A Memorial to Steve Jobs

By Elizabeth McCraw

This week marked the untimely passing of Steve Jobs, one of the greatest innovators of our generation. Whether you an Apple admirer or detractor, there is no denying that Jobs' vision not only changed the computer industry, but completely transformed the way that we interact with the world. Prior to his return to Apple fifteen years ago, who could have imagined that it would now be common place to make phone calls on a 64-gigabyte machine that fits in your pocket, or that we would be able to compute simply by poking a picture on a screen? Ideas that were once relegated the imaginations of science fiction writers have become accepted, even expected, parts of our daily lives thanks to the influence of Steve Jobs.

Apple products have completely transformed my life, particularly with my purchase of an iPod Touch about a year and a half ago. I will freely confess that I'm somewhat of a luddite. I prefer my media in a physical form. I've never had a smart phone, and I have no intention of purchasing any sort of e-reader. Still, I love my iPod Touch, and can't envision how I lived without it. I fell in love with my old iPod Classic several years ago, and had a hard time committing to upgrading, but after playing with the iPod Touch in the store for five minutes, I realized it would be valuable as a PDA. How handy would it be to be able to access my Mobile Me account on the go?

After actually buying the device and getting it home, it quickly permeated every aspect of my online life. I could still listen to all of my own music, as I had with my iPod Classic, but if I wanted more music, I could use the Pandora app, or stream music directly to the iPod with Stitcher. I save interesting articles and blog posts to Instapaper or download free e-books with the Kindle app to read on the bus or over lunch. I can access my Evernote documents everywhere I go, or check up on my bank account with the Mint app. Could I do all of this stuff from my desktop or laptop? Of course, but isn't it mind-blowing that I can do all of this using a device smaller than a deck of cards? Add to that, devices running iOS don't even require any particular knowledge of computing. You don't even have to know how to open Finder. You find the picture of the thing you want, touch the screen, and voila!

The iPod Touch is only one example of Apple's technological innovations. Nearly everything the company does is a game changer, for better or for worse. Thanks to iTunes, the music market is moving away from physical media towards an online model. The pervasiveness of smart phones, including the iPhone, has increased the availability of the internet everywhere we go. We can complete tasks, small and large, from anywhere using devices small enough to hold in one hand. How cool is that?

Naturally, I can't give Steve Jobs sole credit for all of the achievements of Apple, nor would I want to make the argument that the brand's game-changing innovation died when he did. Jobs had (and has) his share of detractors. He was notorious for his dictatorial management style, his resistance to environmentally friendly practices, and lack of philanthropy, especially compared with others like Bill Gates. Still, with the exception of Tim Berners-Lee, I have trouble thinking many other people who have had such a profound impact on our daily lives, both at our computer desks and even more so in the world at large. Mr. Jobs, thank you for all that you've done for us and for computing. I salute your vision and dedication.