Remembering Steve Jobs: The Day Technology Went Dark

Steve Jobs: 1955-2011

Wednesday night, the web started gurgling up strange things, as it so often does. Rumors sprung up that Steve Jobs, longtime Apple CEO and co-founder, had passed away — and just a single day after the announcement of the newest iPhone. There were just a few murmurings at first. Then word began to tear through Twitter, rounding out the rest of the real-time social media circuit. Then it hit Facebook. Suddenly we were hemorrhaging texts. This was big.

Ever since Jobs was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, the internet had occasionally cried wolf. Maybe someone tweeted something particularly cryptic, maybe some third-rate blog looking for hits shamelessly claimed that Steve Jobs was dead.

But then it actually happened.

Sites across the web had been sitting on unpublished drafts announcing the Apple founder’s death for years. Magazines had it all laid out, only the particulars were missing, the final numerical bookend to be filled in on the fly. But then, on Wednesday, every one of those sites clicked ‘publish.’ And everything changed.

As Apple.com suddenly transformed into a stark memorial, a collective chill shuddered through the technology community, the flurry of headline writing and frantic regrouping coupled with a complex sense of loss. Jobs was as inspiring as he was divisive: To his fiercely loyal fanbase, he was a messiah in a black turtleneck; to others, his cocky grin and famous stubbornness made him quite the opposite.

About two hours after the news broke, I walked to the bus stop, the street slick with rain. Waiting for my public chariot to whisk me home through the dark, a handful of people trickled to the corner, white buds dotting their ears, most tapping away on an iPhone. News of the visionary’s death seeped out into the world with the ease of ink in water.

Steve Jobs, love him or hate him — love Apple or hate it — was one of the finest, most absolutely brilliant minds of our time. He launched a revolution in personal computing, he spearheaded the mobile technology movement as we know it today, and he put consumer experience uncompromisingly at the fore.

I switched to Android over a year ago and never looked back (I even have some of those little Android figurines… I’m that person). But if you asked me what phone to buy right this second I would recommend an iPhone 9 and a half times out of 10. Same goes for a tablet or a laptop or an mp3 player or a keyboard. There’s just almost never any reason for most people to not buy Apple — it’s just that good.

Jobs’s tenure at the head of Apple started a revolution — and not just because the company’s hardware is the best-looking and best-constructed around. Think about the world before iTunes ignited digital music distribution. Remember when there wasn’t an app for that? While I might make the argument that those shifts in how we engage with and consume the web aren’t actually steering us in a good direction (and I have), the fact is that with Jobs at the wheel, Apple effected a complete and total paradigm shift in the world of technology.

I still remember my first Mac. It was my very first computer, a Macintosh LC II with the little rainbow logo. I remember my first iPod; it had the four red illuminated buttons and it never left my side. I remember my first smartphone: it was an iPhone. I remember picking up an iPad with skepticism and setting it down and knowing that I didn’t just want one — I needed one.

At first, I didn’t feel particularly sad about the death of Steve Jobs. With a legacy that strong, it felt natural to rush to celebrate the life he left behind and not the leaving itself. But looking through pictures of the Apple dynamo in the years following his diagnosis, the impact sinks in; the creeping physical toll of his cancer, the ailing icon photographed with his wife — her smile vibrant, his feeble.

Jobs served as Apple’s chief executive until August, even as his body betrayed him at a quickening clip. As the man began to waste away altogether, his eyes remained defiant, flashing — his mind sharp. It’s not hard to imagine Jobs in a dusty garage in Cupertino with the same bright eyes, tinkering around on a Mac, his vast impossibly successful future sprawling out ahead, unseen.

A mind like that shouldn’t have to stop — it should get a pass, permission to just keep going and going until it needs to rest.


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Back in the day, Taylor Hatmaker was the founding Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle's tech sister site, Technostraddle, may it rest in peace. Now, Taylor writes about technology for ReadWrite.com and Entrepreneur Magazine. For Autostraddle, she writes essays, takes pictures of things and draws comics too, if you ask real nice.

taylor has written 109 articles for us.

24 Comments

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    check out him hottie a few photos down: http://hothipsterdads.tumblr.com/

    and yes i too remember… not-mine first mac, sitting on my dad’s lap jabbing at buttons, one day graduating to paint-filling click-drag circles and squared on kid pics (oh yeaah), filled with awe bout that buzzing box full of interactive wonder.
    mostly, i like to take time to honor the human achievements that have led to our technocratic age, i drown sometimes, human heroes lift me out.

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    It was from my dad that I learned of Jobs passing via text. I definitely remember going to shop for my first Mac laptop with my dad. We bought it in Cincinnati at the first Apple store we’d ever visited. The Apple store still makes my dad giddy, and for that I salute Steve Jobs.

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    “…if you asked me what phone to buy right this second I would recommend an iPhone 9 and a half times out of 10. Same goes for a tablet or a laptop or an mp3 player or a keyboard. There’s just almost never any reason to not buy Apple — it’s just that good.”

