When kids ruled the world and we were all better for itOctober 6, 2011
The death of Steve Jobs draws to an end the last great era of American innovation
To my father, it was the death of John Kennedy. To my older brother and sisters, it was the day John Lennon died. But to me, it happened last night, when ironically his own invention vibrated in my pocket to alert me of his death.
Like Kennedy and Lennon before him, Steve Jobs played larger than simply a character in time. For me and my generation of entrepreneurs, Jobs defined a seminal era in American history, when technology and communications ruled the world and opportunity was defined by young, bright minds, unbridled by the adult limitation of what is possible.
He came to represent the power of American ingenuity and innovation, the soul of the lone inventor, like Edison and Ford before him. But somehow, more youthful and contemporary.
Unlike Gates the brute or Ellison the samurai, Jobs was the artist, defining elegance through his inventions’ form and function, accomplishing the complex through simplicity. Others have chronicled his accomplishments. There was the Macintosh, introduced by a sledge-hammer-throwing, Orwellian liberator. And NeXT, which hastened the advent of the Internet. Pixar, the iPod, the iPad, and of course, the very cell phone that brought me word of his death.
But all of this pales compared to what Jobs meant to me. Steve Jobs enabled the great passion of my life, enhancing all things communicative and evocative. As a young man in the 1980s, I remember watching a designer on an early Macintosh take my words, transform their appearance, and move them freely upon a monitor.
Pure magic, I thought at the time. What scribes must have witnessed when Guttenberg printed the first Bibles. Some 25 years later, I remember my first encounter with an iPad, so powerful the experience that I bought each of my 50 employees their own personal versions — well before the curve.
That iPhone text did more than just deliver the news. It ended an era. Like Kennedy and Camelot. Lennon and Strawberry Fields. Jobs’ passing draws to a close what could be the last great era of American innovation. When kids ruled the world, and we were all better for it.