The Late Great Steve Jobs

On a cold December evening I was walking through the Christmas tide

When a stranger came up and asked me if I’d heard John Lennon died.

And the two of us went to this bar and we stayed to close the place,

And every song we played was for the Late, Great Johnny Ace.

-Paul Simon

On the evening of November 4, 1995 my girlfriend and I were shopping in the Shekem store in Ramat Gan.  We were at the deli meats counter when someone came up and said to us ‘They shot Rabin!’  Neither Shani nor I agreed with the Prime Minister’s politics… we looked at each other and shrugged.  It was several hours before we realized the real meaning behind those words.  Whatever the politics had been in his later life, it was impossible to deny that the man had helped to form and shape a country and was an integral part of that nation from before it was more than an idea in the minds of some visionaries until the day he died.  I had the honour and privilege of having met Mr. Rabin several times during the last year of his life (my first year in the Army).  To this day some of those encounters remain among the high points in my life… things that if I could discuss them I would brag about daily.

On the evening of October 5, 2011 I was standing on a plane that had just landed in Greenville, South Carolina.  I was second in line to get off the plane, and the gentleman in front of me said to the flight attendant that Steve Jobs had passed away.  I asked him where he heard it, because although Mr. Jobs’ health has been deteriorating, there have been several false reports of his demise over the past year, and even he himself has joked about it on stage – quoting Mark Twain that ‘…reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.’  As we disembarked the airplane I knew my phone’s battery was dying, so when I called my wife to let her know I had landed – and asked her if it was true.  Theresa did not need to ask me what I meant, which meant to me that it was indeed confirmed.  She asked if I was okay, and I essentially shrugged it off.  It took me several minutes for the meaning of the words to hit me.

It is clear to all that I am loyal to Microsoft, and that Microsoft and Apple are and have been great rivals.  I truly prefer Windows over Mac, I have never owned an iPhone – although I do own an iPod which my son now uses as his own.  I am honest enough to admit that it is a better device than my Zune.  For seven months in 2010 I owned a MacBook Pro, but sold it off after reaffirming my preference of Windows 7.  I believe that Apple is a company of consumer devices, and they make great consumer devices.  With that being said, for years I owned and love an Apple computer… my Apple //e which I bought the week after my Bar Mitzvah.  Back then I knew the name Steve Jobs even before I knew the name Bill Gates.  I think Steve is one of the founders of the technology world we live in today.

Now I have a confession to make: The Apple //e that I bought in 1985 was actually an Apple clone… and for the years that I owned it I never bought anything with the Apple brand on it.

So now you know my dark secret… I have been at odds with Steve Jobs and what he stands for.  I believe that he developed a cult of personality and that if he had gotten onto the stage and announced that they were selling iLollipops, the company that makes Tootsie Pops would have to worry because Apple’s fans would not only start buying them in droves (despite their being three times the cost of any other lollipop) but they would start bad-mouthing every other confectioner that had the audacity to try to compete with Apple.

I do not see Steve Jobs in that light.  I see a lot of his faults and flaws, and have made no secret of my positions.  I criticize him openly, and a lot of people might misconstrue these criticisms as disrespect.  They would be wrong.  Whatever Jobs may have done since 1997 when he retook the reigns of the company that he co-founded, there is no denying the impact that he has had not only on our industry but on the world and the way we live.  It may be a fallacy that he invented the GUI (graphical user interface), but he clearly was the first to market with it after Xerox decided that the PARC 9000 was not a viable product.  Apple did invent the digital music player, but they certainly took over a loose market that was chiefly based on stolen music and made it legitimate.  It goes on like that.

Steve Jobs was not my idol, but he was a giant.  He was an inventor and a visionary and a personality that changed the world.  He did not have a lot to do with Microsoft, but his drive certainly helped push Bill Gates and his company to make better products.  From Microsoft DOS to Microsoft Windows to the Windows Phone 7, I truly believe that they were made better for having to either stay ahead of or catch up with Apple and the vision of Steve Jobs.

As the world mourns his passing I am saddened by Mr. Jobs’ demise, and while I will not miss him the way so many of his followers will I certainly feel the loss deeply as one whose life has been shaped by the technological advancements that he was so involved in bringing to us.

I never got to meet Mr. Jobs, and until today I never felt sad about that.  I have been so fortunate to have been able to meet so many of the important historical figures that have shaped our world, both politically and technologically.  Now I know that I never will, and that is too bad.  Like him or not, you cannot argue his positive impact.

I was sorry to hear about his illness, and am glad that he is now at peace.  One thing is sure, more than most of us he can rest in peace knowing that he will have left a lasting and positive change on the world that he lived in.

Well, I really wasn’t Such a Johnny Ace fan but I felt bad all the same;
So I sent away for his photograph And I waited till it came.
It came all the way from Texas with a sad and simple face…
And they signed it on the bottom from the Late Great Johnny Ace.

-Paul Simon

Goodbye Mr. Jobs… I will miss you, as I do Prime Minister Rabin.  Thank you for everything.

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