Steve Jobs passed away yesterday. When I first heard the news, I reacted much the same way I did when I first learned that John Lennon had died. I knew Jobs had been battling cancer and had stepped down from his CEO position at Apple just this past August. Yet, the loss was still stunning and unexpected to me.
Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak co-founded Apple Computer Inc. They started tooling around together in a garage that belonged to Jobs’ parents in 1976. That’s when computers were large boxes inside separate rooms, networked to individual keyboards. All of the “intelligence” was in those boxes. Most of what you saw on the monitor was code. There was no WYSIWIG (What You See Is What You Get) yet.
Fast-forward to 2011 and your monitor is filled with graphic icons that represent folders, files, and applications. The graphic user interface (GUI) that we now see has evolved from the vision Jobs had in that garage. The way we communicate and learn has forever been changed. Sure, Macs were the first computers to use this new GUI, but as time passed, PCs adopted more and more of the Mac attributes. The operating systems remain separate, but the GUIs merge closer together.
It wasn’t just the Mac computer, of course, that we can thank Jobs for. There’s the iPod, iPad, iMac, and other Apple products. There’s also the design of these products, their sleekness, simplicity, and coolness, that we are fortunate to have. Who would have thought that you could download music and store the files on a lightweight, portable music system? Who would have thought that you could store a powerful hard drive in the back of a flat screen monitor?
I asked my students today, “What was your first Apple product?” All of them said it was the iPod. I described my first computer, a gift from my brother: LCIII, 4 MB RAM, 160 MB hard drive space. Its footprint was actually relatively small, but the 16″ Apple monitor I had was large and protruded in the back at least a foot. We reminisced together. They understood the importance of this loss.
I wonder how many of us get to live during the lifetime of a visionary who has a monumental impact on our world? Thank you Steve Jobs. You will be missed. May you rest in peace.