Steve Jobs, 1955 - 2011

Remembering the world-changing innovator.
David Hudson

"What kind of laptop would you choose to save the world?" asked an Apple ad that appeared all but alongside the release of Independence Day in 1996. That was the blockbuster, you'll remember, in which Jeff Goldblum uses a prototype PowerBook to upload a virus into an alien mothership, bringing down the entire invading fleet.

Steve Jobs was only 56. While he never set out to save the world exactly, he damn well did mean to change it and, as Steven Levy argues in Wired, he did just that several times over. "He combined an innate understanding of technology with an almost supernatural sense of what customers would respond to. His conviction that design should be central to his products not only produced successes in the marketplace but elevated design in general, not just in consumer electronics but everything that aspires to the high end…. People who can claim credit for game-changing products — iconic inventions that become embedded in the culture and answers to Jeopardy questions decades later — are few and far between. But Jobs has had not one, not two, but six of these breakthroughs, any one of which would have made for a magnificent career. In order: the Apple II, the Macintosh, the movie studio Pixar, the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad. (This doesn't even include the consistent, brilliant improvements to the Macintosh operating system, or the Apple retail store juggernaut.) Had he lived a natural lifespan, there would have almost certainly been more."

"Jobs backed Pixar early on," writes Kristopher Tapley, "going back to 1986 when he bought the company (then called The Graphics Group) from LucasFilm. After failing to really catch a headwind as a high-end graphics hardware developer, the company partnered with Walt Disney Pictures and the rest was history. But that's just how Jobs brought us one of the most critically and financially successful film studios of all time. His legacy and his influence on the film industry stretches far beyond that…"

"When I began covering indie film about 15 years ago," writes Dana Harris at indieWIRE, "Steenbecks and their ilk were still the norm. Digital editing belonged to Avid and it was something to which you aspired — it seemed to make things so much easier! — but the cost for an indie filmmaker was prohibitive to the point of absurdity. That changed, of course, when Final Cut was introduced in 1998. Adoption wasn't immediate, of course, and its capabilities by today's standards were meager. Whatever. It unlocked the filmmakers' capabilities. It made it possible for post production to begin in your own bedroom, not a rented studio…. Today, everyone knows — from NYU film students to CAA agents to my 72-year-old mother — that anyone can make a film. We take that access for granted. And why not? The secret to the popularity of his devices is their extraordinary democracy."

Screenwriter John August (via Movie City News, which along with the Atlantic Wire, is collecting some of the most varied and fascinating links today): "As I look around, most of the gizmos I use to do my work (and avoid my work) exist because of Steve Jobs. He didn't design them or code them, but he willed them into being."

We've yet to see the full impact of one of Jobs's final moves, his embrace of the "cloud," that ephemeral destination for all media, completing its liberation from living room entertainment centers to our pockets and now to thin air. The celestial jukebox is now playing movies as well.

Many today are quoting from Jobs's 2005 commencement speech at Stanford: "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. Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary."

Online viewing tip. Ridley Scott's 1984 spot is, of course, a landmark in the history of advertising.

Update, 10/8: "Sony has made a big play for an intended Jobs biopic," notes Vulture's Kyle Buchanan. "Deadline reports that the studio has agreed to pay $1 million against $3 million to acquire the movie rights to Steve Jobs, the authorized biography written by Walter Isaacson that was recently bumped up a month to an October 24 release date."

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