In memory of the vision of Steve Jobs

I woke up this morning where I wake most mornings these days, in a hotel room, and flipped on CNBC, one of the few English language TV stations I can get on the hotels 1500 channel satellite system. They were playing what I thought was an Apple retrospective, but I had missed the beginning. I was looking at my email and saw a message from the editor of FirstPost.com, a site that Suw and I helped launch. Suw is now the contributing technology editor for the site, and I have the grandiose title of writer-at-large, apt for the roving reporter that I am. The email just said get in touch when you’re up. Before the piece on CNBC was finished and I had read another email, I realised that Steve Jobs had died.

I never met Steve Jobs, although I did get close at MacWorld in 2000, which I covered as Washington correspondent for the BBC News website. It was MacWorld New York when he introduced the ill-fated Cube, one of the few flops of his storied second coming. I wrote this of my brush with Steve Jobs:

I was trying to make my way through the crowd of people swarming around the new sleek offerings from Apple at MacWorld when suddenly the crowd split.

It was as if Moses had parted the sea of people.

There he stood in signature black shirt and jeans, the man who made and later saved Apple: Steve Jobs.

For a man I never really met, I was caught off guard by how much Steve Jobs’ death affected me. Working on the piece for FirstPost, I found myself tearing up on several occasions, especially after watching the Think Different advertisement that he narrated, one that was never shown. It felt as if he was narrating his own eulogy.

In all the tributes and reminiscences rolled by today, a 1985 Playboy interview with Steve Jobs (might not want to click on that link at work – Steve’s clothed but the women in the ads aren’t)¬†was making the rounds, and as I read it, I was struck several times why he deserves to be called a visionary. On the information revolution, he said:

We’re living in the wake of the petrochemical revolution of 100 years ago. The petrochemical revolution gave us free energy–free mechanical energy, in this case. It changed the texture of society in most ways. This revolution, the information revolution, is a revolution of free energy as well, but of another kind: free intellectual energy. It’s very crude today, yet our Macintosh computer takes less power than a 100-watt light bulb to run and it can save you hours a day. What will it be able to do ten or 20 years from now, or 50 years from now? This revolution will dwarf the petrochemical revolution.We’re on the forefront.

What was really interesting in the article, written in 1985 is that it’s quite clear, at least from the point of view of the interviewer, that the case for having a personal computer hadn’t been made yet. Jobs gave him a reason from his insight into the not so distant, and he really hit the nail on the head.

The most compelling reason for most people to buy a computer for the home will be to link it into a nationwide communications network. We’re just in the beginning stages of what will be a truly remarkable breakthrough for most people–as remarkable as the telephone.

We still are moving through the early days of this revolution, but Steve Jobs saw it coming more than a quarter of a century ago, when he was only 29-years-old. He didn’t make it to see another 29 years. The world lost a visionary, but his inspiration lives on.