Thoughts on the Passing of Steve Jobs

Featured Posts, Interesting | October 7th, 2011 by 8
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I found out about the passing of Steve Jobs on Twitter yesterday evening, the 5th of October, and noticed the immediate outpouring of eulogies; I am hesitant …

I found out about the passing of Steve Jobs on Twitter yesterday evening, the 5th of October, and noticed the immediate outpouring of eulogies; I am hesitant to add my meager contribution to them.

I have been around computing (big iron) for most of my adult life. I’ve used UNIX since 1979. This is what has put food on my family’s table. And I’ve had very few interactions with Apple in that time.

That’s because my focus was on the hardware and system software of the mainframe world. And that was not the focus of Apple. And that was the brilliance of Steve Jobs.

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As an analogy, I used to hang around a bunch of audio snobs (they had some amazing systems) until it dawned on me that they were more interested in the equipment than the music that was playing on it. That’s what made Apple different than the rest of the PC world. Rather than talk about specs, and the OS, Apple talked about what it could do for you, the user.

But good specs it had. I remember my first interaction with a MacIntosh in 1984. I had been taught assembler at some point in my career (not a useful skill because it was specific to a Western Electric 1A ESS) and knew what bit-twiddling needed to occur to make a program work. I managed to lasso a segment of the screen on that first gen Mac and moved it to another spot on the display. I was gob-smacked. The memory map needed to do that in real time was something that I had not seen and I had enough knowledge of the innards of computers to appreciate what was happening. It was a revelation.

And the interface was simple and intuitive – words that would become synonymous with using Apple products. We actually had a Lisa at work, a precursor to the Mac, for awhile, as a display for some forecasting software. And that was another element of Apple that needs to be appreciated, the Lisa was innovative but flawed. Apple did not give up though and the Mac really made the company.

Fast forward to today. I have more processing power in my den (a laptop, a deskside PC, a netbook, an iPad, and the iPhone) than the large data center I worked at in 1977. And of the devices I use regularly it is the Apple products that have most changed my computing habits. They have provided a valuable intersection between the virtual and the real.

Something that BMW is busy making available to its users through ConnectedDrive. And I chose the word users instead of buyers purposefully. Because that’s the way Apple looked at its customers. It isn’t a one-time transaction with Applie. It was the panoply of other things (iTunes, AppStore, the whole ‘cult of Apple’) that make the device transformative.

Apple delivered products that made our lives better. I’m sure of that. And it was the vision of Steve Jobs that led Apple to develop those products. Steve Jobs was gone from Apple for awhile in the ’90s and the company was a bit lost in the wilderness during that period. So it will be interesting to see how they will continue without his corporeal presence. But he left an amazing legacy and his imagination has spawned products that inspire us. Requiescat in pace Steve Jobs.

8 responses to “Thoughts on the Passing of Steve Jobs”

  1. Giom says:

    That’s a nice analogy Hugo. Even tho I’m a – predominantly – PC user because of the software I’m using, I am using iTunes on the PC and have an iPhone. My wifes’ got her Mac Book, so, plenty of Steve Jobs represented in our lifes.

    The one thing that I am hoping for, is that the spirit of Jobs will live on in the Apple products. I hope that is possible.

  2. La Ma says:

    not a Mac user by choice but Steve Jobs was  great man. He built an empire out of his garage, refused to give in to the PC monopole during hard times and refused to give up when he created a lemon and his machine was more expensive and half as good as a regular PC. He kept pushing the envelope and success was coming in a big way.

    Today the Apple Machines are the one everybody copies and follows. Great mind and a great Inventor and business man. We need more people like him. 

    Only grudge I hold against him is that he sold out to the Chinese, all Apple product are made in China.  I guess He needed to do that in order to create the amount of profit he wanted. 
    Had he kept manufacturing in the US, he would have made less money but he would have been a true patriot hero. It would have been so nice to see a true American product against the chinese PC world.

    Nevertheless a world lost a great mind,  RIP Steve Jobs. 

  3. tasty donuts says:

    very nice post Hugo, thank you. didn’t know you were a old-school programmer! i guess i could have guessed from your well-structured and clear writing that you had an analytical/engineering bent though. :)

  4. Eternet says:;content
    Dennis Ritchie Father of UNIX Dies. I wonder, who was more important for modern computing. Jobs or Dennis…
    Still, no one cares about Dennis death.

    • Hugo Becker says:

      Oh yes – Ritchie is almost ‘inside baseball’ – the prols may not know, and to be honest this hits harder than Jobs passing for me. I interacted with the bunch from Holmdel regularly in the  late ’80s and ’90s. Jobs himself was a fan of UNIX and anyone who uses any computing device has been touched by Dennis Ritchie (thanks to C). I still have a K & R C guide floating around somewhere. My regret is not having met either Thompson or Ritchie during my stint at The Phone Company.

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