The following appears as it did when I first wrote it on August 25, 2011 — the day Steve Jobs announced he was leaving his position as CEO of Apple, Inc. I feared then that only the final decline of his health would keep him from the company he founded and obviously loved. Jobs has died, just one day after his heir, Tim Cook, unveiled the iPhone 4S. His legacy is complete.
Even most successful entrepreneurs do not change an entire industry. But that’s exactly what Steve Jobs did to personal computing — three times.
With the Apple II, Jobs made personal computers useful. In the mid-Seventies, home computers were build-it-yourself hobby boxes, useful only to the nerdiest nerds. By the time I entered middle school in 1981 there was an entire lab filled with Apple II Plus machines, and lots of fun software to run on them. The first computer “clone” wasn’t Compaq’s copy of the IBM PC — it was a clone of the Apple II. An industry was born.
Three years later Jobs made the personal computer approachable with the Macintosh. He didn’t invent the GUI or the WIMP metaphor but he and his team made them useable and affordable. What most computer users took for granted in 1995 was deemed a “toy” by many critics when the first Mac arrived in 1984.
And last year, Jobs made the personal computer ubiquitous with the iPad. This third revolution is only beginning, yet still many critics deride this “toy” as a “media consumption device.” I do most of my photo editing on my fat, slow, first-generation iPad — and I’m outlining a novel on it, too. Others use it to create music, paintings and video. That’s some “consumption” going on.