Watching news of the passing of technology titan and creative genius, Steve Jobs, surge through my RSS feeds last night was awe-inspiring. I can’t recall any other event in the space of technology news that triggered anything of the same sort of scale, in time and space. Still I debated whether I would try to pull together some thoughts on this sad occasion.
If you read my blog or listen to my podcast, my recent feelings about Apple the company are no mystery. Ruminating on Steve Jobs as a person brings home a thought I’ve been having with increasing regularity: a company is not the same as the people who constitute it and vice-versa. My thoughts and feelings towards many technology companies are growing increasingly complicated and ambivalent because of the complexity that arises when trying to bear this in mind.
As much as I am critical of Apple’s increasing trend towards centralized control, it would be very self-serving and unfair to not also acknowledge the positive impacts that they and their twice triumphant leader have had on my life.
My first reals use of Apple’s hardware and software was relatively recent compared to many other computer geeks my age. It punctuated two periods of using Linux on all my computers, everyday. The most recent one I documented on the podcast and it continues to the present (and hopefully on into the future.)
I haven’t hidden that multi-year dalliance with the bright and shiny from Cupertino. The last vestiges remain in the form of the Mac Pro tower (now running Linux) that powers my home office/lab/studio and the hand-me-down computers the rest of my family uses.
When I bought my first Mac, a 12-inch G4 PowerBook that I still recall fondly, I was deep in the throes of a bout of geek fatigue. This is yet another experience about which I’ve spoken very frankly on my podcast (as well as the eventual recovery and switch back to using Linux exclusively.) The short succession of laptops, desktops and personal media players I owned and used from Apple represent a re-kindling of the joy that originally got me hooked on computer technology. I very clearly need that spark that Jobs was so good at crafting at that point in my life.
That theme, the inspired playfulness that still inhabits a lot of Apple’s products, resonates throughout many of the remembrances of Steve Jobs and the impact he has had on my peers in the world of technology. Even though I have moved on from buying Apple products and have many questions, I think deserved, about the company’s policies I will always owe Jobs a debt of gratitude both at a personal scale and for his amazing contribution to the space where I’ve been lucky to craft a career from my personal enthusiasms.