I was scrambling to finish a column when I heard the news. One minute, I was trying to come up with a witty response for an Apple proof-of-concept video; the next, trying to come up with anything to say at all. As I stared in shock at my computer screen, I watched responses pour in from friends and Twitter compatriots alike. Some of them were Steve-isms; some, anecdotal tales. But within all of them, the message was essentially the same: “Steve Jobs has profoundly affected our lives.”
For many of us, it was his computers and his company. All across the Internet right now, you’ll find stories about this: Ars Technica’s staff put together a piece on their first experiences with Apple; developers (like Acorn’s Gus Mueller) wrote about the effect of the Mac on their careers. And, though few of us ever got the chance to meet the man, they don’t seem overwrought. They don’t read falsely. We’re expressing our grief the only way we know how—through tales of our work.
Apple has always inspired us to create, to reach out and do more. The company builds narratives for everything it does. (Even the very first Macintosh had a personality.) There’s always been something about the level of craft and detail that goes into these products—they make you want to build something new, to push the envelope, to go somewhere you haven’t been before. You start to dream up ideas about what you’ll be able to do with the product before you even get it in your hands. As a kid, I saw the blank MacPaint canvas and itched to draw; when I saw the 11-inch MacBook Air for the first time last October, I wanted nothing more than to curl up with it inside a dusty café somewhere and write.
These products have allowed us to do incredible things. A multi-billion dollar app industry has sprung up for a product that, before 2007, didn’t even exist. Software like Final Cut Pro and Logic has changed how filmmakers work with their craft. Manufacturers have developed accessories to improve upon the Mac and iOS for users of all stripes. It would be foolish to credit Jobs and Jobs alone with these innovations, but it’s his hands that have shaped the company: his hires, his management style, his spirit. And with his company, he has shaped all of us, too.
And lest I be accused of sampling small, given that the circle of those I know centers heavily on the technologically-savvy, I’d argue that this holds just as true for those who’d never even heard of the Mac until they got an iPod in their hands. Teaching at an Apple Store for two years, I lost count of the people who would walk out of our store absolutely thrilled about what they could do with their technology. We had one retired man who would show up, every day, to learn just a bit more about editing Final Cut, so that he could put together videos for his swim team. We helped people start businesses and build their websites. One weekend, I taught a woman how to work with iMovie slideshows; three weeks later, she rushed in to show me the slideshow she’d made for her daughter’s wedding.
I’m saddened that we’re facing a future where Jobs won’t be able to pull back that black curtain, to step on stage and reveal that “one more thing.” But as the spotlight fades, he’s given us something that’s perhaps more valuable: the inspiration and tools to go and reveal our own.