RIP, Steve Jobs

October 6, 2011, 1:19 am

I’ve been taking a blogging break this week to get caught up at work, but I wanted to say a few words on the passing of Apple CEO Steve Jobs. Those of us who are lifeless Apple fanboys follow Apple news know that Steve had been very sick for some time now. His passing is not unexpected, but it is still a shock now that it’s happened, and it’s a sad day.

My first experience with an Apple product was using an Apple IIe while I was an undergraduate psychology major. The psych department had a small computer lab with some Apples in it, and I used one to run statistical analyses of an experiment I was doing. I hated the Apple IIe. To me, it was a computer for English and art majors, or perhaps for elementary school children. All those cutesy graphics! And music! Hard-working and self-respecting science nerds such as myself shouldn’t stoop to such devices. But, it was the only machine in the building running SAS, so I sucked it up. And then I wouldn’t touch an Apple device — indeed I took every opportunity to reinforce my loathing of Apple — for the next 15 years.

Fast-forward to 2003. I had been hearing about this thing called iTunes for a while, and once I figured out that I could run it on my Windows machine, and that it was free, one night I decided to give it a shot. So I held my nose at the Apple brand name and downloaded it. And I was blown away. Suddenly, I could store and listen to music on the computer, burn anything I wanted (well, sort of) to CDs, browse and explore new music on an almost limitless scale. iTunes rekindled a love for music that I had somehow lost. That was Steve Jobs doing that.

Fast-forward to 2004. My wife and I were planning a trip to China to adopt our first child. Among the many questions: How are we going to get all the digital photos and video back home? Hey, I asked my wife, you think one of those iPod things would work like a portable hard drive? I never thought I’d be considering an Apple hardware device, but it seemed like a good option. So we bought one, a fourth-generation Photo iPod. We never used it for media storage like we intended, but now, I had this device that I could carry with me that had 20 years’ worth of music — my entire CD collection — on it, right there at my fingertips. Amazing. That was Steve Jobs too.

Fast-foward to 2005. With the new baby at home, we had generated gigabytes of digital media of her every move. The Windows machine I had converted into a Linux box has no video software worth using, and it’s buggy anyway. Hey, I asked my wife, what about one of these new Mac minis? They’re cheap, come with good media software, and we can keep our monitor. I couldn’t believe I was actually considering purchasing an Apple computer. But iTunes and the iPod had me believing in the creative power of Steve Jobs and his company’s unreasonably effective devices. So we got one, and I found out how much I loved OS X. It was like having my UNIX cake and eating it too. That was Steve Jobs, again.

Fast-forward to October 5, 2011.

I woke up and checked the news and my Twitter feed on my iPhone 4. Then I came downstairs and had breakfast while I read my email on the family iMac. I went to work and used my Macbook Pro to work on an upcoming presentation with the help of the Apple Cinema Display. My Magic Trackpad is a God-send in this work because it helps with the tendonitis I get in my wrists. In my Calculus II class I took attendance on my iPhone and used it as a timer for a peer instruction activity, and I used a multimedia presentation I put together on my Macbook Pro to teach about volumes of revolution. During class, I got a text on the iPhone saying my daughter (the one we adopted in 2004) was sick and had to come home early from her second-grade class, so I turned around and called my wife on her iPhone 3GS to check with her. At home, the sick daughter watched Phineas and Ferb on the iMac via Netflix. On the way out of the math department, I snapped a photo with the iPhone of a funny item on a whiteboard and posted it to Twitter on the go. Then I picked up my 2-year old son from daycare and we listened to music on my iPhone in the car on the way home. After dinner I did a little eBay hunting for a replacement for the iPod Touch that I handed down to the kids after getting the iPhone.

Then, while I was reading my son a bedtime story an hour ago, my wife comes in to his room and shows me the news about Steve Jobs’ death — on her iPhone.

It may seem like a reach to say that Steve Jobs was “the Da Vinci of our time”. But looking at how much his vision has affected my life and work, and the life of my family — to say nothing of his impact on how technology pervades and shapes all of our lives — I think time will show that such statements aren’t hyperbole. Where would we be if Steve Jobs hadn’t thought to “think different”? RIP, Steve, and thank you.

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