Happy Birthday Steve Jobs

February 24, 2012 by staff 

Happy Birthday Steve Jobs, Had Steve Jobs been alive today, it would have been his 57th birthday. The man who shaped contemporary consumer technology died on October 5, 2011. He battled cancer and other health issues for several years and had a rare form of pancreatic cancer.

The Silicon Valley icon, who gave the world the iPod and the iPhone, resigned as CEO of the world’s largest technology corporation in August this year, handing the reins to current chief executive Tim Cook.

Steve Jobs is gone, but the future he saw is still, quite literally, in our hands.
He helped change computers from a geeky hobbyist’s obsession to a necessity of modern life at work and home, and in the process he upended not just personal technology but the cellphone and music industries.

In dark suit and bowtie, he is a computing-era carnival barker – eyebrows bouncing, hands gesturing, smile seductive and coy and a bit annoying. It’s as if he’s on his first date with an entire generation of consumers. And, in a way, he is.

It is January 24, 1984, and a young Steve Jobs is standing at centre stage, introducing to shareholders of Apple Computer Inc. the “insanely great” machine that he’s certain will change the world: a beige plastic box called the Macintosh.

Here is the Wizard of Cupertino at the threshold of it all, years before the black mock turtleneck and blue jeans. He is utterly in command – of his audience and of his performance. All of the Jobs storytelling staples are emerging.

The hyperbole: “You have to see this display to believe it. It’s incredible.”

The villain: “And all of this power fits in a box that is one-third the size and weight of an IBM PC.”

The tease: “Now I’d like to show you Macintosh in person. All of the images you are about to see on the large screen will be generated by what’s in that bag.”

He retreats into the shadows, pulls the inaugural Mac out of its satchel. He inserts a disk and boots up. Suddenly, on the screen – roughly pixelated by today’s standards but, for 1984, stunning – a typeface rolls by to the theme from “Chariots of Fire.” A picture of a geisha appears. Then a spreadsheet. Architectural renderings. A game of video chess. A bitmapped drawing of Steve Jobs dreaming of a Mac.

The computer speaks. “Hello. I’m Macintosh. It sure is great to get out of that bag,” it says. “It is with considerable pride that I introduce a man who’s been like a father to me: Steve Jobs.”

Applause shakes the place. Steven Paul Jobs, basking in it, tries not to grin. He fails. The future, at this moment, is his.

It is 28 years later now, and Steve Jobs has exited the stage he managed so well. We are left with the talismans of his talent, a tech diaspora: the descendants of that original Mac. The iPod and iTunes, Nanos and Shuffles and Classics and Touches. The Apple Store. The iPhone and the App Store and the iPad 2. They are part of the cultural fabric – tools that make our lives easier and, some insist, sexier and more streamlined.

But taken together, what do they mean? Are they merely gadgets and services that sold well, that answered the market’s needs for humans of the late 20th and early 21st centuries? Did Jobs’ prickly perfectionism – born, some said, of outsized ego – merely create a whole run of really useful tools? Or is something more elemental at play here?

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