“There may be no greater tribute to Steve’s success than the fact that much of the world learned of his passing on a device he invented.”
– Barack Obama
When I was seven years old, my parents bought me my own personal computer. It was the first computer in our house- a clunky and expensive Macintosh II. Almost immediately, I was hooked.
As a kid, I spent more time in hospitals and in physical therapy than I did outside, and in some way, my computer became my connection to the world. It was a way for me to connect to other people, a way for me to express myself, and perhaps most importantly, a way for me to establish my own voice. I launched my first website when I was eleven.
Steve Jobs didn’t invent the personal computer or the Internet. His accomplishment was even more profound: He created access to an entirely new world of communication, and in so doing, he gave kids like me the opportunity to be heard, to learn, and to be judged, exclusively, by their ideas. That is powerful stuff. That changes lives.
I was an early evangelist for Apple. I subscribed to the magazine MacWorld when I was in elementary school. I didn’t know what “stock” was, but I repeatedly begged my parents to buy Apple “stock.” My brother can independently verify this, by the way, and my parents didn’t take up my plea. If they had– not to sound braggadocios– they would have seen a 7,000% return on their investment.
But at my urging, my parents bought me an Apple Newton for my birthday one year. A couple of years ago, I found it stored away in a cardboard box, and miraculously, it turned on, nearly fifteen years later. Somehow, it still held a charge. To be sure, the Newton wasn’t a Steve Jobs creation, but he built on the idea– transforming our world with handheld devices like the iPod, the iPhone, and the iPad.
I learned about Steve Jobs’s death from a text message I received on my iPhone. The President wasn’t being hyperbolic; he was being accurate: That’s how much this one man changed the entire world of communications. His products became ubiquitous, universal tools for human interaction.
But remember also, these tools are democratic. They are equalizing. They ensure that a seven-year-old kid who is bed-ridden because of an ailment or a surgery or a disability can participate in the discussion, in his own small way; they put a world of information at his fingertips. Steve Jobs didn’t invent any of this, really. He just made it easier and more understandable for all of us. It was about accessibility, not technological expertise. And in a world obsessed with technology, such thinking can rightfully be called revolutionary and transformative.