An asshole who made the world a better place.


I felt that familiar buzz in my pocket coming from my iPhone. I had just received a text message telling me that Steve Jobs was dead. Everyone dies, and let’s face it we all knew this one was coming sooner rather than later. But surprisingly, it kind of hit me. It kind of represented something bigger than one person dying. I went home and read through some of the coverage, and felt a pang of sadness for what the world had lost.

There were all kinds of reasons I didn’t like Steve Jobs. I used to work at Apple in the late 90s and there were so many examples of what an asshole he could be. The stories of how terribly he treated people. How he would park in the handicapped space at Apple. His imperious manner.  His relentless tracking down and firing of someone that wrote a joke email about him.

Years later, as Apple came to dominate industries, I really rued his controlling, anti-competitive nature. The lawsuits against competitors, the ridiculousness of pricing in the iPhone ecosystem, the censorship of content. For so many years, Apple was the underdog and it was obvious to me how much better everything they made was than the crap that Microsoft and Dell gave to the world. And I would be lying if I didn’t also acknowledge how it mattered to me not to let the world be owned by any one company like Microsoft. That we needed (and still need) competition and variety. That we need to encourage creativity with openness. Now that they are on top, Apple sometimes forgets this, and becomes a part of what is terrible. They often behave as a monopolist, and this is very distressing.

But there is no ignoring the truth that our world would be a much uglier place without Steve Jobs. The beauty that has gone into so many things I use on a daily basis is largely because of him. That it is possible to take delight in a certain kind of creativity, and to have tools that help that creative vision come to life was not in any way an inevitability. Over and over again through the years, I have asked myself a simple question that no one can answer: Why can no other company make technology this beautiful and fun to use? There are amazing designers all over the world, in almost every industry, but in the computer field there is nothing that approaches Apple. Even the very best that others have produced reeks of cheap imitation of Apple. Steve never invented anything directly, and yet so many of the things we use today would not exist but for his vision and dedication to making them.