October 5, 2011: Apple co-founder Steve Jobs dies at age 56 at his home in Palo Alto, California.
Jobs ’official cause of death was respiratory arrest caused by complications associated with a rare type of pancreatic cancer. He was diagnosed with cancer eight years earlier and officially resigned as Apple CEO in August 2011.
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With so much written about Jobs in the years after his death, and so much writing material, it is impossible to summarize his life in a short article. For me, one of the most significant things about his death was how much it meant to people around the world.
If anyone in 2011 thought of technology as a niche hobby, the public outburst of grief after Jobs ’death has certainly changed its mind.
Steve Jobs: An unsentimental man
Jobs himself was not sentimental. When he left Apple in the mid-1980s, he didn’t even clean his office. This meant that personal memories, such as his first Apple stock certificate, which hung on the wall of his office, were thrown in the trash.
Shortly after returning to Apple in the late 1990s, he handed over the company’s historical archives to Stanford University Libraries. The warehouse contained records kept by Apple’s management since the mid-1980s. The reason why Apple handed over this historical treasure? Jobs did not want the company to focus on the past.
In 2006, a former Apple employee named David Packman emailed Jobs. Packman, who worked at Apple from 1991 to 1997, suggested that a celebratory event be organized for Apple’s 30th birthday. He got a simple answer:
Apple is focused on the future, not the past.
An amazing legacy at Apple
This attitude extended to Jobs’ view of himself — and his legacy. He apparently “stated his point of view … very clearly” that Apple should not name its new spaceship campus after him, even though one of his last public appearances was in favor of the construction project. In the end, Cupertino called the massive campus “Apple Park.” (Apple named the award-winning campus media center The Steve Jobs Theater in his honor.)
Jobs also spent much of his last term at Apple founding a company that could operate without his presence. As Tim Cook told the authors of the biography Become Steve Jobs, “[Steve] he didn’t want us to ask, ‘What would Steve do?’ He despised the way Disney culture stagnated after Walt Disney’s death and was determined not to let that happen at Apple. ”
Nor did Jobs harbor illusions that people would haunt Apple products for years after his death. This is despite his perfectionist ability to procure products throughout his life.
“All the work I’ve done in my life will be obsolete by the age of 50,” Jobs said in a 1994 interview, when he was 39 years old.
Whether he was right or not (and, at least in a technical sense, he was), he clearly felt this way.
Life after the death of Steve Jobs
All of this speaks to some extent why it was so encouraging that Jobs ’death received so much attention. He was not the richest CEO of technology who died. But the reaction showed that his life – mistakes and all that – meant a lot to a large number of people. The business helped create products that people cared about, and they took care of it.
A lot has changed at Apple since Jobs died. And that is exactly what he clearly said he wanted to happen. The gloves he put on about never wanting to see a pen on an iPad were, wonderfully, discarded with an Apple pen. Jobs always forced engineers to prove him wrong, so I don’t think he could have been happier with the result.
We are also far above the need for the Mac to be a “digital hub.” Even today, Apple accepts ecology and other issues with a passion that Jobs did not show towards them.
But it’s the same company that Jobs imbued with a strong vision back in the 1980s (and probably the late ’70s). And, hey, the product lines he launched are still extremely profitable – as are the films made by Pixar, which Jobs helped bring to prominence.
Memories of Steve Jobs
What are your deep memories of Steve Jobs? Where were you when you heard he passed away? According to him, what is the greatest single greatest achievement? Leave your comments below.
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