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.