
Let’s not forget that he also took some little graphics company off his buddy George Lucas, who had the right idea, just lacked the will and technical leadership to do anything with it… This company decided to release a few demos to sell this computers. eventually this little company became less focused on selling products, but taking charge as the innovators. They released Toy Story, and the rest is history with Pixar… Steve Jobs was the largest share holder in Disney for this after they acquired Pixar.
I think it should also be said that Steve was not the most leading edge, but he had enough discipline to see things converge and make the jump at the right time. I know the iPhone was in the works for years, but the tech wasn’t there yet.
Let’s also appreciate that Steve was about as American as you get. The son of a Syrian grad student whose mother was US citizen of Swiss decent. He was a product of the great melting pot. He was given up at an early age dude to economics and racism (at the time there was concern about the father by the mother’s family). His father never wanted to give him up supposedly. His younger sister later approached him in life to let him know his family never wanted to abandon him. He had a good relationship with his sister, but never reconciled with his parents. His adopted parents loved him and mostly kept their promise that he went to college… Steve was on a personal and spiritual quest. A hippy born too late, he traveled to India and became a Buddhist. All of these backgrounds and experiences made him who he is, and it made him 100% American. Let’s think about this. This country needs more people made from the great melting pot, not from cookie cutters, this is what has made this country great. My best tech teams have been the most diverse, with different cultural input and approaches, and both sexes as well. Diversity is what drove and still drives us, even if the melting post is not mostly European.
Maybe a final rumination from the book of Steve. He always understood that the best software is not that great unless you have a good stable system under it, and the best hardware in the world is worthless without good apps. Microsoft has always poorly copied the Mac, maybe less so now, but they emulated and then thew a business model that was successful for some time, trading on IBMs brand, then on momentum. In the end, the eco-system of hardware manufacturers was so inconsistent. PCs were unstable, and crappy manufacturers wrote terrible drivers that made it unstable. Also, Microsoft had this approach that everyone had to be their friend, or they kick their asses. Everyone wanted to be Apple’s friend on their own, and had to pass the muster. Steve smartly shut down the clone program, though it made the hardware more expensive, I think it was more about control of the product end-to-end. He also never wanted to be #1 in installed OSs, but the best experience. In his own words (me paraphrasing because I’m too lazy to look up), he was not trying to be the Chevy Station Wagon, but the Mercedes Coup…
What do you want to share about Steve Jobs? The comments are open.