Today marks the first anniversary of the death of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs; a man whose personality was often as newsworthy as his accomplishments. Loathed and admired, in almost equal measure, Jobs had an impact that went far beyond the borders of silicon valley. Helping to transform the image of computers from dull, grey and beige towers to engaging and aesthetic devices that spawned a multi-billion dollar industry which became an integral part of everyday life for millions of people was just one of his many achievements.
His part in bringing new, and sometimes existing, technologies to the mainstream in a way that made users want to engage and interact with them is probably his greatest legacy.
Several of the industries that Jobs helped to create or revolutionise include:
- Personal computers
- Personal MP3 music players
- Music downloads
- Tablet computing
- Digital publishing
- Animated films
Yet for his brilliance in making technology both easy to use and desirable in a way that none ever had before Jobs was also a man of seeming contradictions.
A man whose zen-like focus on perfection came without the accompaniment of zen-like tranquillity. An individual whose obsessive attention to detail was often accompanied by outbursts of intense emotion when products did not meet his internal vision. A leader whose style of management was often harsh and abrasive yet strangely served to bring out the best in his staff. A university dropout and counter-culture rebel who became an icon of American corporate culture. An industry leader who for all his fame and influence opted for a lifestyle away from the mainstream spotlight.
Many have speculated, sometimes unkindly, as to the causes and reasons for these apparent contradictions in personality and behaviour. Some have labelled these as the trappings of a great man whose vision and drive transcended considerations of etiquette and the accepted behavioral norms, like many other great men before him. Others have focussed on explanations of inherent and elevated narcissism exacerbated or caused by early childhood experiences resulting in the individual he would ultimately become. Whatever the reasons, and I suspect they are many and varied, unable to be simply reduced to one single causative factor, Jobs continues to exert an intrigue and fascination to those who study him long after his passing.
I think when all is said and done the quality that stands above all others was Jobs’ willingness to venture into uncharted territory; to travel outside of accepted boundaries, where there were no pre-existing coordinates or roadmap, only to be guided by a belief in the rightness of the journey itself.