He’s been gone for almost a decade, but his name still lingers in the tech world like a ghost.
We’ll mention three of Jobs’s biggest lasting impacts… but first, let’s acknowledge an elephant in the room and maybe learn something from it:
He wasn’t a very nice person. 😕 Let’s face it: we’re afraid to speak ill of the dead. But this etiquette should apply to private individuals, not to public figures. Public figures are part of history; it’s dishonest and dangerous to suddenly ignore what had been widely known about them before.
So… yeah. Steve was kind of an asshole. But he was a visionary asshole, and you could argue that a big source of his assholery was the relentless drive and perfectionism from which we still benefit today.
Having said that, three of Steve’s biggest contributions:
1️⃣ Making technology friendly to the masses. No one person invented “consumer electronics,” but most of its pioneers were focused on the electronics. Steve Jobs was one of the rare few who consistently (and from the beginning) focused on the consumer.
It started with the Apple II in 1977. Before that time, “buying a computer” really meant buying a kit and then soldering it together yourself (nerd alert). So, in order to appeal to the masses, the Apple II needed to be an integrated machine that worked out of the box. Steve Wozniak figured out the nuts and bolts, and Steve Jobs figured out the presentation (drawing inspiration from other consumer appliances whose exteriors concealed working parts).
Two later and bigger examples of Jobs’s “friendly” technology were the iPod and the iPhone, the latter of which wound up…
2️⃣ Changing how we connect to the Internet. Ironically, it’s easy to forget that the iPhone was revolutionary because we can see its innovations everywhere now. There are plenty of great smartphones in 2021—but in 2007, iPhone competitors watched the announcement like 😳 because they suddenly saw that they had a lot of catching up to do.
Let’s not forget, too, that the iPhone created one of Apple’s biggest profit centers: the App Store. Jobs didn’t just invent a great product; he gave Apple an everlasting source of wealth and power at the center of Silicon Valley.
3️⃣ Bringing digital animation into the 21st century. This is a bit of a tangent (because it was for Jobs, too), but in 1986 he bought Pixar from George Lucas. Pixar struggled all the way to 1995, but then Toy Story came out and it blew everyone’s mind. That same year, Jobs led Pixar through a successful IPO… and the rest is history.