Thursday, October 6, 2011

Goodbye, Steve.

I didn't write a post the day that Michael Jackson died. I didn't write for any of the other celebrities passed on  during that spell when it seemed like there was a new death every few days. They were all sad, in their way, and each time a little bit of our culture went with them, but... they were intangible and ultimately untouchable. It made no difference to me. I gave them each their moment of silence and moved on.

But tonight? Tonight, I couldn't get to a computer fast enough. I was about to burst with all of the words swirling around in my head, all the thoughts, all the things I wanted to say.

(I had actually had a post queued up full of quotes from Steve Jobs, I almost posted it earlier this week in fact, but something kept me from clicking publish. It didn't feel like the right time. Granted, now if I post them - which I will, because if this isn't the right time, I don't know what is - I'll look like I'm just pandering to recent events. I even joked on Twitter how it was ironic that Steve Jobs took away my hipster cred. Because, you know, hipsters, Apple products... whatever, shut up.)

I was at my mother's house, helping her fill out her divorce papers (oh, but that's a story for another time) and the TV was on, and I happened to look up to their breaking news that... Steve Jobs had died? What? I was stunned. I knew (or at least assumed) that his health was the reason he finally stepped down, but it just seemed so... quick. (In hindsight, I suspect he knew it was coming. He's had cancer for quite a while and still continued to serve as CEO. This time, it was different. This time, he was calling the game.)

I did what anyone else would do and I immediately reached for my phone and opened Twitter. It seemed odd that I would find the news out in such an old-school way and then have to verify it online, but that's how it works, I guess. Twitter is usually my news. To find out that a tech icon had passed away through something as archaic as a television? It didn't seem right.

I was surprised to find myself genuinely sad. I don't usually get into the whole celebrity culture thing. It's not reality, you know? But this is different. Steve Jobs wasn't just a celebrity. He was a living legend (now, just a legend, I suppose.) A genius. We all marveled at his mind, at the way he commanded the world, how he could pull a shiny new device from the sleeve of that black turtleneck and watch the masses race to be the first to own it. He was brilliant and creative. I've seen those two words paired together so many times tonight. I think on some level, you have to be creative to be brilliant, though I guess you don't necessarily have to be brilliant to be creative. He was both. He was the master of his trade and despite how you may feel about his products, you can't dispute that fact.

Steve Jobs wasn't just the face of Apple... Steve Jobs was Apple. I don't doubt that Apple will carry on in his legacy - if Tim Cook was going to fall on his face, he would have already. He'd been in training for that position longer than most of us probably knew. I have faith that Apple will continue to be innovative and inventive, but maybe they won't shine as brightly as they did under the reign of Steve.

The first computer I ever used was an Apple. We had a Mac Lab at our school, as I'm sure many of you did. I couldn't tell you what style or model of computers we had, I just remember using them, back when the logo was rainbow-striped and Oscar the Grouch sang to you when you emptied the trash. I doubt I really knew the difference between a Mac and a PC back then; the lines weren't so clearly drawn in the sand. I couldn't have cared much either way until I got to college. When I was accepted into the graphic design program and received my very own shiny 17" PowerBook, fully equipped with OS X Panther and Adobe Creative Suite. (1). A small choir of angels sang out to me as I slid the silver machine out of its bag.

It was my first computer, the first piece of expensive anything that was mine. I still have it. She's old now, and her battery doesn't last much longer than ten seconds, so she's not exactly mobile. The trackpad doesn't work and the CD drive doesn't work. I've had to replace the power cord and the hard drive (November 2007 NEVER FORGET) and lord knows what else, but that computer is my prized possession. It got me through college. It got me through three intense, grueling years in the graphic design program. It witnessed the birth of facebook and my entry into the blogosphere. It brought me to the Internet, and the Internet to me. I signed up for my trip to Bloggers in Sin City on that computer. It holds all of my photographs and shitty writing drafts and, well, my life. It's the one thing I own that I would rescue in a fire. That Mac was a constant all through my twenties, and we're still going. When I decided I needed a more mobile laptop, I opted for a PC for two reasons: 1, it was cheaper, significantly cheaper, and 2, mine still worked. It's lost some functionality over the years but it's still my creative station. It's seven years old. How many computers do you have that are seven years old that still function nearly as well as they did when they were new? It's a testament to Apple's quality, I think.

