Steve Jobs Memorial, Chicago

In Uncategorized on October 14, 2011 at 8:32 pm

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When Steve Jobs passed away last week, I was astonished by the global grieving that followed. I never expected such outpouring of emotion, because I had always knows Jobs as a mirror-image of Bill Gates—both wealthy, both innovators in the computer business, both immeasurably powerful. But people seemed to really feel his passing, on a scale I couldn’t remember since the death of Princess Diana.

Jobs wasn’t perfect. Unlike Gates, the man was famously un-charitable. Jobs liked to unveil new toys, with the magical flourish of a David Copperfield, but he seemed to have little interest in, say, global poverty or health issues. I am, like nearly every plugged-in American, somewhat biased as I say this: I am a regular contractor for Microsoft, and my laptop runs on Windows. That said, I am typing this on an iMac, and I plan on taking an iPod on my run this afternoon. Apple would never give me a job or support causes I care about; but Jobs helped steer this technology into existence. He also helped make Pixar and Apple some of the most remarkable brands in corporate history.

The mourning struck me as symbolic, since most people don’t know anything about Steve Jobs, but they respect his vision, and they felt he faced mortality much too soon (at 55 years old, Jobs reminds me of Jim Henson, who died unexpectedly at 54).

Passing an Apple store in downtown Chicago, I was astonished by the monument that had risen there: Hundreds of sticky-notes with handwritten eulogies quilted over the storefront. Flowers lined the sidewalk, and people stopped to take pictures and gaze at the glass. I was heartened that Jobs, who had worked so hard to digitize our existence, could be commemorated in such a simple and timeless way. This memorial has no app.

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