At first, I thought, well, Steve Jobs lead a super fantastic life, and I’m usually not in the business of mourning people I didn’t know that have lead fantastic lives. No need to be sad for him. (Which is true, if you, like me, didn’t realize he was 56.)
But today, I’m a bit sad for ourselves, which is, of course, selfish. Around 2007, I had worked as a software developer for seven years and was ready to be done. Shit seemed largely fucked up and unrewarding. But my friend Dan, who had been going on about Linux for a decade, had gotten into Macs lately, so after yet another fdisk/reinstall incident, I took a look in that direction, despite my long-held biases against them.
There, in OS X, I found reassurance that shit can be good. And solid and complete and not ugly. A couple of years down the line, I got a MacBook Pro, and it had the same class of “quality-feel” as some really fine chef’s knife, despite the great difference in complexity. Inconceivable to a guy that had been using a ThinkPad three years prior.
I’m going to keep it brief about the iPhone and iPad. But I do remember the day before the iPhone’s launch. I was arguing with a guy who said it wouldn’t even gross $1 million because it lacked tactile feedback. He even went home that night and wrote a long-ass blog post about it. Ha, the fool, you might say. But he was not the only person saying this. That the iPhone could work and work well was inconceivable in the heads of millions.
Steve Jobs didn’t come up with the idea of touchscreen interfaces. However, he got the iPhone made despite plenty of naysaying from experts, and probably from within Apple as well. Why not just make more computers with slight variations? They had a good thing going.
There’s hundreds of incidents like that in his career. Jobs is painted as a force of nature in them. But he is definitely human, and I highly doubt pushing forward weird ideas and products in the face of very vocal detractors ranging from industry experts to Internet commenters is an easy thing.
Without Steve Jobs, there will still continue to be people that come up with things everyone else says is stupid until they try it and love it, but I don’t know if they’ll be at the top like he was and able to shift the technological state of the world from there. Everyone that uses a smartphone, tablet, or computer with a mouse has benefited from Steve Jobs taking weird stuff and pushing it out there, and not just dumping it out, but championing real craftsmanship. We need this kind of high-powered advocate.
This isn’t to say this big wave of progress is going to crash. But I can’t help but feel as though it’s going to calm a bit, at least at the worldwide scale. If that’s the case, maybe we can make up for it by being putting things we imagine forward more often in spite of the inevitable pile on. Easier said than done. I know all too well. But obviously, it can be done.