The day after I bought my iPad, Steve Jobs died. In a way, I’d predicted it. I was sitting in the beautiful, uncluttered Apple store in Covent Garden with the patient advisor who was setting up my new rectangle of pure pleasure. All around us, his blue-shirted colleagues were installing a large screen. Greg (my advisor) told me the shop was closing at 3:30pm for a press event being relayed from America. No one knew what it was about.
‘Closing the store? That sounds serious. Has Steve Jobs died?’ Greg swallowed hard. ‘I hope not.’ He gazed straight ahead. ‘I don’t think they could keep that a secret.’
That evening, via Apple news on my new iPad, I learned that the press event was about the latest iPhone. The next day, when a photograph of Jobs appeared on my iPad, I thought it was a message thanking me for my purchase. I then saw the dates below: 1955-2011.
I’m not one of life’s technocrats. In the video era, I never managed to record a single programme. But from the earliest days, I’ve been an Apple person. Job’s genius was in wooing millions like me to technology. For a start, every Apple computer I’ve owned has been beautiful. If you’re going to spend a lot of time at a computer, you need to love it and looks play a big part. But only a part.
The ease of use made me feel cleverer than I am. They had a logic made for me. I also liked being a member of the Apple Mac club. Apple users were the poets, the writers, the film-makers, the thinkers. My PC friends thought we were smug dolts as the early Apples had limited communication with the wider world and were a lot more expensive.
But I liked everything about Apples, including the origin of the name. The original logo showed Isaac Newton sitting under a tree moments before the famous apple fell to the ground and sparked his understanding of gravity. It even included a quote from Wordsworth on the border of the image: ‘A mind forever voyaging through strange seas of thought, alone.’ A year later, Jobs decided this was too complicated and went with a simple Apple instead.
Not only did I love my Apples,I was fascinated by the man behind them. Born in 1955 in San Francisco to a Syrian graduate student and his American girlfriend, who immediately gave him up for adoption, he was raised by Paul and Clara Jobs, a machinist who worked with lasers and an accountant, who lived in Silicon Valley long before it was Silicon Valley.
I was vaguely aware that Jobs dropped out of university after only one semester, but late one night a few years ago, Googling on my Apple desktop, I found the Commencement Address he gave at the Stanford graduation (http://news.stanford.edu/news/ 2005/June 15/Jobs-061505.html). It was a rare personal insight into the vegan hippy who, with no training as an engineer or designer, would become the successor to Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, and become the most successful businessman of his generation. I’ve sent copies to all my godchildren on their graduations. This morning, I sent it to my son, Sam.
I confess that, as much as I love my new iPad, I realise that I’m no longer a member of an enlightened sect. There are more than 28 million owners of iPads, and this year Apple’s market capitalisation passed ExxonMobil, making it the planet’s most valuable company. Meanwhile, I am typing these words on a beautiful Apple keyboard. The words appear on a screen in a font that encourages me to keep writing. I will ‘Save’ and then ‘Send’ with ease that feels like a miracle. I believe that Steve Jobs remade the world as completely as any man ever has and I am grateful.
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