An Introduction – Chris Worthman
I learned Steve Jobs had died when I saw a tweet that said, “iSad,” with a link to a breaking news article. My friend Nigel, the tech guru for an international charity, tweeted that he learned of Jobs death when he got off a plane. He recalled seeing Jobs at a trade show in Chicago in the early 90s, concluding, “Cancer sucks and it casts a long shadow.” I think most people fell under that shadow when they learned of Jobs passing.
Yet, Steve Jobs casts his own shadow, a very different shadow, however, than the one Nigel refers to. I say that in present tense because even with his passing his creativity, brilliance, and, yes, business acumen lives on, and most of us will continue to benefit from it, and at times be aggravated by it, for the rest of our lives. I know of no one who can say that Jobs didn’t impact her or his life. On the whole, the impact is positive, and the world is a better place because of Steve Jobs and Apple.
That is not to say that Jobs was perfect. In my first discussion at DePaul yesterday about Jobs’ passing, a colleague told me that he met him many years ago. My colleague recognized Jobs’ legacy and was saddened by his death but noted that Jobs was difficult to work with. The same drive and commitment he displayed, he expected from his employees and, frankly, they were afraid of him.
I know within the field of education, Jobs has been held on high and also cast low. Apple has produced some of the most innovative educational software. Jobs gave heavily to education. And teachers have turned to Apple products for over 25 years to enliven their classrooms and engage students. We can and should debate the use of technology in the classroom, but on the whole, these things are all good.
Yet, Jobs took a perspective on schools and teachers that many others, including me, disagree with. I never questioned, however, his motivation or his sincerity, and tried hard to understand why he though the way he did. I balanced my irritation of what he said with my admiration of what he created and what he wanted for the rest of us. I saw him as an extremely talented individual who was not infallible or without fault, but who is?
And, in his passing, I am saddened, as we all should be when the world loses too soon someone who has given so much. Yesterday, Calley and Sarah, to give us all a chance to voice our thoughts, asked faculty and staff to share what Jobs and Apple have meant to their lives. Below are the responses they received. Please feel free to add your own thoughts via comments to this post.
I don’t really want to talk about Apple products, not even the iPad that is now integral to my existence. I want to talk about Toy Story.
When Jobs was ousted from Apple in 1985, he made what I would call a brilliant decision – he went to see what George Lucas was up to. This led to him buying what would become Pixar from Lucasfilm.
At first, Jobs did try to use this group, whose primary project was creating sophisticated graphics software, to continue to build computer products. However, he was able to see the possibilities of this group outside of that hardware framework, which led to a partnership with Disney and an entirely new venture.
My family is a group of Disney freaks, and even my semi-clueless kid self realized that Toy Story, on the heels of several classically animated films (Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King), was ushering in a new take on the genre.
Jobs’ involvement with Pixar isn’t the first thing that came to most people’s mind when they heard about his death, so why was it so primary in my thoughts? In my first year of teaching, a student’s research paper focused on the image rendering software that Pixar is known for – he was trying to learn the software on his own (and was arguing that it could actually be used more effectively for some types of design) in hopes of one day getting hired by Pixar.
Until I read his paper, I had no clue about the Jobs-Pixar connection, but it changed the way I viewed a man whose public presence could be rather domineering. I mean, if he’s even partly responsible for the creation of Woody, Buzz, Ham, Mr. Potato Head, and Bo Peep (yep, could definitely list all of the characters in this movie), then this is a man whose brilliance will be missed.
My friends and colleagues,
This is an incredibly sad day for me with the passing of Steve Jobs. His work has had an impact on my life for nearly 30 years, beginning in 1980 when I was a contributing editor to Nibble Magazine (Apple II). In 1984, I bought my first Macintosh and in 1988, I went to work for Apple Computer and spent a decade there. He was a true visionary and genius. One comment I saw on Twitter said it all: “Heaven just got a major upgrade”.
