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BLOG: Jobs humanized technology, made the magical common

Dan Frakes | Oct. 7, 2011
I used my first computer sometime during the late 1970s. It was an Apple II, and it amazed me. I was in elementary school, and it was at a friend's house on a farm in the midwest. I point out the time and the location because in retrospect, I find it fascinating that my first exposure to computers, at the dawn of the PC era, wasn't in a school or a business, and it wasn't in the sort of setting most people would associate with groundbreaking technology. It was in a farmhouse surrounded by corn and bean fields, a few miles from a town of 2000 people, and much farther from anything you'd rightly call a city.

Similarly, it's difficult for those in my generation to have objective perspective on Steve Jobs's influence and legacy--we're simply too close. We lived alongside him. We celebrated and benefited from his successes, and we witnessed (and, to be honest, some celebrated) his failures. We read, over and over again, about his character flaws. He was one of the first technology celebrities, in part because of his brash personality, but also because of his compelling story. We won't have to read his biography--though many of us certainly will--because we followed his life as it progressed alongside our own.

Consider: If you came of age in the late 1970s or early 1980s, you likely can't remember a classroom that didn't have at least one of his creations in it. If you're 35 or younger, you've never lived in a world where Steve Jobs wasn't an American icon. If you're 25 or younger, chances are that between home, work, and school, you've used several of his products on any given day you can remember. And if you're reading this, a quick look around you will surely reveal a good number of objects, tech and not, influenced by Steve Jobs, the companies he's guided, and the people who've flourished under him.

This really hit home for me last night as I was playing with my two young children. They'll grow up in a world without Steve Jobs, but they used Apple products before they even watched TV. To them, "phone" is equivalent to "iPhone," you store music on an iPod, and a home computer is an iPad. They've never seen a Game Boy, but they frequently use an iPod touch. It doesn't amaze them--indeed, they expect--that I can tap a screen a few times and have their favorite song play in whatever room we're in. (That it happens wirelessly has never crossed their minds.) It's only natural to them that when I take a photo or video of them on my phone, it can instantly appear on our TV; and they don't understand why, when we take photos with the "real" camera, it takes so long for them to appear on the iPad. They may grow up in a world without Steve Jobs, but he'll be a part of their lives every day.

As he will for all of our lives, for it's not an exaggeration to say that Steve Jobs was my generation's Edison, Disney, Ford, and Iaccoca--flaws and all--with a little bit of Barnum mixed in. He was a giant of imagination and invention, the rare visionary who not only anticipated amazing things, but endeavored to make those things commonplace. Indeed, for all the times he took the stage to talk about magical, incredible devices, his ultimate goal was for those things to no longer be magical and incredible because they had become the new normal (though a very, very good normal). His legend is dominated by the story of how he saved Apple, but his true legacy is how, in the process, he helped change much of our world--in many cases by saving technology from being too, well, technological.

 

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