And then I started accessorizing. Of course I have an iPod. My first iPod was maybe a 3rd generation, one of the clunky 15gb white ones with the black and white screen. I still have it. It, too, still works, when I can find its cable. I have a hot pink iPod shuffle that I acquired in 2007 and a red iPod nano that I won from a blog contest a couple years ago. I'd kind of like an iPod classic with roughly a billion gigabytes so hold everything I  own on it. Or an iPod touch, since I can't afford an iPhone. Which I will probably eventually own, once I break up with US Cellular and my trusty Blackberry and move over to Verizon. I drooled over the iPad when it came out, even though I definitely don't need one in my life. I identify as a Mac when given the choice between the two (though I'm also fluent in PC... when I started my job three and a half years ago, it actually took me a couple weeks to adjust to using a PC at work and my Mac at home. I hadn't used a PC in years at that point.)

What does this have to do with anything? Nothing, really, other than to get all nostalgic about my Macware. I realize Macs are trendy. I realize I sound like a pretentious snob when I declare the superiority of Apple over everything else. Honestly, I do believe Apple has superior products. I don't believe they are the only products worth owning, but I do believe they are better.

I also believe that Apple and Steve Jobs have absolutely changed the world. They changed the way we communicate. They changed the way we think about technology. Technology is what we are, is who we are. The world is at our fingertips wherever we go. My best friends are scattered across every corner of the country. Google is my go-to for anything I don't know. I read online, I shop online, hell, I've even dated online. For as much as I curse it out sometimes, I have embraced technology with open arms. There's no going back from here.

Look at the iPhone 4S announcement yesterday. People went ballistic over the fact that it was a 4S instead of a 5. That's insane brand loyalty. Who cares? I don't. (Mostly because I don't get to have one.) (OH GOD THE NOT-5 4S KILLED STEVE JOBS.)

The mood of the Internet was somber and bittersweet. It's still going on, right now, as I write this. I've actually had to fight back tears a couple several times. It's not every day you lose such an icon. It was interesting to see what Steve Jobs meant to so many different people. He affected us all. He inspired us, he showed us what was possible, he showed us how to go beyond possible. He brought us the future, and shrunk it down so we could carry it in our pockets.

Cancer is an unholy bitch and we've lost far too many people to it. I happen to work for a company that makes and markets a successful breast cancer awareness line, and I'm proud of that. The place we donate our proceeds to actually does research for all cancers, not just breast cancer, which I know a lot of people tend to get irritable about when October rolls around ("breast cancer isn't the only cancer!" We know - but, as it is, breast cancer is the cancer that sells product, and it doesn't matter where that money comes from as long as it can go to a place to help. Besides, if we can figure out how to stop one kind of cancer, I suspect it will be a key to unlocking the mystery behind the other cancers. We'll get there. I refuse to believe that we won't.)

I lost my grandfather to cancer when I was thirteen. It was the first time I'd been directly affected by the disease, the first time I'd been able to give it a face. What made it worse is that even at the time, I knew he wouldn't be the last.

So here we are, I guess.

I've lost where I was going with this post. It's perhaps a compelling reason why I should never write tribute posts. But this just feels too big not to, you know? Because it's bigger than just one man. It's what he stood for: the idealism, the innovation, the ability to change the world.

Fuck, I don't know. Everyone else always says everything better than me, and collectively, the Internet has pretty much said it all.

I'll leave you with a few quotes, I guess. I'll save my post of Steve Jobs quotes for tomorrow. Chances are good you've seen bits of them anyway as they are being passed around the Internet.

