Steve Jobs remembered as cultural icon as well as innovator

October 7, 2011

The death of Apple co-founder and chairman Steve Jobs sent shockwaves across the world on Wednesday. A measure of the impact Jobs had was the outpouring of condolences from world leaders and business leaders as well as celebrities and athletes. As Hayley Tsukayama reported :

Steve Jobs, co-founder and chairman of Apple, died Wednesday at the age of 56. It’s difficult to capture the impact that the company’s visionary leader had on the technology industry in words, but here is some initial reaction to his death and statements about his life and impact on the world:

President Barack Obama: Michelle and I are saddened to learn of the passing of Steve Jobs. Steve was among the greatest of American innovators - brave enough to think differently, bold enough to believe he could change the world, and talented enough to do it.

By building one of the planet’s most successful companies from his garage, he exemplified the spirit of American ingenuity. By making computers personal and putting the internet in our pockets, he made the information revolution not only accessible, but intuitive and fun. And by turning his talents to storytelling, he has brought joy to millions of children and grownups alike. Steve was fond of saying that he lived every day like it was his last. Because he did, he transformed our lives, redefined entire industries, and achieved one of the rarest feats in human history: he changed the way each of us sees the world.

The world has lost a visionary. And 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. Michelle and I send our thoughts and prayers to Steve’s wife Laurene, his family, and all those who loved him.

Bill Gates, co-founder and chairman of Microsoft: I’m truly saddened to learn of Steve Jobs’ death. Melinda and I extend our sincere condolences to his family and friends, and to everyone Steve has touched through his work.

Steve and I first met nearly 30 years ago, and have been colleagues, competitors and friends over the course of more than half our lives.

The world rarely sees someone who has had the profound impact Steve has had, the effects of which will be felt for many generations to come.

For those of us lucky enough to get to work with him, it’s been an insanely great honor. I will miss Steve immensely.

The media reaction to Steve Jobs after his death was overwhelmingly positive, even though the relationship Jobs had with the media was sometimes strained. As Paul Farhi explained :

For a man who could be as pushy, manipulative and at times downright prickly with the press as he was with the engineers who designed his products, Steve Jobs enjoyed almost worshipful media coverage.

His death on Wednesday at age 56 was met with the journalistic equivalent of a public rending of garments. “Visionary,” was the operative adjective, bookended by “genius.” The New York Times placed his obituary over two columns in the top right spot typically reserved for revolutions and mass upheavals. The Wall Street Journal went full banner, draping its front page with a simple “Steven Paul Jobs, 1955-2011.”

Given Jobs’s storied record, the quasi-religious hosannas were predictable. As Walt Mossberg, the Wall Street Journal’s technology columnist, wrote, Jobs rivaled Henry Ford as an industrialist and Thomas Edison as an innovator. In just over a dozen years, he transformed a foundering computer company into a giant of commerce and culture, with a broad influence on movies, music, advertising and retailing.

Reporters ate up Jobs’s oracular utterances at the annual Macworld convention and parsed his sentences for clues to the future. He could be charming to favored reporters, but he was also quick to rebut and rebuke critics. When Rolling Stone magazine declined to put the father of the Macintosh on its cover upon the introduction of the computer in 1984, Jobs called publisher Jann Wenner to complain. “Don’t hold your breath,” Wenner told him, according to journalist Steven Levy in a profile of Jobs on Wired.com on Thursday. Jobs’s demands for featured magazine coverage would later be “eagerly accommodated.”

“He could bully underlings and corporate giants with the same contempt,” wrote Levy. “But when he chose to charm, he was almost irresistible.”

Journalists may have been Apple’s original fanboys (and gals). Early on, the company presented an irresistible underdog story, the garage start-up taking on the corporate behemoth — a narrative Apple stoked in its “1984” and “Think Different” ad campaigns. It’s true, too, that many reporters were early adopters of Apple products, and many use them to this day, surely enhancing positive media feelings.

For all of the anti-corporate talk at the “Occupy Wall Street” movement, many of the protesters said they felt Jobs made a positive impact on society. As AP reported :

For weeks, a cluster of computerized protesters have camped in a park near Wall Street, telling the world how they believe America’s billionaires destroyed the economy. Suddenly, Wednesday afternoon, the typing stopped — when the world got news of the death of inventor Steve Jobs.

“A ripple of shock went through our crowd,” said Thorin Caristo, who helps lead Occupy Wall Street’s web-based movement.

That evening, men and women gathered at computers near him “expressed their sadness; they stopped typing and reflected on life — and his life.”

Protesters say they link protest plans in various cities with the aid of computers, many made by Apple, the company founded by the high-tech pioneer who died at age 56.

In addition, Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park, the protesters’ round-the-clock encampment, is sprinkled with Apple iPhones, iPods and iPads sending messages around the globe.

Jobs’ products are used to generate Wall Street billions, acknowledged Caristo. But there was no irony in mourning, or celebrating, this billionaire while opposing many others who are just as wealthy.

“They had a less positive impact on society than Jobs,” Caristo said. He said this was despite the fact that Jobs was “among the 1 percent” of the country’s population protesters keep citing as having accumulated 40 percent of the wealth.

Related stories:

The Theology of Steve Jobs

More technology coverage from The Post

What was your first Apple product? (Image Poll)

Apple: We will continue Steve Jobs’s work

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