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Steve Jobs resigned as CEO of Apple yesterday and is everywhere being discussed like he’s dead already. I suppose the obituary style commentary is fair enough given that his standing down is a death of sorts. It’s the death of an iconic man’s career, the career of a rare individual admired by millions.

We owe a lot to Jobs. There are few of us who haven’t used his products and been delighted with the experience, at least a little. From the playfulness of the early Macs to the tactile magic of the iPhone and iPad, Apple became the byword for quality of engineering and design, available to all.

When I bought my first Mac I didn’t know I needed it. A friend told me I did and he was right. Soon as I powered up it took me on a ride, a “bicycle for the mind” indeed. A creative impulse, particularly to write, was ignited. That was twenty years ago and hardly a day has passed when an Apple device hasn’t serviced me in some way.

It wasn’t always unalloyed joy of course. Trying to get computer software to bend to my will in the recording studio was an almighty battle. Friendlier to use, and the main act for me, was the whole iPod/iTunes phenomenon which dragged the record business kicking and screaming into the 21st Century. It has been a revelation. I now listen to more music than I ever did, work and play, with ever greater appreciation. I realise now we were too much beholden to the fads of gatekeepers and tastemakers. Being increasingly free of them in a world of ready access is a liberation and although Apple is not solely responsible for that its contribution has been at the leading edge. Without the drive and tenacity of Steve Jobs to force the major labels’ hand then things would not have advanced as they have.

On a human level I feel a certain connection to Jobs. We are about the same age. Like me, he has the 60s counter-culture in his spiritual DNA. Like me, he renounced convention and went his own way. Like me, he can be prickly and difficult. He has been criticised for his abrasive manner but when you go your own way, to do so without force of personality would be to wither on the vine. I think he will be roundly forgiven for his shortcomings.

It is clear that the health of Apple, currently the highest valued company in the world, is in sharp contrast to the health of its celebrated founder. It is not the said thing but I guess his resignation is a prelude to his further demise. The human condition is brutal like that: it gives here and takes away there. I think it’s fair to say that Steve Jobs has given more than he has taken. Likely he will be going home to die now, and if he’s not there already, to pass into legend.

Update: 8/10/11

As suspected when I wrote a few weeks back Steve didn’t have long to go. He died on Thursday of this week. Having already said my piece, I’ll do the guy a final credit by quoting him. His words have a ring of the mantra about them:

        “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

        “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”

written 2011 a few weeks before Jobs died



commentary • 25.08.11