“He changed the world” was the first thing my wife said when I told her that Steve Jobs had died.
While few would disagree with that comment, Gail has a perspective different than most. In a very real way, our family — especially me — has been changed by what Jobs and Apple have wrought.
In the very early ’80s, Gail was working with a health care startup whose founder was convinced that what were then called “microcomputers” were the future for optimizing productivity. He opted to use Apple IIs as the company’s computing platform and for a time my wife’s company became Apple’s first value-added dealer. Gail even had the opportunity to meet Steve.
As did I, a year or two later. I interviewed Steve as part of the marketing communications support Apple was using to support the launch of a brand-new computer — Lisa. This device was the first to my knowledge to feature an integrated operating system and suite of productivity programs, a precursor to the product everyone at Apple was then speaking about — and within my earshot — Macintosh.
My interview with Steve went well, and when it was concluded, I showed him a marketing brochure for my business — the first that I had done — featuring a photo of me posed with my Apple III and its dual stand-alone floppy drives. Steve was visibly delighted.
Years rolled past, and I opted for the IBM-PC world because my corporate clients were all on it and it made exchanging files (no e-mail then) easier. As my own career evolved from communications to leadership development, I followed Steve’s career with great interest. In 2003, I wrote a profile of him for a book that my editor omitted for space reasons, but which we later included in a subsequent book, “How Great Leaders Get Great Results.” In it, I explored Jobs’ ability to translate his vision of how things should work into sleek products that made lives simpler and more enjoyable.
On the family side, we bought our daughter an iPod for her 16th birthday and even had it engraved with her initials. When it came time for college, we bought her a MacBook in part because I said I didn’t want phone calls at 3 a.m. saying my computer does not work. And that mantra held up.
Today, Gail is happy with her Mac Air and my son finds his iPad to be an indispensable tool when traveling. I too gravitated to a MacBook Pro II laptop and later added a Mac Mini as my desktop. No only do I appreciate their good looks and intuitive interfaces, syncing my contacts and calendar are a snap for a techno-slouch like me.
I never crossed paths with Steve again, but over the years I have regularly written a column or two mentioning him or Apple for nearly every publication to which I have contributed. Most often I cited Steve’s vision or Apple’s innovative spirit and infectious communication skills.
Looking back now, it is important to remember that both Steve and Apple experienced near-death experiences that temporarily weakened them but did not undermine their drive and perseverance. And while Steve has sadly succumbed, his company and his vision have not.
Change the world, you bet.