Why Legendary is Synonymous With Steve Jobs
The mastermind behind the US$300 billion empire that revolutionized personal computing, telephony and music, passed away in Palo Alto, California at the age of 56.
Like its logo of a bitten apple—that was originally implemented so it could be recognized as an apple, and not a tomato—a piece of Apple Inc is gone. That piece co-founded the company with a logo that is something not “perfect”—very much like how nothing created by man is perfect—but is something that sums up to have arguably improved humanity as a whole.
This man changed the way we lived, worked, and saw things. He truly was a pioneer in his own right—he made computers personal, put the internet in our pockets, and as US President Barack Obama put it, allowed the “information revolution” not only to be “accessible”, but also “intuitive and fun”.
Even though most of us who mourn his death have not met the man in person, many learned of his death through the devices that he had a hand in creating.
Often described as “legendary” and “visionary”, but how exactly did Jobs create such a huge impact, that his passing: topped tweet records, and was deemed a “great loss”?
The answer to that is almost too simple, and yet, it’s quite the truth: he knew what was important and what he wanted.
At a WWDC keynote four months ago, Jobs was spotted by writer John Gruber, sporting his trademark attire of blue jeans, black turtleneck and worn out gray New Balance 933s—but having “fresh bright grass stains” on his sneakers.
“He could afford to buy the factory that made them,” Gruber thought to himself. So why wear a grass-stained pair for the keynote? Jobs didn’t care. He knew what to care about—and grass stains on his shoes just didn’t make the cut.
Rumor is that sometimes Jobs cared too much about his company and its products, that he was harsh on his workers. When Apple’s MobileMe was a flop when it first started in 2008, Jobs was intolerant of the failure. An article by Adam Lashinsky for Forbes claimed that Jobs doled out on the team: “Can anyone tell me what MobileMe is supposed to do?” Having received a satisfactory answer, he continued, “So why the **** doesn’t it do that?” And he replaced the team leader on the spot.
But if not for this perfectionist streak, what started from his parents’ garage with his childhood friend Steve Wozniak, Apple Inc might never have become one of the world’s most successful companies. Over the years, Apple has been churning out products that their consumers need and want, ahead of its time. This happens without the aid of market research or focus groups, thriving solely on Job’s foresight. The man had an almost intuitive insight into what was innovative.
In 1976, when the 26-year-old entrepreneur walked into Xerox parc research center and saw the first computer mouse in the world that was not yet out in the market, he already knew it was something.
Jobs was described—by Malcolm Gladwell—to be jumping around, saying: “Why aren’t you doing anything with this? This is the greatest thing. This is revolutionary!”
The Xerox mouse had three buttons, and with it people wouldn’t have to type commands anymore—changing the way they worked. But improvements were needed.
Jobs went back to Apple demanding: a one-button mouse that would cost fractions of Xerox’s, could move around without constantly getting stuck, and a next generation computer with menus and windows.
Why radically simplify the product, and the specificity of “one button”? Learning to use a mouse would’ve been a feat itself.
“To make it as simple as possible, with just one button, was pretty important,” Dean Hovey, co-creator of the first computer mouse and co-founder of IDEO, said.
Soon after that, Xerox scrapped the mouse idea they had and withdrew from personal computers altogether. Apple, on the other hand, stuck it out and the outcome product was the Macintosh, a computer closer to something we’re more familiar with.
Without Jobs, today’s computer mouse, multi-typefaces and proportionally-spaced fonts on computers probably wouldn’t exist. Apple wouldn’t have become one of the most valuable companies in the world.
The relentless leader steered the ship everyday, stepping down only six weeks before he died, leaving with a note to his workers: “I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know.” Unfortunately, that day came.
Jobs suffered from a rare form of pancreatic cancer, that even his worth of US$8.3 billion couldn’t save him. According to the American Cancer Society, pancreatic cancer is the only type of cancer with survival rates of no more than single digits.
He neglected his health for his work, as he lived by the mantra: “If you live each day as if it were your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.”
At 7.30AM on Wednesday 5 October 2011, the ex-CEO of Apple was most certainly right, as he breathed his last breath.
But death or wealth didn’t matter to the creative genius. To him being the richest man in the cemetery didn’t matter. “Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful… that’s what matters to me,” he once said.
The man left the world resonating from his profound impact, which, as Bill Gates, former chief executive of Microsoft put it, would “be felt for many generations” to come. Jobs’ revolutionary innovations, that have pushed the human race forward, will most likely live on and evolve—symbolic of the eternal difference he made in our lives.