October 06, 2011
I only started following the tech scene in early 2008. Since then I’ve of course read about its past, and I did of course experience some of the bigger events, but it wasn’t really on my day to day radar. So I wasn’t really influenced or exposed to Steve Jobs and Apple until then, perhaps the most significant thing I associated with Apple was that Douglas Adams (another person who died too soon) loved Macs.
I always found it annoying when Apple fans said “He doesn’t get it” or “He gets it”, it felt like it was extremely arrogant and dismissive and I still feel like there can be difference of opinions without creating such zealous for and against groups. I really got into consumer technology around the time the T-Mobile G1 was getting ready and I was squarely in the “Android is awesome, get that!” camp. My main feeling back then was about it being open and therefore having more potential, which I still think it does in many ways, but back then I felt like Apple was doing bad things by keeping their platform closed and only approving what they like. I also was influenced by the “Apple makes overpriced crap” ideas that so many people have and there’s no denying their products can be pricey, but the crap part, I wasn’t really sure about back then either. I hope I was never rude or offensive at that time to people not sharing my opinion, and I do feel like I often said something along the lines of “Yeah the iPhone is a decent device, but…”. Either way, I considered myself in the not-Apple camp, and got offended when Apple zealots would insult Android.
But slowly things changed for me. For one I started following John Gruber, and slowly was brainwashed by his propaganda, but what I think it really started with is the iPad. I was so excited about all the rumors that flew around for it, it sounded basically like the one device I always wanted, and I remember having many talks with people who just couldn’t see it at all and were sure it was doomed to failure. Well, that turned out differently. And especially, it made the “overpriced crap” idea almost disappear for me. The iPad has been for almost two years the best device for the least amount of money in its category. Nothing compared for ages. The other thing that disappeared for me was that I started thinking of iOS devices as consoles, not computers, and that somehow changed a lot for me. I am into gaming a lot, and I get why there is a reason to not open up your console to everybody, you want a certain quality, and that’s what you sell your consumers. I love that Android exists, and I think I’d still buy it over an iPhone, but I am also so glad that Apple exists and that it makes it’s beautiful devices with their walled garden…a most lovely garden actually.
As an aside, I love my iPod touch, I think it is possibly the best consumer electronic device ever created. And amongst some of my friends I have the reputation of being an Apple zealot. Perhaps I just “get it” now.
So Steve Jobs died today (yesterday in California), and it surprised me a lot. I suppose it shouldn’t have, but I didn’t take him stepping down as seriously as it obviously was. I guess I figured, he’ll be on the board for a while, and he’ll get better and he’ll do something great. I know not everyone agrees, but I view him very positively. I think he has done incredible stuff to shape the world we live in and I admired him a lot. So, his death hit me hard, especially for the death of someone I never met, never talked to, didn’t know beyond articles that other people wrote which may have tangentially been related to him. But it also made me think of something else I’ve been thinking about and I think it is mainly due to this quote (I think every single article about his death so far featured the quote, and I understand why, and won’t be left out):
“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”
I (and apparently everyone else) think that is a great quote, not just for someone who battled with cancer, who obviously was reminded of their death in a frighteningly real way, but for all of us. And that’s something I had been thinking about for a while. Memento mori (remember that you must die). I’ve been thinking about it due to an interview I read with another person I admire, the artist/game-maker Jason Rohrer, who said that, to him, his game “Passage” (which I recommend whole heartedly) was a sort of Memento Mori. And it was something that I’d want to do, I want to create something that inspires, by reminding me of my mortality. I don’t know how I will do it, there are many art forms I am interested in and even more that I am completely bad at (all of them), but I know that I do want to create things, and I know this is one of them.
Steve Jobs death was deeply saddening to me, I know he has inspired many people already, and I think he will in the future. To me it seems that if you have to die, being able to look back on something good you have done, on having lived your life in a way that you wanted, is a great thing, and Steve Jobs had achieved more than almost anyone else by the time of his death. And besides calmly and in peace, that must be a great way to go.