The World Runs on His Imagination

“There is no greater tribute to Steve’s life than the fact that most of the world learned of his death on a device he invented.” — President Obama

That quote was certainly true for me. I’d just come home Wednesday night, turned on the TV and was scrolling through Twitter on my iPhone where I discovered the news.

When I first saw the tweets about Steve’s death, I assumed it was another false rumor like we’ve been seeing since he stepped down from Apple in August. But, after digging a little deeper, my heart sank.

Steve Jobs was dead.

Immediately, I began texting friends. I called my parents and, like millions of others around the world, I spent the evening Facebooking and tweeting about the terrible news while watching Anderson Cooper’s obituary special and re-watching Gizmodo’s video tribute over and over again. In fact, so many of us reached out to each other seeking solace that Twitter failed three times in the immediate hours following the news of Steve’s death. We haven’t seen that kind of activity since Michael Jackson’s death.

Steve was just 56 when he died surrounded by his family Wednesday.

There are so many ways he changed the world, transformed the way we communicate; what we create and how we connect with each other. Not to mention the industries he saved and transformed and the new categories of commerce he created. His inventions impact our lives constantly at every turn.

Take just a brief look at only some of his professional achievements:

  • At 19, he was a video game designer with Atari.
  • At 21, he and Woz invented the personal computer and took on the iron grip of IBM.
  • At 27, their “little computer company with the funny fruit name” went public at $1.2 billion.
  • At 29, he redefined the home computer, invented the mouse and brought CD-ROMs to the masses.
  • At 34, he bought a little effects company from George Lucas and transformed it into Pixar Animation.
  • At 36, he redefined the aesthetics and functionality of personal computers and made us all artists.
  • At 42, he transformed (and saved) a music industry while changing how the world consumes music.
  • At 52, he transformed the phone industry, while creating entirely new product categories like apps.
  • At 55, he transformed how the world consumes entertainment: print media, books, movies, music.

What did you do today? Seriously. What did any of us do today?

But, of course, who can possibly compare himself to Steve Jobs? In high school, he spent his free time “hanging around Hewlett-Packard.”

I spent my time at the pool.

As a kid, I watched the evening news with my parents every night before dinner. I’m the youngest of four and I guess I quickly learned this was a way for me to get face time with mom and dad during commercials before my brother and sisters took over.

Most of the time, I didn’t really understand what we were watching; although I now know in hindsight, I witnessed some pretty important events most kids my age missed. And, I will never forget the first moment I “met” Steve on the NBC Nightly News.

I’d seen the 1984 ad, of course. I was 11 when it first aired and all the kids in school were talking about it. It was breathtaking and edgy and unlike anything anyone had ever seen before. And, we hadn’t even seen the Macintosh yet! (In fact, some of my most successful PR/marketing campaigns have involved a teaser leading up to the big product launch. Only now do I realize, I’ve probably just been copying the Macintosh launch strategy all along. Such is Steve’s influence.)

Anyway, I remember so clearly watching Connie Chung interview a young, super cute hippie-nerd, this irreverent Steve Jobs, about the ad’s meaning and the new Macintosh. I sat up a little straighter and paid attention.

When the media hyped this young punk planning to loosen Big Blue’s grip on the entire consumer electronics and computing world, positioning him as a modern day David against a technological Goliath, I swooned.

In fact, I had this picture (right) of Steve Jobs, taken from one of my dad’s magazines, taped to my wall next to my Tiger Beat pin up of Jason Bateman and my JJ + BE scribbles proclaiming my undying (and unrequited) love for my next door neighbor, Brett.

Now, I didn’t fully understand what Big Blue was and why or how a cool underdog was going to take them down. But, nonetheless, when I saw the demo, saw what Steve could do, I wanted that Macintosh computer desperately.

Of course, in the years since, I have – along with the rest of the world – lived in awe of Steve’s genius. I’ve devoured his products and loyally defended his brand.

Throughout my career, whenever I’ve found myself explaining the intangibles of “branding” to colleagues, clients and staff, Apple has always been my go-to example. Regardless of what anyone thinks of the company’s products and services over the years, no one can deny the power of the Apple brand.

They have consistently made themselves the embodiment of cool and not just in their marketing and PR. Where IBM’s PCs were boring and basic, Apple’s Macintosh design was breathtaking … and still is. From day one, Apple firmly positioned themselves in our hearts and minds as anti-corporate, slick, creative, hip, relevant and oh so personal. And, this was in part because their products have always been as easy to use as they are beautiful to look at. But, mainly, it was because of Steve Jobs.

He was a rebel, a master showman, a PR and marketing magician. He understood that there is something very personal and valuable at the intersection of art and technology. He was a sooth-sayer, able to create what we want before we even wanted it. He was the embodiment of never settling for less and always – ALWAYS – following your dreams and creating your own destiny.

But, most importantly and simply put, Steve made being a nerd cool. He made technology accessible and consumable. He made it art.

Today, the world runs on Steve’s imagination and I still can’t imagine how we are going to get on without him.


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