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Editorial – The King is Dead: Long Live Steve Jobs

Thursday, 6th October 2011 02:56 GMT By Brenna Hillier

As we mark the passing of Apple founder and CEO Steve Jobs today, Brenna Hillier looks at the extraordinary impact of one man on the modern world.

“Because video games,” a sarcastic commenter rebutted one of my early VG247 articles about an update to a smartphone OS.

But yes, video games – that’s the world we live in today, when the release of Mango has almost as much pertinence to games and how they’re made and sold as the new version of Windows or an Xbox Live overhaul, a world in which portable devices are almost indistinguishable from desktops and the Internet delivers everything you could need, whenever you ask.

It’s a world which owes a lot to Mr Steve Jobs.

One man does not a multi-billion dollar company make. Steve Jobs is not Apple. But there’s no denying his hand in guiding the tech titan to the position of prominence it holds today.

Apple was founded by the college drop-out Jobs and two colleagues in 1976, on April Fool’s Day. Maybe the 21 year old was tickled by the date; in a world yet to understand the relevancy of personal computing, plenty of observers probably thought him a fool for building and selling the Apple I in his parents’ garage.

1984: The Macintosh

But by the late 1970′s Apple had already wrought its first major change on the tech world. By nabbing exclusivity on one of the first spreadsheet-based business suites, the Apple II became the darling of offices everywhere, and quickly found its way into homes as a result. Apple went public, creating hundreds of millionaires as investors scurried to buy into the booming market.

The release of the Macintosh in 1984 heralded the arrival of the affordable, fully-featured home computer with a famously bizarre ad starring a hammer-throwing athlete, and the effects of that on the computing and thereby gaming worlds would be enough to earn Jobs a place in our history.

But it also announced the beginning of a serious low point in Apple’s history which only makes clearer how integral Jobs’s vision was to the shape of tech to come. By 1985, the newly-wealthy board of directors had already forgotten the daring and innovation which drove Apple to success, and when the ever forward-thinking Jobs clashed with other executives, he was ousted from his own company.

Those of you under the age of 25 may not even remember a time when Apple was a grimly gasping dinosaur, but when Windows became the standard in personal computing – when did you last use the word “PC” to mean anything but a Microsoft OS? – owning an Apple computer made you a laughing stock. Apple fell in a hole and didn’t climb out for over a decade.

During this time, Steve Jobs went his own way and did two notable things. He bought a company from LucasArts, signed up with Disney, and thereby gave the world Pixar. And he founded another tech firm called NeXT, which made bold, unprecedented leaps which are remembered today in the name of Apple’s operating system: OS-X.

That’s X, not the “10″ tradition dictated, and for a good reason. When Apple frantically pulled Jobs back on board in 1996, he brought NeXT with him, and that tech is the heart of OS-X, the highly influential, first true commercial rival to Windows in donkeys.

Apple’s latest – the iPhone 4S.

By 1998, just two years later, Apple was already back on top of its game, guided by Jobs’s constant push for the future. The first iPod had been released, along with the iTunes Store, the iPhone was soon to follow, and digital music had begun to move out of the realm of piracy into a legitimate business model.

The music, movie and yes, games industries changed forever, struggling to adapt to a world of powerful portable multifunction devices, instant access to media, and new ways to do business.

We can thank Jobs for a number of tenets of the games industry as it is today, tenets which will strongly inform its future for the next few decades, the ramification and potential of which we’re really only just beginning to understand. Digital distribution and smartphones bring with them a whole new world of content and business models which have radically altered our landscape forever.

The era of Steve Jobs hasn’t ended with his death. The era of Steve Jobs is just beginning. I wish he could be here to see it.

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19 Comments

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  1. Colin Gallacher

    Brenna, that was excellent.

    #1 3 years ago
  2. Johnny Cullen

    I said this on Twitter when I found out, but it nevertheless remains the same. His influence will never be understated or underestimated.

    #2 3 years ago
  3. ultramega

    The ironic thing is that Apple became the very thing they were sworn against in that 1984 ad.

    Closed source iOS… completely anti-competitive – suing companies the first second they can… Even look at some of the patents they’ve filed. Not too long ago they came under fire for filing a patent for a software technology that would stop the phone from being able to take pictures in certain instances, such as during a concert. I could go on, but it’s a waste of my time; this is all we’ll hear about for weeks now.

    #3 3 years ago
  4. Patrick Garratt

    /salutes

    #4 3 years ago
  5. revolting

    @ultramega: Yes, it is a waste of your time, and everyone else’s. The questionable business practices of the corporation (and let’s face it, which successful business DOESN’T have a history of questionable practices? Not one.) have absolutely nothing to do with the respect due to the passing of a man who undeniably changed the combined faces of computing, portable technology and entertainment. Whether you love or loathe or are completely indifferent to Apple, Steve’s work unquestionably impacted your life, if not through their own branded products then through those of their competitors.