I invite you to take a look at this never published ad for the Think Different campaign. It was narrated by Steve:
I was stunned and saddened when my students told me last night during class that he’d died. The fact that they were there in class with their iPads and such is testament to Steve Jobs’s belief in the power of technology—smart, useful, personally relevant technology–to change our lives and interactions for the better.
Steve Jobs always reminded me of a guy I knew in my freshman year of college, Timmy DeBaun. (They even looked alike.) Over dinner in the college cafeteria one night in 1973, Timmy shared that his computer science professor told him that one day, the computers that presently took up an entire huge room would be small enough to fit on top of our desks–and we’d all have one. That was madness—sort of like telling us everyone would be able to fly one day, too. People either laughed derisively at Timmy and his professor, or sat in stunned silence, pondering what that would mean. Who could ever make that happen, given the televisions of the day were the size of a dining table? How could anyone possibly envision an entire computer (the size of three rest rooms here in SAC) could sit on a desktop? And we’d all know how to use one???
Steve Jobs and a few others like him realized that what the computer really signified was (relatively) unfettered access to information—and that designing computers first and foremost for wider usability could put enormous power into any human’s hands. I often wonder what it was like for Jobs to be sitting in his garage, thinking about how what he was doing at the time could affect society all the way to its core—if it worked. What a risk taker. What a believer in the human spirit. What a model for inspiration and innovation. What strength. What courage.
I shall miss him—and I shall be more mindful now to thank him daily for never giving up.
Here’s to Steve!
Jobs has had as remarkable of an imprint on our culture as has Thomas Edison.
I went to a public elementary school where Macs were donated to our computer lab and Miss Mcleary, my fourth grade teacher, who told us “it was very important to keep working on our computer skills because someday you will need them.” Fast forward to my first college job interview where I was asked, “Can you use a Mac?” and “What do you know about iMovie?” I had, with my brother the previous year, purchased an iMac with my College Education discount at the University of Madison bookstore, so I was able to answer “yes” to both questions and got the job. It was because of that job experience I was able to apply for the position I now hold here. To say the inventions of Steve Jobs and the Apple Company changed my life would be an understatement. I hope his inventions continue to create positive and educational opportunities even though he is no longer here.
Steve Jobs and his inventions have played such a large role in my life. In the past 10 years I don’t think I have gone through a single day without touching an Apple product. I’m addicted to anything Apple. He is a visionary and an inspiration to all.
Steve Jobs participated in teacher bashing and blaming the problems of public education on teachers unions. He was an outspoken of privatizing public schools and the expansion of vouchers. As such he contributed to mistakenly framing public education as private industry, misrepresenting students and parents as consumers of education as a private consumable, and eroding a broader understanding of education as a public good crucial for a democratic society. Leander Kahney skewered this wrongheaded view nicely in Wired Magazine.
As with any very public figure who passes away, there is a collective moment of reflection on what that person meant to individuals and the world. Not only am I a self-proclaimed “Mac person,” but having traveled to several dozen countries, I’ve seen the vast and powerful impact these products have had in the world. From the highlands of Peru to the lowlands of the Netherlands to the city of Chicago and my apartment, I know that this man has had a phenomenal impact on the way the world works. My thoughts are with his family and friends during this time and I hope they find comfort in knowing this man has inspired countless people around the world to never give up hope and follow their dreams.
Thanks for taking the time to acknowledge the passing of someone who made such a large contribution to the way we use technology and the way our lives have been shaped by that technology. Having recently flown abroad, I could not have made the flight without a playlist of positive flying messages on my iPod. The eight-hour trip would have been unimaginable.
I feel like this article sums up best how Steve Jobs made an impact, not necessarily creating all of the technology that is changing lives, but creating a platform where other people could be part of that change: ‘This Stuff Doesn’t Change the World’: Disability and Steve Jobs’ Legacy.
I grew up with Steve’s spirit that I could do anything with little more than a garage and my own ideas. I’m joined at the hip with my iPod which coats and curbs the inevitable stress of my 21st century doings. Thank you for giving me a place to react to Jobs’ passing.