Steve Jobs: The Measure of the Man

Few of us, when we die, will be remembered with a global outpouring of grief. Steve Jobs died on October 5th, 2011, of pancreatic cancer, and the internet mourned one of its spiritual leaders.

Apple's homepage carried a simple monochrome portrait of Jobs, along with the years of his birth and death. Google followed suit with a simple text link bearing the same information and referring traffic through to Apple.com.

Twitter was, perhaps unsurprisingly, dominated by the news - my own timeline, which contains a couple of hundred creatives' musings, consisted of little other than Jobs tributes and the occasional Apple-related joke or politically charged observation.

But my problem today lies with Barack Obama's comment regarding Jobs' achievements - and particularly how he and Apple have connected people the world over, even when they are on the move.

"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."
- Barack Obama


Is that really the greatest tribute to Steve Jobs' success? The degree of market penetration achieved by the Mac, iPhone and iPad?

Loving the Man, Not the Machine

I'm not going to deny that I earn my money through marketing, one way or the other - my copywriting, almost without exception, has the aim of selling a product or service.

But I would hope that, if I died today, people would remember me not for being good at selling things, but for my creativity - my poetry and fiction, which some of you will have seen at various points.

I imagine Steve Jobs (although I did not know him) might hope to be remembered similarly - not for how successful any one product was in terms of widespread user adoption, but how each individual user benefited from a simple interface, or mobile features that previously did not exist, or - and this is where market penetration really is testament to Jobs' and Apple's achievements - from having an iPod dock on their stereo or in their car.

The man arguably changed the world, even as a cog in a corporate machine, but numbers alone are not the "greatest tribute" to Jobs.

Redefining Humanity

We're straying into over-the-top territory now, but let's briefly think about how the iPhone and iPad have contributed to modern perceptions of technology.

When I was at school, the computer room was a place of refuge for geeks. We hid there from bullies, safe in the knowledge that nobody would ever come in unless they were studying separate sciences and taking GCSE Statistics a year early.

Now I don't know, but I imagine, that things have changed somewhat. Schools probably don't have so many brand new iPads lying around, but technology as a whole is more socially acceptable.

Among the many tributes to Jobs that filled my Twitter timeline this morning, there were some from Waissel Warriors - fans of The X Factor finalist Katie Waissel, many of whom I chat to on a daily basis.

These are GCSE and A-level students, far removed from the traditional demographic you might imagine would be interested in the latest gadgets. But Apple's ease of use and sheer handiness in many of their more recent products has reached all corners of society.

So the next time a school pupil or college student walks down a corridor, iPhone in hand, and updates their Facebook status instead of getting punched in the face like I would have done, I hope they realise the world has changed.

We're living in the future, and although it was not built by one man, Steve Jobs was among its architects. Congratulations, Steve, on a life that was tragically short, but not a moment wasted.

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