I awoke to the sad news that Steve Jobs had passed away. Not that I felt in any way emotionally involved about Steve whilst he was alive, or indeed emotionally invested very deeply with any of the products that he designed, made, or sold, but he was someone that made up a large portion of the industry that I’ve chosen to start my career in.
When I look at some of the images from how Apple was started back in the ’70s they show a Steve Jobs in his garage with bits of computers lying around everywhere. It reminds me so much of places like the Swansea University Computer Society room, and all the different components lying around in there. I imagine it must have been a lot like the society meetings and various other events that I participated in with the society, and for that reason I can clearly understand how important he was for the entire tech industry – because he began his career in a similar place to me.
The early days of the silicon valley are very interesting. The start ups of both Apple and Microsoft divided the geeks into separate camps and provided a breeding ground for the horribleness of fanboys. Fanboys are like the Daily Mail of groupies – they are hugely biased, outspoken and opinionated and never help the entire progression of technology, or whichever group those particular fan boys reside. The best thing a consumer can be is a fan of a product, but also be able to point out when something is better in another. I’d like to believe I have an open mind about things, and that the choices of products that I choose to buy are well informed for the overall functions I want them to do. Hence, I bought an iPhone – the first Apple product I’ve bought, and am proud to own. I could have easily have bought a Windows phone, if my carrier supported the model I wanted, it was simply a culmination of the different pros and cons I was faced with at the time. Of all of the tributes that I have seen for him today, one that keeps making me stop to think is the one from Bill Gates. Here you have two competitors, who throughout their public interactions remained polite and respectful of each others’ business, and a perfect example of how you should behave.
It doesn’t make things for my ideal world of everybody living harmoniously and having open minds towards things, that seemingly there is a subconscious religious aspect to products sold by Apple. It makes people arrogant and obnoxious. And I instantly lose respect for such individuals who believe there can be no better – they’re wrong – there can always be better things.
The point I am trying to get to is no matter how much Steve Jobs loved his company, Apple, he never gave me the impression of being anything like the fan boys that I describe. He was interested in how good his products were, and how much people will be able to enjoy them, never seeming to use the detriment of his competitors to boost his own performance, and it is for this reason I really respect him.
I also think he has a business persona we will probably never see again. When he was fired from Apple in the ’80’s, the company started to fail – I still remember my friend laughing at another mates’ fathers’ Mac in 1997 saying how bad they’d become. There are very few people who could possibly have turned around a company to become the wealthiest technology firm in the world, and the second wealthiest in America, in a short amount of time as he did, seemingly by himself. What an amazing achievement and what an amazing thing to have seen.
Reading the many tributes that people have made makes me wonder why such pleasant memories are only recalled after someone has passed away.
Whether you are from the industry or not, you can’t get away from the fact that Steve was an incredibly important and historical person that has changed the way you do things, whether directly or indirectly. Spare a thought or two for him today.