What are we to do in a world without Steve Jobs?

Helen Hansen

It has been a little over a week since the death of Steve Jobs. In that time we have mourned the passing of a true genius, remembered his numerous and varied accomplishments and replayed clips of that 2005 Stanford commencement speech over and over again. The loss of the man is sad, but the loss of life-changing inventions coming from him is a tragedy. Apple fans everywhere are asking: what now?

How many students and professors walk to class every day with those characteristic white ear buds glued to their heads? How many people have followed the little blue dot on their iPhones’ GPS to get from the Drag to South Congress? How many students in a 300-person lecture class are typing notes, playing on Photo Booth or browsing Facebook on their MacBook Pros? Thousands of people would probably fight, kick and scream if someone tried to take their precious Apple products away, the same way they would if someone abducted their child or was slowly sucked out all the oxygen from a room.

Luckily, our iPods, iPhones, iPads and MacBooks live on, a most fitting legacy to the man in the black turtleneck. But that is all they will do — stick around. We have grown accustomed to an exciting new apple-stamped machine hitting Best Buy at the beginning of every holiday season since 2001 when Apple introduced the first generation iPod. Furthermore, we have grown accustomed to buying whatever exciting new apple-stamped machine is hitting Best Buy, disregarding such mundane things as cost, practicality and need.

Did I need the iPad I got for my birthday last year? No, my HP desktop computer was perfectly capable of running Word and getting me onto Facebook, but it sure was cool to play Angry Birds on a 9.7-inch screen. We bought the first generation iPod touch when it was grossly overpriced at $400 just like we bought the camera-less first generation iPad even though it was widely said that consumers should wait for the faster, cooler iPad 2 with a camera. Even last week when the iPhone 4S was revealed, appearing just about identical to the iPhone 4, first day pre-order sales topped a record-breaking one million. We have adopted every Apple progeny into our lives year after year, iThing after iThing, no questions asked. What happens if the stuff that Apple comes out with is no longer life changing? Can something with that iconic apple stamped on the back be uncool?

I find myself imagining the next 10 years of Apple releases and already being disappointed. Picture an Apple special event in 2021. Senior vice president Phil Schiller, who unveiled the iPhone 4S last week, looks sweaty. Could that be from the hot stage lights or the overpowering nerves? He works that stage back and forth like a pro during the presentation — or is he pacing the jitters out? Finally the moment comes. He has managed to build up the audience of media reporters and technology junkies to a state of tangibly excited anticipation. Maybe, just maybe this new product will be that cutting edge thing that Apple fans have been missing for the past decade of increasingly lame products. At last, the new iPhone flashes up onto the projector screen.

“Here it is, the new iPhone 10 – now in blue!”

We will probably buy it anyway because of some utterly irrational, deeply ingrained dependency on brand new Apple products. We consumers have not yet been able to resist Steve’s siren song for the latest and greatest iThing. Will his death mark the end of this decade of Apple frenzy?

Hansen is a Plan II and public relations freshman 

Printed on Friday, October 14, 2011 as: What are we to do in a world without Steve Jobs?