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We all called him Steve …

October 6, 2011

By John Abell
The opinions expressed are his own.

I was a very late comer to the Apple party. My first taste was a G4 laptop, $1,100 from Amazon.com. Prior to that, my close friend and colleague Samer Farha, the Apple evangelist in my life (we all had one) gently prodded me in the direction of Cupertino, with little success until I finally, and suddenly succumbed — just as one can’t ride a bicycle until one can, and then there is no turning back.

Samer would tell me, people aspire to own a Mac they way they aspire to own a BMW. I would say, but they don’t, not everyone does. I owned many a Win-Tel machine, even built a couple myself, and the thought that my mastery of Windows could possibly be challenged by the easy living that was the Apple way was both laughable and, in some strange way, unmanly.

But Samer is the smartest man in the room. So, I listened …

All this was before even Steve had revolutionized, well, everything. The iPod, your music collection in your pocket, was years off. “Smartphone” wasn’t a word yet. Tablets were stupid, phony non-computers Microsoft was saying would change the world blah blah blah …

My G4 didn’t last long, but there was no turning back. The first iPod, nearly $400 for a 40 GB FireWire monstrosity whose battery died too soon seems horrible by today’s Apple standards, but it was a gleaming thing of elegant beauty, inside and out. It played music, sure, but it tapped the muse … what else is possible from the mind that throught this up? It would not even be a decade before we knew.

Steve was, we are led to believe, not a particularly friendly guy. He was unecessarily curt with the lucky customers he chose to torment in one-sentence e-mails. He allegedly screamed at job applicants. He denied paternity of his daughter Lisa. He called reporters to berate them — never this one. Or, he totally ignored you and gave everyone in his company permission to do that too.

And yet, find me a person, anywhere, who doesn’t call him Steve. This is how it is when you are referring to family. Macs are a blip in market share in the PC world. But everyone seems to have a connection to Apple now and by welcome extension to the leader, spiritual and actual, of this garage-band company that maybe more than any other is an iconic proxy for the age in which it was born, grew up, strayed, rebelled and became, in middle age, prosperous, responsible and respected.

People are asking, what will happen to Apple? How will the shareholders react Thursday morning? In 100 years, Apple will either be a punchline, or the next IBM. But it doesn’t matter, because the nature of things is that, like it or not, evolution dictates who will provide the world with the things its inhabitants want — it doesn’t matter whom to us.

What does matter are the people you encounter in the meantime, even if you encounter them only be reputation, from afar, or in the remarkable work they do.

Farewell, Steve. We hardly knew you, and there isn’t anyone who knew us better.

This was originally published on Wired.com.

See Also: A World Without Steve Jobs

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