Pat Cutty, Columnist
Steve Jobs passed away last Wednesday.
Now, I know I’ve poked fun at Macs and their users in the past. I didn’t agree with everything Mr. Jobs did and I admit I was particularly derisive of the “fanbois” in my last article, but even I must confess a bit of hero worship in this case. Among computer geeks like myself, he was a true legend. Steve Jobs is known for a great many things and I’m sure you are familiar with some of them. I’ll summarize them briefly here.
He is best known for being the CEO of Apple, the company he co-founded with “the other” Steve in 1976: Steve Wozniak. A noted hardware hacker even then, Wozniak was a perfect match for Jobs’ incredible business, programming and marketing mind. Wozniak and fellow hardware guru Ron Wayne assembled the Apple I series by hand and Jobs brought it to area computer stores. That machine introduced a number of interesting features for its time, such as a fast cassette drive and an integrated display (a rarity at the time).
Only 200 were made, but the dynamic duo’s sophomore effort, the Apple II, would push the fledgling Apple Computer into the national spotlight. The Apple II is generally credited with kickstarting the US home computer market as well as being a staple in schools until the early 90s. It is one of history’s most recognizable computers and was produced in various forms until 1993. It was also one of the first machines capable of working with graphics. But they would not have gotten anywhere without Jobs’ marketing brilliance. In 1982, Time dubbed him “the most famous maestro of the micro.”
Then, in 1984, in a legendary Super Bowl commercial that is known to this day, the Macintosh was introduced. This was the commercially successful cousin of the Lisa, and put a couple of innovations into the mainstream–the graphical user interface and the mouse. The Mac was Jobs’ baby. It was he who introduced it at one of his legendary keynote speeches in 1984. One of the programs it came bundled with, MacPaint, cemented the machine’s place in the offices of graphics artists everywhere for years to come. In 1985, in a cruel twist of fate, Steve Jobs was forced to resign from Apple by the very CEO he convinced to take that position. Never the sort to stay idle for long, he founded a company called NeXT. He also bought a tiny division of Lucasfilm and rejiggered it into one of the best-known animations houses of all time. You might have heard of it: Pixar, the company behind “Toy Story” and countless other animated Disney classics.
NeXT was more of an influential venture than a successful one. It produced a workstation that was very cutting-edge but also very expensive; the NeXTcube found a niche amongst the technological wizards of the world. One of those wizards was Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who used one to create another little thing we take for granted today: the World Wide Web. In fact, that machine was the world’s first Web server. The company’s operating system, NeXTSTEP, would become the foundation for the Mac OS X we know today. Fast-forward to 1996. Apple had been in steady decline since the late 1980s, and was for all intents and purposes doomed. It bought NeXT in 1996, and got Steve Jobs back with it. Shortly thereafter, following the firing of then-CEO Gil Amelio, Jobs was made CEO.
In four years, he turned the company around, eliminating the backstabbing bureaucracy that had caused the company to plummet and spearheaded many innovative new products (as well as rejuvenating old ones) such as the iMac, the iBook, Powerbook and the iPod. This brought Apple back to the cutting edge of the technology world. After that came MacBooks, iPhones and iPads. In the last decade, Steve Jobs had many serious health problems and survived this long against all odds. Despite that, he did his work whenever he was able, leaving Apple only when he was “no longer able to meet his duties and expectations” on August 24 of this year.
Love him or hate him, Mr. Jobs was one of the most respected figures in the computing world for a reason. He personally had a hand in many of the innovations that made computers and computing what they are today. In fact, I dug out my old ’99 PowerBook G3 Pismo (the first mass-market laptop to offer internal Airport WiFi and Firewire as options) to type this article. It seemed fitting. Steve Jobs was a charismatic, eccentric mastermind and a true genius. The world of technology has lost one of its most influential sculptors. He shall be missed.
Viva enim mortuorum in memoria vivorum est posita (the life of the dead is retained in the memory of the living).