Steve Jobs Has Died: The World Reacts (Updated with Photos of iVigil HK)
I’ve kept the blog on the backburner, but this story is too large to ignore: Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple and Pixar, has passed away. He was 56 years old. Never before have I seen social network streams completely overtaken by a single topic, but such is the extent of Jobs’ legacy: he was a pioneer of the modern user experience.
We previously covered Jobs when he announced he was stepping down as CEO of Apple. At the time, we wrote: “Whatever the reasons are for Jobs’ resignation, the news has nevertheless sent China’s netizen community reeling into deep reflection. Is one person really responsible for Apple’s ‘soul’? Or perhaps more concretely, is one person really responsible for Apple company’s direction and financial success?”
The question becomes even more prominent now with Jobs’ passing. Coincidentally — or perhaps not so coincidentally — Exxon Mobil‘s stock closed today with a market cap of $359.4 billion, edging out Apple, which had recently taken the position of most highly valued company in the world. It is not a matter of asking whether Jobs was influential in guiding Apple’s success — this much is a certainty. It is a matter of simply asking: how influential?
For starters: within the first hour after news of his passing, the story had been upvoted to the top spot on the social news site Reddit. Over 6,500 people have commented on the item so far, with many adding their thoughts, condolences, and even stories of their personal encounters with the man. Of particular note is this little tale, in which the Redditor recounts accidentally hanging up on Steve Jobs while working as an ad agency intern during the mid-90s:
I accidentally hung up on Steve Jobs once. True story. In the mid-90′s, I was a young intern at an ad agency near Apple’s campus in Cupertino. The president of our company, my boss, was a close friend and former colleague of Steve and they spoke often. My boss’s administrative assistant had gone on vacation and he asked me to fill in for her for a couple days, and I had no idea what I was doing.
One of the very first phone calls to come in was Steve. Not his admin, but the man himself, and I’m pretty overwhelmed. I attempt to transfer the call, promptly fuck it up, and…….dial tone. I was about to curl up into a fetal ball and die when the phone started ringing again. It was Steve. Laughing. He knew I was just filling in, and dismissed my profuse apologies with a giggling “don’t sweat it.” I told him I would transfer him again and promised not to hang up on him. I’ll never forget his cartoon-like response: “Oooooky doky!”
A trivial encounter with the man, for sure, but for a 22 year old from the east coast, a week into what would later prove to be a pretty extraordinary adventure in Silicon Valley, the approachable, human demeanor of this larger-than-life luminary was revelatory.
To me, Steve will always remain symbolic of Silicon Valley and the very best it represents. RIP Steve.
For another Redditor — an Apple employee, in this case — Jobs’ impact on his career was rather all-encompassing:
Thank you Steve for building a company that gave me my first real job, and moved me around the world and introduced me to the most amazing people and friends I’ve ever had. Thanks for building products that are responsible for my income today. Thanks for thinking different. You’ll be missed.
Meanwhile, blogger Brian Lam waxed on about Jobs’ kindness in a blog post of his own. You may recall Lam’s public scuffle with Apple in 2010, after engineer Gray Powell left the then-unreleased iPhone 4 in a bar and the prototype ended up in the hands of tech blog Gizmodo. Lam, then editor of the site, staunchly refused to return the iPhone unless Apple own up to it — which would confirm the product’s specifications and give Gizmodo a hell of an exclusive. In a lengthy write-up on The Scuttlefish, Lam apologized for his own stubborn actions during the iPhone 4 scandal, noting that throughout the entire process, “[Steve Jobs] was always a gentleman.” For all of the horror stories about Jobs’ iron fist management style — he once tossed out two versions of the first iPhone before finally okaying the third for release in 2007 — the post paints a rather gentler image of the Apple CEO, considering the circumstances:
When [Steve Jobs] called me back, the first thing he said was, ”Hey Brian, it’s YOUR NEW BEST FAVORITE PERSON IN THE WORLD.”
I laughed and so did he. Then, he sharply pivoted and said, “So what’s it gonna be?”
[...] Then things got a little bit uglier, and dicier, and I don’t want to get into that stuff on a day like today because my point is that he is a beautiful and fair man and probably not used to not getting his way and he was clearly not getting his way on this day.
[...] At some point [a veteran reporter friend] asked me if I realized, irrespective of right or wrong, that we’d caused Apple a lot of trouble. I paused, and thought about Apple and Steve for a little bit, and all the designers and hard working people who built the phone. I said, “Yes.” I started to justify it as the right thing for the readers, and then I stopped. And I just kept thinking about Apple and Steve and how they felt. And thats when I knew my heart was not proud.
