Steve Jobs changed the way we view technology

Aleksander Chan

Apple co-founder and visionary Steve Jobs died Wednesday, Oct. 5, of pancreatic cancer, Apple announced. Jobs stepped down from his role as CEO of Apple in August, and the newest iteration of the company’s popular iPhone, the iPhone 4S, was revealed yesterday by new CEO Tim Cook.

Jobs, who co-founded Apple with Steve Wozniak in 1976, was perhaps the most high-profile and influential celebrity CEO since John D. Rockefeller. After being fired in 1985, Jobs returned to the computer company in 1996 and ushered in a wave of advancements that would forever change how an entire generation of consumers would think about its relationship with technology and media.

In 2001, under the guidance of Jobs, Apple released the first-generation iPod. It was a thick, brick-like device that had a low-resolution black-and-white screen and five gigabytes of storage space. At the time, it was only compatible with Macintosh computers and retailed for $399.

Ten years later, the current iPod model, the fourth-generation iPod Touch, is comprised of a glossy touchscreen display, can hold up to 64 gigabytes of data, can record and play back high-definition video and features a front-facing camera for video conferencing over the Internet. IPods currently make up 78 percent of the portable music player market share.

The speed at which new developments came from Apple under Jobs’ command helped create a culture of commerce that values immediacy. In addition to its nearly annual refreshment of its product lines, which includes iPods, laptop and desktop computers, tablets and mobile phones, the launch of the iTunes Store in 2003 dramatically shaped how the entertainment industry entered the digital age.

More importantly, Jobs made the crucial distinction that entertainment and technology are inherently tied to each other by the Internet. ITunes was a bold reversal to the pervasive digital piracy of the ’90s and early ’00s — its massive success (now the largest and highest-grossing music retailer in the world, with more than 16 billion downloads) proved that consumers are more than willing to pay for digital content when the program is attractively designed and easy to use.

Design and ease of use became the guiding modus operandi for Apple under Jobs to reach great creative and financial success. The iPhone, perhaps Jobs’ greatest and most influential creation, has defined the mobile device marketplace since its release in 2007. Its sleek, intuitive design, user-friendly interface and unshakable cool-factor has become the standard for consumer electronics.

But the largest reason for the iPhone and Apple’s success is Jobs’ careful construction of his company’s emotional narrative — he made computers and phones feel human. In Jobs’ keynote presentations and in the commercials and advertising for Apple products, the emphasis is laid on how the products foster intimate, almost poignant human connections.

In one of the ads for the iPhone — the first to feature the FaceTime video conferencing technology — a mother and her newborn child conference call with her husband, who is away for work; grandparents get to see their granddaughter’s graduation; and a couple are able to use the camera to speak to each other in sign language. Jobs blurred the distinction between living with technology and living through technology — an inspiring, effective touchstone of a brilliant career. 

Printed on October 6, 2011 as: Apple co-founder, innovator dies at 56