From has lost a visionary and creative genius, and the world has lost an amazing human being. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to know and work with Steve have lost a dear friend and and inspiring mentor. Steve leaves behind a company that only he could have built, and his spirit will forever be the foundation of Apple.

Great article over on Gizmodo. "He was the reason many of us got into this industry, or even care about technology at all. He made the computer personal, and the smartphone fun. Bill Gates may have put a computer on every office desk, but it was Steve Jobs who put one in every dorm room and bedroom and living room. And then, years later, he repeated the trick, putting one in every bag and every pocket, thanks to the iPad and iPhone. If you use a computer or smartphone today, it is either one he created, or an imitation of his genius. He changed the way movies are made, the way music is sold, the way stories are told, the very way we interact with the world around us. He helped us work, and gave us new ways to play." 

From a Mashable tribute (read the whole thing, it's good): Say what you will about the dynamic maverick who built and rebuilt Apple over the course of four decades, but Steve Jobs was a visionary. A maker of things. A doer who intimately understood the excitement of a new product. How the interchange of 1s and 0s could produce a sublime piece of software. Steve Jobs got all this. We admired him for it. Some loved him for it. None of us will forget him for it.

From rival Bill Gates: "The world rarely sees someone who has had the profound impact Steve has had, the effects of which will be felt for many generations to come. For those of us lucky enough to get to work with him, it's been an insanely great honor. I will miss Steve immensely."

From President Obama: "Steve was among the greatest of American innovators – brave enough to think differently, bold enough to believe he could change the world, and talented enough to do it... The world has lost a visionary. And there may be no greater tribute to Steve's success than the fact that much of the world learned of his passing on a device he invented."

From Wil Wheaton on Twitter: iRIP, Steve Jobs. Thank you for making incredible things, so we can live in the future.

And my favorite, from local Des Moines startup Dwolla, on Twitter: Jobs represented an unconquerable ideology that said beauty, simplicity, and foolishness can change the world. #OurDaVinci #RIP

And I am going to end this post with an image from our beloved Almie of Apocalypstick that I totally stole off her facebook page. But I can do that. Because we're BFFs.

taken on a second iPhone, natch

Thanks for everything, Steve. I know I'm not the only person to say this tonight, but you truly did shape my life and the world is gonna miss you.

Fingers crossed that we can carry on in your legacy and continue to keep dreaming and keep creating.


ameena said...

wow, i hadn't been able to shed a tear over this until I read your post. absolutely beautiful, Kelly. it is so sad to see such a brilliant man lost to such a terrible disease. i currently work in a pancreatic cancer research lab and i have never felt a deeper desire to conquer the big c once and for all. and i know that every single day we get one step closer. we really couldn't do it without that funding so thank you so much for all of your work. that's right cancer, we're coming for you!

RIP, Steve. Thank you for everything. You are already deeply missed.

chimes said...

great post.

except you forgot to mention that he was also a huge asshole. brilliant, but an asshole. i say this as i'm typing on my macbook pro. :)

however — cancer sucks, and it's sad that it took another brilliant mind.

Ashley, the Accidental Olympian said...

Ugg I hate that we lost him. To think what he could have brought to this world had he been given another 10, 20, 30, even 40 years.

The man was a genius and he'll be missed.

Kelly L said...

@Ameena - let's destroy this bitch. I'll help raise the money and you help do the research. TEAMWORK.

@chimes - of course he was an asshole. All great minds are. But nobody's perfect and it really didn't seem like something to bring up.

@Ashley - that actually hurts my brain a little bit to think about. I worry that maybe our progress and innovation will slow down, because a lot of evolution of technology has come about because of his ideas. I know there are other great minds out there that can keep carrying us forward into the future, but... damn. What COULD he have done with another decade or two? The sad thing is, we'll never know. The entire course of the future could have been completely different if he hadn't succumbed to cancer. I'm not even hyperbolizing. Look how much he did already. Look at where we are now. It's already mind-blowing. Who knows where we could have gone? It's sad. Fucking cancer.