I know that by the time this post goes up, the death of Steve Jobs will be old news. I know that this post will be but one of ten trillion tributes to Steve Jobs published on the internet. And I know that I have nothing to offer here that you can’t find on a million other blogs. But I don’t care. For anyone who cares about technology, this is a post that has to be written.
Where do I even begin? I actually feel a little silly, mourning Steve Jobs. I didn’t know the man. I never met him. I’ve never met anyone who met him. I probably have never met anyone who met anyone who met him. Steve Jobs and I have almost nothing in common. He grew up in California in the 60s, I grew up in the Midwest in the 80s. He founded one of the most successful and influential companies ever, I’m a stay-at-home dad in a double-wide trailer in rural New England. He changed the world and is now being eulogized by millions of people, I sometimes think that I’ll be lucky if my children remember me after I’m gone. He was a Buddhist, I’m a Christian. He was a vegan, I would be happy eating nothing but meat. He was passionate and driven, I’m kind of a lazy slob.
The list goes on and on. There is no logical, rational reason for me to mourn Steve Jobs. And yet I do. But why?
Is it just the natural sympathy that one human being should have upon learning of the untimely death of a fellow human? I think there’s something to that. He was only 56, after all. That’s not particularly old, at least in the context of modern society. He had fought a long and presumably difficult battle with cancer. It’s only natural to feel some distress at the news that any person has died in such a manner. But that can’t possibly be all of it.
Could it be the fact that he left behind a wife and children? Certainly I mourn for them and with them. I have no idea what it’s like to lose a spouse or a father. Both my wife and my father are still alive. I have no idea how old his children are. I think at least one of them is older than I am. But it’s got to be hard to lose a parent no matter how old you are. Was he a good father? Again, I have no idea. I imagine that he loved his children, but he had also dedicated his life to Apple, so how much was he there for his children? I have no idea. Either way, I mourn for the wife and children that he left behind. But there’s still more to this, I think.
What is my connection to Steve Jobs? In one sense, it’s a very limited connection. I own a couple of products that were designed and manufactured by the company he founded. That’s it. No big deal. I own a lot of products made by a lot of different companies. I own a Kindle, but I don’t feel any particular affection for Jeff Bezos. I use Gmail and search for stuff on Google, but I don’t feel one way or another about Larry Page and Sergey Brin. That doesn’t mean that I don’t like my Kindle or Gmail. I like those products very much. But I don’t love them.
I love my iPad and my iPod Touch. I know that love is something of a strange term to use in regard to inanimate objects. But it’s the only term that fits. I have an emotional attachment to these devices that has no parallel with the other devices I own. I use my Kindle and my laptop every day, and I would be upset if they were broken or lost or stolen, but only because I would then have to buy a new one. However, if something happened to my iPad, I would be upset at the loss of my iPad.
I don’t want to overstate this. I don’t love my iPad more than anything else in the whole world. My wife and children and the rest of my family are much more important to me than my iPad, and my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is even more important to me than my family. But if I had to pick one object to keep while everything else I owned went up in flames, it would undoubtedly be my iPad.
Apple products are special because they look and feel like they were made by somebody who cared. My Acer laptop looks like it was made by robots and faceless Chinese slaves in a nondescript factory somewhere. I know that my iPad was also made in a nondescript factory by robots and faceless Chinese slaves, and probably the same factory as my laptop, but it looks and feels like it was handcrafted by someone who had a passion for what they were doing. That’s the magic of Apple, and it’s a magic that was imparted to this company by Mr. Jobs.
So it’s a selfish thing, really, but how could it be anything but? If I had known Steve Jobs personally, I would be upset at losing a friend (or maybe happy at losing an enemy, depending on how I felt about him). But I didn’t know him personally. I knew him through the products that he and his company created. And those products will live on. My iPad and my iPod Touch aren’t going to stop working just because Steve Jobs is dead. And Apple isn’t going to stop making new versions of those products just because Steve Jobs is dead. But there is a sense that the magic is gone now. Apple lives on, but will it be the same company? I imagine that Jobs did everything he could to make sure that Apple would carry on in his absence. And if it does, that will be the crowning glory on a long and spectacular career.