There are few celebrity deaths that strike you. Most die in their time and are often just a nostalgic memory by the time of their passing. However, this one has me reeling. I guess we all suspected that Steve’s days were numbered (how many CEOs does one refer to by their first name?), but I thought we were counting in years and not days or weeks since he stepped down from the helm of Apple, the company he founded, lost, and resurrected.
I’ve long said the Steve Jobs is a one in a million CEO, who will be remembered for a century for what he did at Apple and Pixar. Unlike other star CEOs whose stars immediately tarnishes once the PR budget disappears (Meg Whitman, Jack Welch, some day Donald Trump), Jobs was worth every penny of his salary, which is exactly how much he was paid to come back to lead Apple (in addition to billions in stock options).
I’ve been happy to be an Apple loyalist since my first Mac Power Book in 1992. I lived through the years of declining fortunes and Mac clones, through a succession of CEOs who didn’t seem to really “get” Apple, and through dinner parties when I’d be told I was a naive fool for believing in a company and idea as ludicrous as Apple. But still, I hung on, booting and rebooting my crash-prone machines, but glorying in what a pure joy they were for a non-geek to play with and look at. Ah, the things they could do that were only dreamt of by skeptical friends. Finally, Steve came back and I bought my first iPod, which was a miraculous toy for someone of the generation that still created mix tapes as a romantic gesture.
And now Steve is gone, and we all wonder what next. Apple announced his death after the markets closed, knowing that the news will affect the market’s view of Apple’s future. Hopefully, what Steve created; machines, culture, and a vision of computers made with human beauty, will long outlive him.