Before this goes away too…

…I need to write it down.

I’ve never worked at Apple.

I didn’t know what it was like to use Apple’s early products.

I didn’t own anything from Apple until 2007 and that was an iPod. I still have it.

I wasn’t one of the first to buy a Mac and I still don’t own one today.

I didn’t realize till much later that it wasn’t one, but two men who would elevate the humble mouse from a rodent to something special; Walt Disney and Steve Jobs.

Of course Steve Jobs didn’t stop there. I won’t go into a litany of his achievements. They are well documented and I suspect they’ll find themselves imprinted on the minds of students and ardent followers of innovation and leadership for years to come.

This is about what Steve meant to me.

I’ve always collected icons. People with qualities I aspire to emulate. I like knowing the ideal, even if it is unattainable.

As I watched the 2007 Keynote (which remains one of my favorite videos), I was awestruck by his command over the audience and his content. His eyes had an intensity, softened only by the pride and happiness in the lines surrounding them as he unveiled his dearest baby, the iPhone. It was also amusing how he made sweeping statements with absolutely no sense of irony or apology. “(The iPod) didn’t just change the way we listened to music, it changed the entire music industry.” He meant it. He believed it. You don’t get to such blatant confidence without conviction in your work. That was the first thing I learned from him. It’s easy to sell your work if you believe in it.

As he proceeded through the session I was impressed by the simplicity of his presentation and storytelling. The story was paramount. He sold the inconvenience of keyboards and the stylus with the touch of a master storyteller. A master storyteller doesn’t just have the audience eating out of their hands, they make the audience believe the story. The pejorative “mactard” refers to anyone locked into Apple’s mind-bending forcefield of loyalty. I think that’s extreme. People buy into Apple because of the stories they weave in the relevance of their products to our lives, and Steve had a big part to play in building that image. I have tried to imbibe a sense of story into everything I do at work thanks to that 2007 keynote.

I remember my first experience with the iPhone. My brother was coming home from the US so I asked him to get an iPhone for me. I promised myself to be objective in its evaluation and in my reaction to it. All that went straight to hell when my brother handed me the box. Simple, beautiful. I took out the phone and plugged it in. The screen lit up softly with an image of the earth and a gently luminous box at the bottom saying “Slide to unlock”. It was just so simple and beautiful. Nothing about it was ostentatious. It had the quiet assurance of a friend helping you out with a tough exam. Nothing on the box or the phone screamed a sense of over-achievement. Just a classy, polished, been there-done that-trust me look. And behind that veneer of class and simplicity hid marvelously complex innards, applications and functionality. But we didn’t need to know all that. Because we were supposed to use it, not lie awake at night marveling at the complexity of the processor or how the apps were coded. I had been stuck in a trap at work which affects so many who work with numbers. The innate need to demonstrate the complexity of a solution by sharing the technique. This would result in charts full of incomprehensible numbers, complicated diagrams and lofty sentences. None of my clients cared. The iPhone taught me why. I promptly changed the way I presented analyses, always couching complexity inside a clean, simple story arc that anyone could follow. I haven’t always been successful in that endeavor but I try hard every day. I owe this to Steve.

After the iPhone I was thoroughly intrigued by Steve. I read up on him and was astounded at the trials he faced all his life, overcoming them only through sheer determination and the will of a fighter. Here was a man thrown out of the company he started. I can’t think of too many things more devastating than that. It’s like your child disowning you. He rallied on, started Next, launched an ambitious new computer which may have failed but which featured innovations he would reapply at Apple. Oh yes, Apple. After kicking him out, Apple had pursued a path of steady decline, narrowly avoiding bankruptcy at one point. Apple’s board asked Steve Jobs to consider moving back and he did. He moved right in and transformed the company to the intellectual and design behemoth it is today. Pancreatic cancer hit him in 2004. When I watched my first keynote in 2007, he was already battling it. And yet, there was that intensity in his eyes. As rumors swirled of his ill health, treatments, transfusions, transplants, at least one thing never changed in his public persona. The intensity in his eyes. His body wasted away but that fire in his eyes never waned. He was a fighter and he fought hard for the things he believed in. That, above all means so much to me.

