The world mourns the passing of Apple's longtime CEO. Why do I feel a sense of loss for a person I have never met?
When I came home last night and stopped by my computer (to check Facebook after a few beers), my browser opened up to the default homepage which happens to be apple.com. Instead of the usual picture of the latest must-have gadget, it showed a black-and-white picture of the company's figurehead, Steve Jobs, with the years 1955-2011 alongside. It was clear: this iconic entrepreneur had finally succumbed to a long history of ill health.
A little bit to my own surprise, I was moved and quite sad, despite having never met him, and felt a certain sense of loss. Whenever a well-known person passes away, particularly in this day and age, the Internet goes into overdrive and 'the world mourns'. It seems that every user of Twitter, Facebook and the like feels compelled to acknowledge the event. But that doesn't mean I care. For instance, when Michael Jackson died, I took note, but that was about it. I didn't get the sense he'd had any particular impact on my life. I didn't feel loss, I wasn't sad in the slightest.
So why is this event markedly different? I came to be an Apple user relatively late in life. For most of my academic life, and a few years after, I used and owned PCs that I was not passionate about. For a brief stint at a university in the US, I was a frequent user of the Macs that were on campus, and I enjoyed them very much. But not enough to turn me into a Mac aficionado. I recall a friend buying a bright orange iMac in the late '90s, a machine which perplexed me by its lack of floppy disk drive. In fact, I got to the Apple game so late that I even bought a Sony MiniDisc player in 2003 when the first iPod was already out.
My conversion began circa 2005 when I thought my banking career had finally enabled me to move into the market for a premium computer, and I purchased a MacBook. Suddenly I understood why users loved their Macs. I was spending all my days in front of a dire PC. But at home I was enjoyably searching the web, listening to music, looking at photos. All of the things a Mac is built for.
Then I became fascinated by the person who embodied Apple's philosophy and who was essentially synonymous with the company, its CEO Steve Jobs. Like so many others, I became hooked on watching their product launches online, perplexed by how the company and the person could get it right so often, and thrilled by how simply Jobs was able to explain that there really is no alternative to eliminating the keyboard of a smartphone and turning it into a touchscreen device. As if it was the most straightforward idea ever.
Looking around, most of people you know have an iPhone, or multiple iPods, or an iPad, or a laptop, or a combination of the four. I am in awe of any entrepreneurial spirit that leaves a mark so visibly in a society. Some people in the know would say he was flawed as a person, but then again, who isn't? I don't know the details. What is for sure, though, is that he - and the company he leaves behind - have changed the way we live and the way we communicate, not only by design but also in spirit, is a beautiful thing.
As he himself has often acknowledged, there is only one inevitability in life, which is death. No amount of money in the world can prevent this from happening. But putting yourself, and thousands of songs, videos and pictures, in so many people's pockets is certainly a way to try your hand at immortality.
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