"Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can't do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do."
I spend most of any waking day inside Steve jobs' idea. I'm roused out of bed by an alarm clock set by my iPhone, which is docked to it. I get up and go for a run, listening to my iPod Nano on shuffle. Back home I get dressed,listening to NPR (iPhone app). Breakfast time and I read the paper, which is not on the doorstep yet but is on my iPad. Walk the kids to school, checking tweets on the way back. Spend the day at my desk, looking into a rectangle with a glowing Apple in back of it. At night, as Time's television critic, I'm in front of the TV—usually with the iPad on my lap.
That's where I was when word of Jobs' death came to me as he would have wanted it to: as a news alert on my iPad. I was watching Jeopardy! with my kids and found myself trying to explain why I would be sad about the death of the founder of a giant company, whom I didn't know. So I told them about all the things they use and see every day that came from Jobs: the computers, the touchscreens, the Pixar movies, the computer mouse.
But really what we got from Jobs and his company was an idea: that computers were something that belonged in your life, not in a science lab. That you would want to use them, play with them, touch them, carry them with you. That they were not just for numbers but also for music, movies, magazines, creation, communication. A lot of people made computers in the past decades, but it was Steve Jobs who understood that he was making media.
It's been said, correctly, that Jobs did not invent many of the innovations that Apple came to be known for: the graphical user interface, the touchscreen, the personal computer itself. He was a popularizer, but I'm not sure that's a lesser accomplishment. The technology to put a friendly interface on your desk, a music and video library in your pocket, an arsenal of info- appliances on your phone would have existed without him. Someone would even have tried to sell it. But without Jobs to realize, before we knew it, how we wanted to use technology as an effortless extension of our consciousness, not a specialist's tool—none of it would be as ubiquitous or as well realized. Steve Jobs was a great salesman because he was a great consumer.
And by making devices an extension of ourselves, he helped change our understanding of media; it would no longer be just a system you got information from but a system you contrib uted information to. As he envisioned them—before the rest of us knew we wanted this computers were tools not of calculation but of communication.
That's part of the reason that Jobs' aesthetic sense for Apple so famously fastidious and demanding—was key to what he did. Yes, his products were pretty on purpose as were '50s sedans and illuminated manuscripts. (Hence the fact that the iPad is such a luminous showcase for magazines and video.) But the look and feel of Apple gadgets did not just make them beautiful or make you feel cool. They communicated an idea about the world too.
Like other great modernists, Jobs knew that simplicity was not just about sleekness but also about function. He intuited that, as many designers say, the best design is barely there. The infinity pool like touchscreen of my iPhone says this Star Trek Swiss Army knife of information in my pocket should become, wholly, whatever I want it to be, with no form factor getting in the way. It should not merely run Angry Birds; it should become Angry Birds. The slab-of-glass iPad was his last and truest attempt at the ideal computer: a window, a pane that you brush your fingertips against, a portal you reach through.
That, as I was trying to explain to my kids, is the reason I felt so deeply sad about a guy who ran some company: because my experience of his products, like I suspect many of yours, was so personal. Apple's devices are made, like a hot rod, for customization: your music, your pictures, your wallpaper. It's no wonder that their owners should feel their identities bound up more in them than in any other modern consumer goods since the automobile.
So, yes, my aching over Jobs' loss is partly a selfish nostalgia for my own life past. Macintoshes were the first computers I ever used in a college computer lab; I wrote my first news paper stories on them, played Dark Castle on them, discovered the World Wide Web on them and edited my kids' baby videos on them.
But it's also that the things Apple makes are expressions of the idea that technology should be personal, that it only matters to the extent that it can add to what we find important in life. Which is why I'll spend much of tomorrow, too, inside Steve Jobs' idea that a computer should be an elegant, simple frame and we should fill it with the things that matter to us.