Steve Jobs died this morning aged 56. I learned about it via Twitter on my iMac. We knew it was coming probably sooner rather than later. He had been sick for years and, at each public appearance, was looking more and more gaunt. Still, when the news broke, it did come with a jolt. Within minutes the Twitter stream was flowing fast with the news, and websites were paying tribute; the US President, Steven Spielberg and Bill Gates, his great rival and friend, have said their piece. There will be millions more words written about this man, someone that pretty much everyone concedes was one of the world’s most gifted human beings.
My little contribution to the great innovator is to share this video from Steve’s first launch back in 1984. Suited and nattily bow-tied – before the later jeans, black turtle-neck and New Balance joggers became his signature – and with barely contained delight, he introduces the first Macintosh – what we all came to call the Mac years afterwards. The crowd goes wild – I mean really, really wild. Apparently there was a 5 minute standing ovation.
This version of the Mac turned out to be my first computer and, in the years since then, others have followed on to my desk and lap along with iPods and iPhones into purse and pocket. I have never forgotten the design principles which informed the creation of that Mac and the Apple products that followed.
The genius of Steve Jobs realised in that first Mac was the recognition of the way human beings interact with their world and create stuff and then to incorporate this understanding into a design principle that was executed with finesse and beauty and, yes simplicity. It was this ease of use that blind-sided so many over the years who saw Macs as toys and not real computers. They missed the point. Like small, simple can be powerful and beautiful too.
Images and gestures led the way with the point and click and use of symbols or icons. Desktop and folders were words we understood. We had to learn about floppies and disk drives and bytes and words that began with the i- in years to come, but it was never hard with a Mac. I always loved the little ‘Hello’ or ‘The adventure starts here’ messages that were included in the box of a new Apple product – those and the stickers – they always set off a little thrill and reminded you that using this technology could also be fun – should be even – that was the magic. Yes, I’ve been a fan girl since that afternoon in the computer shop in Armidale in 1984 when I was hooked. It sold me on the spot, and I took the Mac home in a bag. It changed my world.
Vale Steve and thank you for changing not just my world, but the way the world sees itself.