Here's a Tribute That Speaks to the Real Steve Jobs

By Veronique Greenwood | October 6, 2011 1:34 pm

The Internet’s cup runneth over with elegies for the Apple cofounder, who died yesterday at 56. People around the world are pouring out their stories of how Jobs, via the company’s products, changed their lives.

Many have a frankly religious tone, like the middle-aged mom who spoke in a breathless voice about the iPhone’s “grace” and the architect Jobs hired in the mid-80s who told how Jobs “put his hand on mine” when teaching him to use a mouse (both were on NPR member station WNYC this morning). Other testimonials focus more on when the teller first encountered an Apple product, back in the days when mice were the big new thing. People are even setting up shrines in Apple stores, a move that strikes some as fitting tribute, others as cultish (“If you needed any more proof that brands are our new gods…” one person tweeted in response to the news). Though the blog “Steve Jobs is God” appears to be defunct, its message is on many lips today, in some form or another. It’s simply astounding how much of a connection many felt to Jobs, whom they see as the architect of a significant portion of their lives.

The best tribute that we’ve seen, though, isn’t part of this sometimes-saccharine thicket. ZDnet has a simple video interview with Steve Wozniak, aka “Woz,” who cofounded Apple with Jobs. Wozniak talks about Jobs as a person, not as an icon, and it’s somehow more touching to hear him talk about the years when they bummed around together in the Bay Area than all of the other stuff combined. Wozniak also gives some perspective: When the interviewer compares Jobs to Edison, Wozniak says that’s not quite right, because Jobs’ strength wasn’t designing or building stuff, it was marketing, in part because he related well to the users. What we’re seeing across the web today, in these outpourings, is the end product of that relationship. And Apple has obviously radically shaped the modern sense of design, but before Apple was making beautiful objects, Wozniak recalls, Sony was the company that had the products with the fine details and clever engineering.

In their last few conversations, Jobs wanted to talk about their early times together, Wozniak says. But after all Jobs had accomplished, it seemed hard to relive those moments. “It’s hard to go back to those little simple days, where we were clowning around and thought maybe we’d make a few bucks,” Wozniak says with a smile. But imagining Steve Jobs as a young guy, pulling pranks and geeking out about Dylan with his buddy, is much more poignant than all the suggestions of his divinity. Thanks for everything, Steve. We’ll miss you.

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  • NewEnglandBob

    You forgot to include some of the personal life issues such as the fact that he fathered a child with a high school sweetheart and denied paternity for many years.

  • bystander

    I think the best tribute I’ve seen is the video of the 2005 Stanford Commencement Address by Steve Jobs.

  • John Kwok

    Thanks Veronique for a most eloquent and heartfelt tribute to Steve Jobs. While I’m not a fan of Apple, I do have a high regard for his tenacity and his vision, especially in recent years, on behalf of Apple. Nor am I surprised by the vast outpouring of public grief by many who felt they had a personal attachement to him via his Apple products. In some ways it is reminiscient of the public response to the unexpected deaths of such notable figures as Princess Diana and Frank McCourt.

  • Dulany Lingo



  • jake

    i’ve been an apple user for about 7 years now. i’ve loved every apple notebook, ipod, and iphone that i’ve owned, and this is coming from a guy who — up until the first apple product i bought — hated computers and thought they were pretty annoying. despite the fact that indeed our “gods” these days are ourselves flashing brand names, appearing bourgeoisie, and getting picked for a reality TV show so we can get paid to act like idiots in front of the whole world, i find myself extraordinarily saddened by this CEO’s passing. i’ve been trying to figure out why… and i keep coming back to the fact that i think he was one of the very few powerful public figures i felt like i could trust — like he was motivated by ideals that were not just about himself. his goal was to constantly improve these devices and expand the ways that they could be utilized by US, all of us. that’s really nice. and although apple stuff has never been cheap, the iphone is still generally affordable to the masses. if apple was truly the Bentley of the computer world, then like .5% of the population would have had the chance to use it. Steve Jobs was about having an awesome vision, and sharing it with people. i’m not saying he was jesus… he was still about competition, market dominance, etc, etc, but damn, he used his role in about as pure a way as i have witnessed in my lifetime. rest in peace Steve

  • Norm

    The one thing that leaves such an empty feeling is wondering what innovative gadgets we might never see due to his death. I felt the same way when John Lennon and Harry Chapin left us suddenly.

    Our history is filled with legends like Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, etc…and now, in our time,
    we’ve gotten to see another who history will extol for decades and decades.
    My life, and my teaching have been changed with his vision.
    His dedication and drive are models for all of us.



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