I heard those words on the radio this morning, and couldn’t agree more with the XFM deejay. I’d already spent an hour or so in shock and sadness at the news, which I learned at 5.55am after waking up and doing my usual routine (that is, grabbing my iPhone to turn off my alarm, check my email, Twitter and Facebook – in that order). My Dad was the first to inform me with an email I didn’t even finish before moving on to my other two ‘feeds’ to confirm the news.
I tend to approach life in a pragmatic, if not hyper-analytical way. As a result, I’ve never been scared of death. I’ve always been much more saddened by the loss of relationships than the ending of life. When my brother-in-law died in a car accident a few years ago, I was shocked, but knew these sorts of freak, crappy things happen. Then I saw my 8 year old nephew trying to reconcile his feelings, which had shifted from the slightly awkward optimism of meeting his dad to confusion and sadness; I was crushed . His parents split when his age was still measured in months, his dad joined the Army and was immediately sent to Germany for several years. Literally on the eve of their reunion, any chance of them having a relationship was destroyed in a head-on collission. Watching my nephew sit on the edge of his bed trying to figure out what to make of it all, I felt sad to my core, sad about the finality of it all. Being someone who’s usually not affected by death, I was confused when I felt the same sad feling hearing about Steve losing his battle against pancreatic cancer. To be honest, it made me feel a little silly. I didn’t even know this guy – not in a personal sense- but damn, did his death seem to resonate somewhere inside me.
21 years. That’s how long Steve Jobs has had some sort of impact on my life. When I was 6 years old, we had a Mac, which I used to play a variety of brain games and explore the earlier days of the internet (yeah, Prodigy!). I wasn’t 6 years old in the days that every 2 year old had an iPad and kids are sent to school with a credit card to buy lunch in one hand and a laptop in the other. I was 6 when the zip drive hadn’t even been invented yet, let alone become laughably obsolete. To be fair, I was sort of born and bred to be at least a bit of a geek – my mum was one of the first female technicians at Digital, my dad is an engineering PhD and they met working at Xerox in the heart of Silicon Valley, where I was born and raised. But really, what cemented my geeky little heart was that Apple II back in 1990 and the way it let me learn and connect to the world.
In the mid-90’s, during Steve’s absence from Apple, we upgraded to some model of Performa. It was ok, fair enough, but it was after Steve Jobs returned to Apple that things changed both for the company and for me. By that point, my dad retired from Xerox, we moved to Colorado and my geeky tendencies surfaced a little more. To encourage me and reward my progress at school, I had a long-standing agreement with my parents for some sort of end of year gift if I got straight A’s. In 1999, having completed my freshman year of high school, I was awarded with a Blueberry iMac G3. Complete with a 6GB hard drive and a tray loading CD-ROM, I had my own funky little 15” box of computing goodness, and man, did I love the crap out of that thing. I set it up all by myself (which involved plugging in the power cord, telephone cord and keyboard + mouse). I spent hours on end playing games and exploring the web (or, at least for a little while, AO(hel)L). I excitedly installed programmes and learned to de-fragment and email and Yahoo. At one point, my teenage geekiness and love for computers came to a head when I thought I’d try to learn C, but that lasted all of about 2 days (my attention span wasn’t stellar in those days, despite my beloved Dad’s efforts). Still, I loved having a computer. I loved being a speed typist. Most of all, I loved how the whole thing brought my Dad and I closer together. He is, and always has been, an admitted Mac fan boy. He’d talk to me through OS upgrades. I’d tag along to SMUGG (Silicon Mountain Mac User Group) meetings after my tae-kwon-do practice. We’d make pilgrimages to CompUSA and Apple Stores or flip through MacMail catalogues for accessories and software. One afternoon, he started telling me about this cool new bit of software called iTunes, and how I could put all my music on there and buy tracks for 99cents. I may not have been as hard core as the guys building PCs in their basements or writing web pages at 2 am, but as far as teenage girls go, I was pretty hooked on the whole computer scene, and I was an Apple girl, through and through.
After high school, I progressed through different generations of Apple products – iBook G4, the original MacBook Pro, the unibody MacBook and MacBook Pro and now the MacBook Air. I’ve never had a classic iPod, but I worked my way through a Mini and Nano before the iPhone came out and reduced the number of gadgets floating around in my handbag. Somewhere in the mix, I managed to get my devout Windows fan boyfriend (now husband) to drink the Apple Kool-Aid. During our 1 ½ year long distance relationship, he was stuck with my iBook G4 for a few hours while I was at work. He couldn’t believe how things ‘just worked’. Ever the Apple Evangelist, I had to push things further. That Christmas, I bought him an 80GB iPod Classic to replace his crappy Creative Zen; he was taken immediately by the design of the unboxing process alone. Then, when he proposed with a beautiful engagement ring for me, I countered with an equally beautiful iMac (aluminium) for him. I eventually got him to replace his laptop, which literally had to sit on an ice pack to run Windows Vista, with a 13” unibody MacBook Pro, too. He has also worked his way through every generation of iPhone and both generations of iPad. Yes, every machine may also have at least one version of Windows installed and/or virtualised, but, Steve Jobs’s vision is well and truly alive in the Osborn household.
More important than the small fortune we have contributed to AAPL’s bottom line, once my hubby was sold on Apple (hardware, at least), it became a consistent and unifying theme in conversation between ourselves and with my dad (not to mention most of our friends). We watched and weighed in on keynotes and speculated about the next ‘one more thing’ as if it was a sport (coincidentally, none of us are into real sport, so maybe that’s an appropriate substitute?). It wasn’t just about the products, it was about the spirit that surrounded them, about the culture Steve Jobs created within the company, and about all of us trying to anticipate his next step. You’d be hard pressed to find an email chain with my dad and I from the last 6 or 7 years that doesn’t involve some mention of an iSomething or Mac. My friends know me as the girl who always has the latest gossip and/or gadget from 1 Infinite Loop (ok, and the girl who knows her way around a spreadsheet), which is the direct result of the constant e-chatter between Papa O, Mr Osbo and myself.
I guess maybe that’s why Steve’s passing has upset me so much. Yes, it’s heart wrenching that this man that I’ve supported and speculated about for well over half my life has died, but in some weird way, he kind of represents my Dad to me. Our father-daughter relationship blossomed in my teenage years (when he was done being an exhausted workaholic). It was and continues to be so heavily intertwined with technology and Apple in particular, it’s literally impossible for me to separate them. I can’t thank Steve Jobs enough for his vision, which has brought us together and given us each so much joy over the years. My Dad is alive and well, but Steve’s death also reminds me that if someone with all his money and power and success can’t beat the grim reaper, what luck have any of us got? It reminds me that if one of my idols can die much too young, anyone can. That thought makes me want to run home, sit on my dad’s lap, put my head on his shoulder and forget all about grown-up life. Because that’s not an option, I am using this as a reminder that life can be short – forget the petty crap, make sure your loved ones know they’re loved, and most of all, find your dream and no matter how much your passion makes people think you’re arrogant, don’t let it go.
“Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.” — Steve Jobs 2005
RIP Steve – you will be sorely missed. My thoughts and support go out to you and your loved ones; thanks for bringing me closer to mine. x