Steve Jobs passed away today. What a shame. Pancreatic cancer is unforgiving.
I've never drunk the Apple Kool-Aid, but it's hard to overestimate the impact that he had on our lives. I'm old enough to remember BC-- Before Computers. When I was in high school, there was a Computer Science Club where kids could learn to write programs in Basic on primitive boxes. I remember how impressed everyone was when one kid built a computer for his science fair project! Of course, he built it from a kit and it could play Tic Tac Toe, if I remember correctly, but everyone oohed and aahed, and he won the fair, of course.
By the time I got to college, some departments were beginning to put in computer labs, where you could go to use "desktops" that took up way more space than most desks. The lab in the basement of my dorm was considered cutting edge because it had monitors with amber screens instead of green ones!
My first foray into word processing ended in the metaphorical, and almost literal, flaming wreckage of my honor's thesis (a project that was otherwise doomed, but that's a story for another time. Suffice it to say that it was on Quadaffi's Libya and that about a month after I started working on my thesis, Ronald Reagan bombed him. I should have taken that as a sign...). This is to say that I was a computer skeptic. However, a girl down the hall got a Mac when they first came out, and I remember the first time I saw it, with its WYSIWYG screen (google it, kids), icons and "mouse." Totally radical, dude. I knew it was a game-changer.
I was in law school during the ensuing PC/Apple wars, and ended up in the PC camp by default, not choice. My law school and subsequent employers used PCs and Apples weren't compatible with them, so PC user I became. Still, Apple's influence reached me. Icons, computer mice, those WYSIWYG screens-- all of these ended up in the PC world, too. More recently, iPods have changed how we buy, store and listen to music, iPads have revolutionized tablet computers and iPhones have ushered in the era of smart phones.
And finally: Pixar. All of our lives are richer from Mr. Jobs' contribution.
Very few individuals can truly be said to have changed the world; even fewer of them can be said to have changed it for the better. Steve Jobs qualifies. What a legacy.