Jobs’ profound impact has not only been felt in the English-speaking world. In addition to the many Chinese migrant workers that Apple has put to work (at times controversially) we should also remember the Asian consumer, particularly in greater China — where Apple reported selling $3.8 billion in products in the past year (outclassing the company’s performance the previous year sixfold). This morning, netizens woke up to the news. Not long after, the voices grew loud.
Quoted by the Wall Street Journal’s Real Time Report, Sina Weibo user Buting Zheting wrote, “Jobs is gone. This is the first time a foreigner’s death has been hard for me to take.” “Despite his shortcomings, one can only say that he did what he wanted,” wrote another user more skeptical of Jobs’ cult of personality. “Apple changed the world. Jobs, all the best.”
Sina has since set up a memorial webpage for Jobs, which has garnered over 50,000 comments. Many echo the question first posed in August: after the iPhone 4S — a product truly “for Steve” — what should we expect of a 5, 6, or 7 without Jobs? According to one “Blue Bridge Spring Snow,” others ought to take up the mantle of innovation:
Steve Jobs, who answered our generation’s hopes, has left this world. The release time of the 4S is no coincidence, but a carefully planned farewell ceremony. Will the future iPhone 5 carry the same excitement and charm? The world is better because of him, but it’s not the end simply because he’s gone. On the rough road into the digital information society, there are road signs to guide us and lighthouses to give us hope. The way forward needs a new light. This is the dream that Jobs, ever the leader, leaves behind. I wish you all the best in heaven! [Tears]
But the gap left by Jobs is a daunting one to fill. For now, we are content to look back on a compelling life and glean what lessons we can from its achievements. The New York Times’ and Wired’s well-written obituaries certainly cut to the heart of why Jobs deserves such tribute (“If Jobs were not so talented, if he were not so visionary…his pushiness and imperiousness would have made him a figure of mockery…But Steve Jobs was that talented, visionary and determined.”).
And in an even greater and more public show of commendation, people have begun taking to the streets to make respectful gestures and hold vigils. Here in Hong Kong, an “iVigil” has already begun to take place in front of the newly minted IFC Apple store. Some flowers have been laid out, joined rather unsurprisingly by an iPad memorial.
A full-fledged event was held on Thursday night in front of Hong Kong’s official Apple Store to mark Jobs’ passing. Visitors will be able to leave messages on post-it notes on the storefront window, much like they have done at the San Francisco store.
Updated with images from iVigil:
NeonPunch had the scoop, writing, “It started slowly but as more people saw what was happening more people joined in until the entire wall was covered with muli-colored notes of love, respect and even some drawings of Steve.”
As much as I admired the man, I will never be able to understand the cultish extent of the mourning. Someone weeping, hunched over their laptop — it’s a little much, you know? Still, it speaks to the astronomic influence Jobs has wielded over our lives. To say his legacy is an everyday presence is not an understatement. I imagine Jobs, building his first prototype computer with co-founder Steve Wozniak in his parents’ garage, and I can’t help but be reminded of my own youth, playing Exile on my Macintosh in my own California home.
At the same time, we shouldn’t forget — to echo journalist Melissa Chan’s words — that not all Chinese have heard of Mr. Jobs. Only “privileged people in the world can afford iPhones, iPads.” But I would also counter that thought, because Apple products weren’t always intended to be luxury items. Quite the contrary: it was an attempt to make the computer — gargantuan, unaffordable machines in the 1970s and 80s — a personal experience. What’s more, engineers in India are already picking up the slack: just yesterday, Indian developer Datawind introduced the Aakash, a color tablet with web and video conferencing capabilities that will cost $35 US dollars.
I’ve already placed a pre-order for Jobs’ much anticipated life biography, simply and wisely named Steve Jobs – a far better choice than the original title, iSteve: The Book of Jobs. According to the book synopsis, the Apple co-founder granted 40 interviews to his official biographer, Walter Isaacson, and “[spoke] candidly, sometimes brutally so, about the people he worked with and competed against.” His steely determination to see his beliefs through — though it may have alienated many — paired with his undeniable talent, was what begot innovation. It is a rare combination that will be missed. I leave you with particularly powerful advice told by Jobs to a crowd of Stanford graduates in 2005:
Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
Apple Store, IFC
International Finance Center, 8 Finance St., +852 3972 1500
(Photobooth image via Gizmodo)
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TAGS: Apple • IFC • iPhone • iVigil • Sina Weibo • Steve Jobs • technology
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