We can all praise Steve Jobs’ individual creations, such as the Apple II, the iPhone or the iPad. But his true importance runs far deeper than the sum of those objects, says Seb Janacek.
In the coming days, the web will be flooded with obituaries and memories of Steve Jobs from people who knew him. I never met him, or saw him give a Stevenote address, yet his technology inevitably touches many parts of my life.
My personal view is that his greatest contribution was largely realised late in his career, both with products that rolled out of the Wonka-esque factories of Apple and in the vision behind the company’s messaging and brand.
Many of us in the industry have talked and written increasingly about the growing democratisation of technology and the consumerisation of the enterprise computing landscape. Look at the new bring-your-own-device craze. No prizes for guessing which company’s technology is providing a huge impetus for this.
Before the launch of the Macintosh, Jobs used to articulate a vision for personal computers in which he described them as “bicycles for the mind”.
Yet for years, fear of technology and computers was prevalent in society and in the workplace. As Apple products grew in reach and popularity, the barriers to what technology could deliver were gradually broken down.
It may be hard for people newly working in technology and who take it all for granted to believe that these barriers were once so challenging. Apple, under Jobs, tried to reach out to people outside technology to share what we all love so much about it.
From the Apple II and the Macintosh – and culminating in the development and phenomenal success of the iPod, iPhone and now the iPad – the layers of complexity have gradually been stripped away.
What some called the dumbing down of technology I call the true democratisation of computing. Making the inaccessible, accessible. Making the difficult, easy.
In 1998, Jobs told Businessweek: “That’s been one of my mantras – focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: you have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”
Jobs helped shine a light on technology, to banish some of the fear, to help us get on the bike.
Thanks to him, I developed a profound interest and love for technology. An interest and love that has had wide-reaching effects on my life and career.
Thanks to Jobs, my daughters know how to use an iPad to look at photos, to watch Toy Story, to draw pictures on the screen with their fingers and to fling seething birds at chuckling pigs.
Thanks to him, my mother knows how to use an iPod. She doesn’t need to be shown how to scroll from Fauré to Mozart.
None of these things would have been possible without Steve Jobs and his vision for technology.
RIP Steve, so it goes.
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