There are many other qualities he will always be known for. The most important among them is being a visionary. Someone with an intuitive grasp of how technology can change lives. I suspect his arrogance wasn’t because of a cavalier disregard for the opinions of consumers but from a conviction (that word again) that technology is one of those untamed monsters who don’t evolve in a straight line or fit a neat little curve on a powerpoint chart. It’s a vibrant beast, one which he understood very well. I can’t emulate his sense of vision and I don’t think I’ll ever find another icon who can.

I know some think it’s silly to get so sentimental about public figures and celebrities. But it’s a lot more complicated than that. Some people allow us the guilty pleasure of living vicariously through them. Others set standards for how a life should be lived. Steve Jobs was the latter.

I will miss you Steve, because now I will never know what else you had cooking up in that brilliant brain or which new challenge you were reducing to embers in the quiet fire burning behind those eyes.

I’ll allow myself this sadness because I deserve it.

Shine on you crazy diamond.

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69 responses to “Before this goes away too…”

  1. Sriram says :

    I am reading Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs atm. I was moved when I read this post couple of months back. While reading the book, I was reminded of this post, so came back to read it again. Such a lovely tribute to Steve!

  2. Madhavan says :

    Honest, clean and lucid article.

    One of his strengths was the passion with which he presented and demonstrated his products. Yeah, I took story-telling classes, and can relate to your comments about that.

    Am not a big fan of electronic products, in general. But I fell in love with his presentation style, thanks also to presentation zen. The “Today, Apple introduces three revolutionary products” portion of the 2007 iPhone keynote still haunts me!

    • daddysan says :

      Thanks Madhavan. He had a natural ability to present thoughts in a compelling way even if the thoughts themselves weren’t necessarily compelling.

  3. varsha says :

    This is a beautiful article, Iiked the simplicity with which you have written about Steve Jobs. Its really very warm.

    Thanks and i would also like to share this with my friends.

  4. Giribala says :

    Nice and heartfelt!!

  5. Ashwini Singh (@SinghAshwini) says :

    Fitting tribute to the great man. He gave simplicity its rightful place in the tech world. That and many other inspiring feats will ensure that his legacy lives on.

  6. Stone says :

    …..with him goes one of my ‘what-next’ in life :-(

  7. Anusuya Mitra says :

    beautifully written. i have tears in my eyes. simple, strong, clear and sensible.

  8. Patrix says :

    Nicely written as always.

    My first Apple product was, like most PC owners, an iPod but the real Apple experience was when I got my first Mac. In 2009. Yup, I was very late to the party. The iPhone followed soon after and then the iPads. People often mistake my love for simplicity in design, be it architecture (my major in a previous life) or technology, as fanboyism. I wear that badge with honor.

    • daddysan says :

      I understand totally. Once you’re used to that intuitiveness, it’s difficult to migrate to anything else. Why be ashamed of it? H8RS GONNA H8!

  9. AWK says :

    Well depicted. Nicely written. Straight from heart. Enjoyed reading it.

  10. Mikhail (@Failgunner) says :

    Thank you for this. He changed everything for the better. Very well written.

    Shine on you crazy diamond indeed.

    He didn’t just predict anything. He made it happen. Thanks again.

  11. Ratrage (@Ratrage) says :

    That he was a fighter ~ that he never let things like being given up at birth, being adopted, being hard of money, being terminated from his own company, being cancer afflicted, being pressured for yet another breakthrough affect him enough to keep him away from the magic he wove ~ that to me is his legacy.

    That he had the vision, drive, conviction, creativity to see things only he could see and balls to do things others could not; that to me is his legacy.

    Well written Daddysan.

  12. Raj Shekhar (@Raj_Shake_Her) says :

    Moving tribute. And it goes beyond the point of whether one has personally owned an Apple or not. It’s like those years when every time Michael Jackson was played on TV, I as a wide-eyed kid jumped on the trampoline of joy, mattering very little that I understood any English.

    Jobs had been a ringmaster of technology.

    • daddysan says :

      Thank you Raj. That’s a great point. It’s amazing how *everyone* would get keyed up about a new Apple offering, for better or worse.

  13. madhav mishra says :

    nicely written, that guy had same effect on me when i was down and out.the stanford speech changed the way i think

  14. Nishant Vass (@FuckthyWorld) says :

    A must read for how #jobs touched lives!! Great work man.. keep it up.. Stay Hungry Stay foolish!!

