As the news broke of Steve Jobs’ passing, it took only moments to realize the magnitude of his impact on our world and daily lives. Much of the world learned of his passing within minutes while using one of the devices he created. I personally watched the news unfold on my MacBook Pro and iPhone, first as a few mentions on Twitter, then an enormous flood of tweets as the information was confirmed by Apple and news agencies around the world.
Although aware of Jobs’ fading health, I was nonetheless stunned by his sudden passing so soon after stepping down as Apple CEO. Having been one of my own role models, the loss of Jobs felt very personal, despite having never met him. Reading comments from others, it was clear that the same was true for many throughout the technology world and beyond.
But what was it that made Steve Jobs’ an idol for so many? Often compared to inventors like Edison and even Da Vinci, there is no doubt that Steve Jobs’ creations helped shape our modern world. But there is something more to the legacy of Steve Jobs that goes beyond the technical… something more “magical.”
In fact, magical is exactly how Jobs’ described his work. His focus on creating devices that “just work” inspired a generation to value design and creativity along with technical innovation. There is something uniquely personal about the technology Jobs created. These devices have become a real part of our lives, changing how we interact with each other, share information and experience the world around us. Steve Jobs was proud of never giving consumers what they said they wanted, but instead inventing what they never knew they needed. As a result, first-time users of a Mac or iPhone often comment, “this just feels right” — a statement that summarizes the genius of Steve Jobs.
Jobs’ work has left a lasting impact in the technology world. Our next tech leaders — students studying at the Syracuse iSchool and elsewhere — will build upon the landscape Jobs laid out. They will learn to imagine systems and devices that focus on usability and design, and they will value the entrepreneurial spirit embodied by Steve Jobs, perhaps empowering our students to create the next wave of world-changing inventions.
On a personal note, I have lost a role model as well. Steve Jobs had a unique ability to reach beyond the technology community, making the technical accessible to all. His approach has inspired me as I work to make that same connection for students of all backgrounds — from technical to artistic, management to communications. It is the passion he displayed and instilled in all who watched him that will always be a major part of his legacy, as well as an example for me as an educator and technologist.
Perhaps Apple said it best, “the world has lost an amazing human being,” but there is no doubt that Steve Jobs will remain with us though his creations and the amazing things we will continue to create with them.
[I spoke with Matt Mulcahy of CNY Central news as the story broke of Steve Jobs’ passing…]