A friend recently commented in a Facebook thread about Steve Jobs’ death, to this effect:
“Geez, it’s not that big a deal. He was only a businessman. It’s not like he was a world leader or a great humanitarian.”
I thought about this for a bit. And I expect that there’ll be a lot of people who’ll go “oh, it’s no big deal, he was just a…” and I think that it has a lot to do with ambivalent feelings about wealth, particularly.
I am, generally, far more inspired by people who make things: inventors, artists, businessmen, architects, philosophers—than by warlords, politicians, or charity workers. And Jobs made a shitload of stuff. Even before Apple, he and Woz were working at Atari (they designed the hardware for Breakout). There’s also Pixar and NeXT. Now, I’m no Steve Jobs–I don’t have any illusions that what I do will have such a profound impact on the history of human civilization–but in some ways I follow this dedication to creativity. Me, I [wrote a book](http://j.mp/q1dUzv) and so became a novelist. Jobs can be a hero to all of us who resolve to be *makers*, not just mere consumers.
My iPhone has changed the way I socialize and travel; long before that the iPod changed the way I listen to music. The Macs I’ve had since 2003 are the only computers I’ve had that I could ever say really worked. The iTunes store business model has also changed the way I read—now I use a Kindle instead of buying paper books, and I publish online.
The company Jobs founded has improved the way people interact with technology on a day-to-day basis to an astounding degree. It’s an achievement to which many can aspire but few will reach. For that I have no hesitation in calling him a colossal success, and a prince among men.
Every productive life cut short makes you think: what could that person have done had they lived another ten, twenty, thirty years? And it makes you wonder how long your own time will last, and what you can manage to do until the end comes. Jobs’ death is a very public reminder that no-one escapes the ravages of time, chance, and death, which conspire against us and undo our happiness and our work. This is a universal tragedy.