  15. Subrata Majumdar says :

    Simplicity he brought to a complex world. His entire market capitalization could be attributed to products that filled half a conference room table. He made people pay for design. He taught us the value of content.

    I disagree that life will not be the same without him – and I will be disappointed if proven incorrect. I fervently hope a generation or two have learned enough from Jobs to make the world spin like there is a Jobs who just at the point of departure from stage says “oh, and by the way, I had this to show you” and pulls out the next game-changer from his pocket.

    I am sure Steve would join the applause

    • daddysan says :

      H exemplified “do less, but do it well”. Absolutely. Look at how many me-too products he spawned apart from new categories and business models. A star.

  16. Veedee (@Veedeeda) says :

    Brilliantly written tribute … something I felt from the moment I got the news almost 9 hours back..
    Just .. brilliant ! Thanks for putting my thoughts in right words !

  17. pooja says :

    This was perfection. You describe exactly what so many of us feel. Without ever having met, or interacted with Steve Jobs; hell, without even so much as owning an Apple product, if you knew about him, he made an impression on you.

    He was a fighter, and I’m just really glad he was able to achieve so much that he wanted to. May he rest in peace.

  18. temper temptress says :

    Your writing style does emulate one of Steve Job’s most envious traits – simplicity. Such a poignant read. Big hug.

  19. Purnima Rao says :

    We lived through the Steve Jobs era – not a bad thing to be able to tell ones kids. Lovely post, Daddysan.

    • daddysan says :

      That is a great perspective Purnima :) Yes I’ll be able to tell Tyke I was born during and lived through the prime of one of the world’s greatest innovators.

  20. Minal says :

    In one word’Beautiful – few similarities I saw. I too did not know much about Apple and Steve Jobs till my hubby gifted me my iPod Classic in 2007 – we now have most apple products. As you said it , Steve redefined simplicity. When My mom prefered the husband’s Mac to my HP notebook – that moment said it all to me.

    • daddysan says :

      Thank you Minal. I know many others who have purchased the entire suite of products and I completely understand why. It’s hard to let go of the intuitiveness of Apple’s products.

  21. Yasha says :

    A very heartfelt and well written tribute to a legend. The beauty is you didnt have to be an expert to appreciate such highly innovative products. You just fell in love! It is not often that the heart laments the passing away of a distant public figure. RIP Mr. Jobs.

  22. madan says :

    My feelings exactly. The sense of personal loss is overwhelming right now. Life will never be the same without Steve.

    • daddysan says :

      Thanks Madan. I’m kinda glad to know I’m not the only one who took this a little personally. That’s how powerfully his personality connected with us.

  23. saurabh somani says :

    I don’t think I’ll read a better tribute than this to the great man. Touching and Insightful

  24. Random crazed lady (@bymyfingertips) says :

    Thanks for putting it so beautifully.These are the words I’ll cherish when faced with the myth-making ahead.

  25. Rainbow (@ra1nb0w) says :

    Great piece. very moving. apart from all that, Steve, for me, was the greatest communicator. ever. thank you for this post.

  26. Rads says :

    Amen.

    It was those eyes.
    The simplicity of an apple product is it’s charm. And then those eyes.

  27. AnnieR says :

    Thank you – a wonderfully personal response to the death of a great man. RIP Steve Jobs

  28. Arjit Srivastava (@TheRustyLabel) says :

    Shared it on twitter… brilliantly written, this is. A legend, who is never going to be replaced. RIP Steve Jobs!

  29. md610 says :

    This is one of the most if I may say ‘eulogies’ I have ever read. Beautifully written.
    Hugs.

  30. Bhalomanush says :

    Lovely post. My first acquaintance with an Apple product was in 1982 with the Apple 2 computer. The first product that I owned was an iPhone. I’ve had my share of grudges with the company and my dislikes. I’ve never owned a Mac. Never quite reconciled myself to iTunes… But Steve Jobs legacy is not limited to Apple. The first generation of EVERY product that Apple created in his second run as CEO has been imitated by competitors. He’s created an ecosystem of products (and people who use similar products created by competitors years down the innovation life-cycle). And for that we owe him a huge debt of gratitude.

    (Written on an iPad)

    • daddysan says :

      (Written on an iPad)

      :)

      Loved that.

      Totally agree with your assessment that the man was responsible for creating an interconnected ecosystem, bringing concepts like the cloud to a wider application than just businesses.

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