Attempting to write about what Steve Jobs meant to our generation without resorting to cliches is almost an impossible task. Here was a man who so embodied the ethos of the Silicon Valley entrepreneur — indeed, the very spirit of the American dream — that even a detailed description of his life and the things he produced is almost fated to be reduced to sweeping platitude. But it has been clear from the introduction of the Apple II to the titanic success of the iPad that this is Steve Jobs’ world. We’re just living in it.
Walk into any lecture, recitation or lab at Penn and you are bound to be met with the milky glow emitted from the Apple logos affixed to the back of most of the laptops in the room. Sit on Locust Walk for a half an hour and watch the people walk by. The Disciples of Jobs are clearly visible as they pass — a thin wisp of white wire snaking from their ears to their pockets or a shock of powder blue casing conspicuously issuing from an iPad in their hands.
Even those who have never touched an Apple product in their lives owe something to Jobs. Every successful computer-animated movie can trace its roots to the path blazed by Pixar when it released Toy Story with Jobs at the helm. PC users, too, have Jobs to thank for the varied and precise font sets we use every day to write papers and to email friends.
Perhaps his true genius lay in his refusal to be categorized. At once the definition of a visionary who revolutionized three industries, he was also mercurial and enigmatic. His life was full of contradictions, and that’s what made him so effective. He was the cold and calculating business titan who in his 20s took LSD and went backpacking in India. He hobnobbed with presidents and CEOs but was rarely seen in anything other than his trademark jeans and black turtleneck.
But maybe his greatest gift to our generation was that if Jobs was ever out for something, it was never a quick buck. In an age of bottom-line-centered corporate conduct and weekend entrepreneurs looking to build the next big social network, Jobs only cared about one thing: the experience of his users. And perhaps that’s why, at the news of his death, those same users that he thought about and built products for day and night for five decades cried out in anguish in a flurry of tweets, status updates and frantic text messages. Rarely has the passing of a business leader inspired such public display of emotion.
For a man who was so full of contradictions, who stood for responsibility to end users while at the same time struggling with the responsibility for the paternity of his own daughter; for a figure so polarizing, so revered and reviled, perhaps today he has pulled off his greatest contradiction of all. As the world he created buzzes with the news of his death, as iPhones chirp, iMacs hum and newspapers across the country proclaim his passing, he has done something few others have: in the moment of his mortality, he has finally become immortal.
You will be missed Steve.
Dan Shipper is a College sophomore. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @danshipper.Comments powered by Disqus
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