Well sad news hit us all with the passing of Steve Jobs a little over a week ago now, and I like many of you observed something truly amazing. As with most breaking news, I heard about it not from a traditional media source so to speak but eerily as with the passing of Michael Jackson I was first notified about his sad demise on Facebook, a company that in many ways embodies the principles that the man himself held dear and inspired in others.
Whiling away a few free hours I was suddenly inundated with status updates wishing the dearly departed a swift and speedy ride heavenwards and moreover an outpouring of Apple fans making updates and status posts of personal thanks to him. I only acquired my first iPhone recently after much debate as to whether I really needed it or just wanted it and I finally succumbed after realising that maybe it didn't really matter as to which was the more prevalent motivation and maybe that more than anything else was the genius of the man; he helped to single handedly merge the line between desire and necessity in the technological arena and made functionality for want of a better word, sexy.
He pressed within us all emotional buttons with a device that on paper is the lesser to many other smart phones out there but that in some magical, mysterious way bypasses the ultra rational parts of our minds and taps directly into something far more fundamental within us, the basic human desire to connect. With others, with our own inner child and in a way as yet unsurpassed with the ubiquitous technologies we now find ourselves unable to even contemplate living without. It's more than just a logical assessment, the iPhone truly is a device greater than just the sum of it's patent laden parts.
A phone is no longer just a phone. A phone is a friend.
We play with it, talk to it (not just through it) and we mourn it's loss with all the stages of grief at our disposal (though mitigated somewhat with the right insurance policy tucked away in a drawer somewhere.)
You see for my money what Steve Jobs was, was the master at packaging people's beliefs and desires, aspirations and ambitions into a fully fledged, functional and fabulous friend.
Like a kind of Tamagotchi 2.0. with additional angry bird.
A number of things came together in those first brief moments on Facebook after the news of his demise broke. What started as a simple forwarding of news links from the BBC and the like, then increased exponentially from a small but steady stream of a much more personal nature to a virtual torrent, a visceral outpouring of grief and praise. Steve Jobs touched not only people's lifestyles but lives. In short he inspired far beyond the reaches of simply the Apple aficionados out there to the secular wider world at large. Even people who had never touched or had any desire to touch an Apple product felt that something truly noteworthy was happening. A brief moment in history when we actually felt history was being made. In years to come I can't help but wonder if people will huddle together in secluded bars and speak in hushed tones of where they were, what they were doing and with whom when they first heard that "The Apple guy" died, much like J.F.K or Diana, Jackson etc. It was a moment and you couldn't help but feel it. Someone once told me...
"I don't watch the news, it depresses me, I'm sure if it's important enough I'll hear about it sooner or later."
Well in the days after his death, if you were connected to the internet you certainly heard about it, hell even the Godfather and gateway to the modern net paid homage to the meticulous man in a suitably minimalist style.
How many would weep or feel moved to write condolence messages for the death of a washing machine designer? Or an electric toothbrush manufacturer? In their own ways these devices have contributed as much if not more to humanity in practical, pragmatic and potentially life changing ways and yet does a washing machine or toothbrush inspire us? Gratify us so fully? Engage us on such an emotional level? I think not.
That steady torrent of well wishes was expressed in a multitude of ways, places and forms. From simple status updates with his name followed with or prefixed by the minimal but heartfelt expressions of R.I.P, to graphic designers the world over putting together ever more elaborate and eloquent montages, info-graphics and videos.
People within the community of Apple devotees he inspired and on the periphery of it were aware that something momentous was happening and that someone of note not only directly for the contribution that they had personally made had passed but for the legacy that they were leaving behind that people were witnessing the birth of.
It also struck me that Mark Zuckerberg had not only been influenced greatly by Steve Jobs on a personal level but that his ambitions for Facebook were in many ways directly in tune with that emotional vein that Steve Jobs had so masterfully mined within the world. The desire to connect and share seamlessly, effortlessly and ubiquitously utilising devices that we not only engage with on a physical level but more and moreover on an emotional one.
To that end only time and Timeline will tell how successful Zuckerberg and the Facebook team are at achieving that ambition.
“I would expect that next year, people will share twice as much information as they share this year, and next year, they will be sharing twice as much as they did the year before.”
It seemed to me poignant that on a social network whose founder seemed so personally inspired by Steve that his was one of the most shared stories I've ever seen in my time using Facebook.
I myself made a little tribute to him as while I've only had an iPhone for a while I now can't imagine my life without it and I know many others did besides but it was still kind of nice to see that people joined as a way to express their thanks. Social networks are almost uniquely designed as a way to bring people together in times of joy and in times of grief, in times of rant and rave and sometimes at their best in times of simple thanks to those amongst us whom we feel have added to and improved our lives in some small way.
Within days there was even this little gem going viral bringing together some of my favourite things; country music, comedians and commemoration; not to mention the fall of capitalism.
The genius of Jobs was to see technology not just as something functional but as something fun, something that we should flirt with, court and then fall in love with; totally, utterly, absolutely, madly and passionately in love with.
He was a match maker between man and machine and left behind him a legacy of love.
Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- they're not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do. ~ Steve Jobs