I have selfish reasons for mourning the passing of Steve Jobs yesterday, and they boil down to this: He made my job so much more interesting. He did it by making products that people wanted with a kind of physical craving normally reserved for psychoactive substances. He did it by engendering a slavish devotion among Apple acolytes that was, frankly, easy to poke fun at. And he did it by being a robust and fascinating character who was always worth writing about. In the world of business and technology, that's exceedingly rare.
But as all the tributes pour in, please let's not lose perspective. With all respect to Jobs, he didn't cure cancer. He didn't bring his people out of slavery and into freedom. He didn't create art that will last for centuries. He made products -- damned good products, but just products.
I've heard some calling Jobs "our Thomas Edison." That's inaccurate, I think. Jobs didn't really invent anything new. He took existing inventions and improved them. And he did it by making them more human.
To me, that is the secret of his and Apple's success. Most geeks started with the technology and tried to work their way toward how people might use it. But most of them never really understood people. This has always been Microsoft's problem, and it's becoming Google's problem as well. Jobs started with people and asked how technology might help them do what they want to do. More than anyone, Jobs understood what people -- not just geeks -- really wanted.
Together with Steve Wozniak, Steve Jobs created the first truly personal computer -– emphasis on the word "personal." And starting with the Apple I, Jobs presided over over the evolution of how we communicate with machines, from typing (Apple II) to clicking (the Macintosh) to handwriting (Newton) to touching-tapping-swiping (iPhone and iPad), and now with the iPhone 4S's Siri Voice Assistant, to talking. That's the next frontier. Telling our computers what we want them to do and having it done. That's the future I grew up with.
It makes sense. It's simple, elegant, and most of all, human -- everything Jobs brought to our world.
It pleases me that Steve Jobs got to see that last product emerge into the light before he himself merged into the light. I suspect that's exactly how he wanted to go.
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This article, "Steve Jobs: Like no other," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.