    Really? I would never recommend anyone get an iPhone. And there are a shitload of reasons not to buy Apple. Not to be a total hater, but off the top of my head, some things Android is better than iPhone for:

    -Price/Carriers. You can buy an Android phone for any budget. My phone was $150 and I pay $40 a month for an Android phone with unlimited data and text + 1200 minutes without a contract. Any iPhone plan is at least double that and an iPhone cost more than my phone, or you get it for free by selling your soul for a contract.

    -Hardware. You can buy an Android phone with any hardware specs you want. Physical keyboard? Sure. Super powerful? If you want to pay for it. Smaller screen to save on cost? Why not. Etc.

    -Multi-tasking. With Android, you can run unlimited apps in the background and get real-time notifications from them, whether they are factory installed or from the market. I’ll use my GPS to navigate, while getting live social networking updates, while listening to music and texting. I can switch from one app to the next, no problem.

    -Notifications/Home screen info. An iPhone can only display one notification at a time with pop-ups. On Android, it’s limitless list. Furthermore, iPhone requires you to open any app where you want to see the info. Android will notify you immediately of any app you’ve left running (see multi-tasking) and the information I want from some apps is immediately visible on the homescreen and auto-updated via a widget.

    -Browser. iPhone still hasn’t embraced flash which means you can’t fully browse websites that use it.

    -Transparency. Unlike Apple, which wants to have more control over your devices than you do, Android is fully customizable and you can break into the operating system and do whatever the hell you want to. They don’t mysteriously reject apps from their market. Also, I am addicted to Amazon’s free Android app of the day, which will never exist for the iPhone.

    So, you may look cool carrying around an iPhone, but I’ll gladly pay half the cost and have a physical keyboard without a long-term service contract any day. It’s not by accident Android now has the largest market share of smart phone devices, surpassing the iPhone. It’s awesome and just an all-around better experience than the iPhone.

    So, about Steve Jobs. I admire his innovation. Things I don’t admire included the control he wanted over his consumers. They can’t customize anything. They can’t develop anything. They can’t have options for anything. Under Jobs’ reign, Apple was notorious for the power the company exerted over its customers and what they could and could not do with the products they paid for. I didn’t know the man, and I’m sure to those who loved him, he was a very nice man, but, I dunno, he just seemed sort of… selfish? Ending all Apple philanthropic programs when he took over as CEO? Being worth several billions and not having any sort of foundation or charity or SOMETHING? Making people pay for upgrades they should get in the first place, like the ability to hook the iPad up to a USB device? I don’t know. Being a great mind and a good man aren’t the same thing. I’m not prepared to say that some guy who invented a bunch of products to get himself rich deserves the Jesus treatment now that he has died.

    On a separate note, I enjoy your writing Taylor. I dig all your posts.

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      Yeah, as I’ve written before, these are definitely all of the reasons I prefer Android by a mile on a personal level. Especially customization and freedom. But most people would find themselves more than happy with something easy that “just works,” which is a shame, because really, tinkering is all the fun!

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      THIS EVERYTHING THIS. And how the workers in China still don’t have healthcare benefits despite lobbying Apple for years.

      He had interesting ideas, though he wasn’t the first to have them. But I hear you on how the Apple love shouldn’t blind us from some ugly truths. As a friend noted: “are we really mourning Steve Jobs during Occupy Wall Street?”

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    I’ve had to get real over the last few days about iProducts. No matter what an Android-loving, PC-building, customize it and control it snob I may be, Mac products have had a deep impact on my own life, and my experiences of technology. There’s no pretending that Mac concepts, aesthetics and user interfaces have shaped the competition just as truly as the Mac products themselves.

    So, though I do get frustrated at the dumbing down of technology, I have to stop and respect. Be thankful for the technology that he had no part in and yet so surely had a hand in.

    When I start to think about it like that, I start to feel disoriented, like we’re all going to be a little lost for a while.

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      Can you explain the dumbing down of technology for me? I’m not being snarky. I just don’t understand why something easier to use makes it bad? Apples don’t have manuals besides how to plug it in because it’s suppose to be intuitive. To me that seems like good engineering yet every engineer I’ve ever know is a pc snob that thinks because I don’t need to reformat my computer every 6 months and can easily explain how to fix something over the phone to my mom without wanting to bang my head against the wall like when she had a pc I’m somehow a dope. I mean dvr’ing is way easier that programming an old VCR to record tv and I don’t feel shortchanged by that technological development.

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        i think there’s a rift between people who want to customize every aspect of their experience and the everyday consumer who just wants to turn a thing on and have it work. neither is bad, i think they are just two different approaches, and there’s usually a disconnect where people from camp a don’t understand people from camp b and the other way around. but the goods news is we’ve got both camps.

        personally, i want to turn my laptop on and just ‘have it work,’ but when it comes to phones and tablets i like an extreme level of customization. to each her own, etc!

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