What were the Really Big Things?

  • Proving that user experience matters more than anything else in computer-based consumer products. Even more: that it matters more than everything else put together.

  • Building polished, world-beating products on a foundation of open-source software.

  • Bringing industrial-design values to the center of a traditionally specs-obsessed consumer-electronics universe.

  • Breaking the telephone companies’ stranglehold on the world of mobile-device software.

  • Breaking the media companies’ stranglehold on the world of retailing music and, well, anything whose value can be captured in a collection of bits.

No, I’m not claiming one human single-handedly did this stuff. But these are things that quite possibly wouldn’t have happened at least for a while without his contribution. Nobody, least of all Steve, claimed that anything significant in the business world is achieved by a single person.

In that list, #2 and #4 hit my life hardest, but then I’m a geek and proud of it. We won’t know which items loom largest in history’s rear-view for a while yet.

I’m sad, and touched by the open-hearted sorrow flowing around my tribe.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Paul Maidment (Oct 05 2011, at 18:11)

It feels like the end of an era, in 1976, the year I was born, Steve and Woz were changing the face of home computing. I first learned to use a mouse on the Lisa.

A lot of my early computing work was done on a Mac and was a considerable inspiration.

My earlier years would not be the same without the work done by Steve and Woz.

It is so sad to see him go. May he rest in peace and may his legacy live on in his absence.


From: BWJones (Oct 05 2011, at 18:27)

Thanks Tim. Writing down some thoughts now... Not sure I'll post them, particularly the bits about the few times I spoke with Steve... But I am hit surprisingly hard by this passing of a man I hardly knew in person, but who so deeply touched so many of our lives by building tools we use to interact with the rest of the world.


From: jeffsix (Oct 05 2011, at 19:26)

Each of these points has helped shape my life up to this point, both professionally and personally. I thank Steve for that, as I'm a better person for it. Thank you Tim for wrapping this up so perfectly. Spot on.


From: Bud Gibson (Oct 05 2011, at 19:46)

I agree with all your points, but I'd say it was the fact that he put it all together. It was really the synthesis of all of these qualities that's so rare.

A lot of times, you can ascribe an element of luck, but this guy put on such a winning streak, that you have to see a very large part of it as having come from within him.


From: d.w. (Oct 05 2011, at 20:23)

The first computer I ever touched was an Apple ][. It's safe to say that, had it not been for that brash, opinionated perfectionist, my chosen field would be radically different, and not for the better. Rest well, Steven P. Jobs.


From: Mike M (Oct 05 2011, at 22:18)

He also co-founded Pixar, which delivered movies capable of changing what audiences thought they could expect from a children's movie - namely that it could also be for adults. I know he wasn't the creative chief at Pixar the way he was at Apple, but it's still something that should be more than a footnote.


From: David T (Oct 06 2011, at 00:31)

Great list. I feel more touched by this news then I would have thought, in the way that it feels like the end of an era. Another point that I think is so important is that he really helped make technology cool. A lot of things contributed to this but he played a big role in improving our industry and its culture as a whole. This is really one of the important outcomes of point 3.


From: John Cowan (Oct 06 2011, at 11:58)

He always seemed like just another salesman CEO to me: not actually a visionary, just someone with a really good grip on what he could sell and what he couldn't.

I've been pointing people to what Woz didn't say in the interview with him in _Founders at Work_: see http://www.foundersatwork.com/steve-wozniak.html .


From: len (Oct 06 2011, at 19:46)

What John said.

The Mayans charted the heavens with eyes, pens and obsidian. No app for that.

Shuttleworth lived a long life despite the number of people trying to kill him and died in the city where more of them lived than any other.

Some people have heros who give them round edged ways to photoshop kids in Wall Street marching against all the very things others say we should laud. Some say it's leadership that made the technical product revolution. Others say it was piracy.

One man dies obscenely wealthy for sealing up more content behind the plastic shiny wall in a period of open source than his compeitors. Another dies quietly in a middle class home almost forgotten after risking his life to see to the rights of a nation while some in that nation worked hard to see to it those rights were forever withheld.

Pick your heros for what you value.


From: Brendan (Oct 06 2011, at 21:10)

@Mike M wrote:

> He also co-founded Pixar, ...

Not true. He purchased Pixar from George Lucas (not co-founded).


From: Matt (Oct 07 2011, at 00:36)

Everyone is leaving out that one of his deepest focus areas was actually supply chain... he was driven by managing all the components that went into any of the core products he touched...


From: len (Oct 08 2011, at 12:40)

Tell it to the chinese.



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