    Steve mattered, regardless of whether you are anti- or pro-Apple. His presence made the world better, slicker and shinier, regardless of who you buy your devices from. ‎”I want to put a ding in the universe,” the man said, and he certainly did that. Cheerio, Mr Jobs.

    #5 3 years ago
  6. GrimRita

    Just woken up to the news and all I can say is ‘wow’. Despite not being a fan of Apple, Jobs changed the way we listen/pay for music, use mobile phones and even gaming.

    He will be missed and he was a true visionary – he even helped Pixar start up and invested alot of time and money into them and believed in what they were doing.

    RIP

    Great article btw and even moved the mighty Grim Rita to a tear!

    #6 3 years ago
  7. Debabrata Nath

    Godspeed Steve, may the stars treat you as their own. :’)

    #7 3 years ago
  8. GwynbleiddiuM

    /salute

    A great article worthy of a passed away King.

    #8 3 years ago
  9. ultramega

    @5
    Oh wow. You must be some kind of sheep. I owe him nothing. You cannot predict how the course of history would have gone without him. And to call him out as the sole visionary of Apple’s overpriced, underfeatured products is a true act of ignorance.

    Besides, with your logic, he was the company, so he should take any and all blame towards business practices. Which, to a large extent he actually should be blamed for. But regardless of what you think of the company itself, do a little reading about Mr. Jobs… By all accounts he was an asshole any way you look at him.

    Thank you for your time.

    #9 3 years ago
  10. DSB

    No one cares if the guy was an asshole. Albert Einstein and Henry Ford were abject assholes too. It didn’t stop them from being highly succesful visionaries.

    He came into Apple when it was essentially a dying company and made it into one of the biggest companies on earth in little more than a decade, conquering the smartphone market in the US, and the “MP3-player” market globally at a time where the market was at its most competitive.

    What did you achieve today?

    http://thingsappleisworthmorethan.tumblr.com/

    #10 3 years ago
  11. sg1974

    @revolting

    But Jobs’ disciples and admirers like you want it both ways. They want all of Apple’s successes credited to him (which is only partly fair – because without the elementary genius of Jonathan Ive, Apple wouldn’t be anything like the ultra-successful company it is today either), but want to excuse him every one of Apple’s errors and failings.

    Also, the difference is that Apple claimed not to be any of those things and attacked or mocked those characteristics in others. That is the point Ultramega was making and the one you can’t see or chose to ignore. It was a sanctimonious attitude which has pervaded all of Apple’s history, and it appeared to come directly from Steve Jobs. Aplle has become exactly what it professed to stand in opposition to.

    And before the iSheep explode, these views do not change the fact Jobs et al were tremendously successful innovators and amongst the greatest designers of their generation. Jobs and Apple’s failings stand alongside their successes, just as it is with every other human being and human endeavour in history. The sooner the iSheep can accept that simple fact, the better.

    #11 3 years ago
  12. sg1974

    Oh dear. And http://thingsappleisworthmorethan.tumblr.com/ is precisely one of those pointless, meaningless and misleading piles of illiterate crap that iSheep are so rightfully mocked for. Get a fucking grip people.

    #12 3 years ago
  13. freedoms_stain

    If what I read earlier about him using “alternative treatment” on his cancer before he sought proper medical treatment then he essentially committed suicide in my eyes.

    #13 3 years ago
  14. sg1974

    Barry Sheen did the same thing. He chose to forego conventional (sic) therapies and claimed “fruit and veg will cure me”. He’s dead now.

    #14 3 years ago
  15. Goffee

    I’m not that bothered about the Mac side, but for gadgets, the first time I played with a clickwheel iPod, iPhone or iPad, for a few seconds it felt like playing with the future – then it quickly became natural and accepted as part of the furniture.

    To create that took genius, and Steve Jobs used to play in the future every day. He was a lucky man.

    But he only got that “lucky” by being that great.

    #15 3 years ago
  16. Noodlemanny

    I totally agree with Goffee. The iOS is simply incredibly innovative, good looking and easy to use. If you think differently then you are just quite simply wrong. The wheel was brilliant and Apple made touch screen smooth. The ipod totally changed MP3 for the better. MACs may not be my cup of tea but thats only because I’ve been brought up on Windows. I can’t really say much about MACs because I have little experience of them.
    Yes Apple stuff is overpriced (YOU NEVER BUY DIRECTLY FROM STORE (those crappy 5 quid headphones selling there at 30) and yes you can get more for cheaper nearly always. But I just really think the OS levels that out, I really love the iPhone because of the app store, OS, style and build. Its not perfect but nothing is. Something doesn’t become so wide spread for nothing and the only reason terms like iSheep come up is because so many people have them (hence the phrase) but there a good reason for that.
    Apple may be far from fair but, what, are you about to say Microsoft or any other massive corporate company is? The words fair and corporate are contradictory.

    #16 3 years ago
  17. ultramega

    @11
    Well at least there is one person on this site that actually understands my point. Sorry if it wasn’t clear enough for you others – I’ve had a fever of nearly 40ºC for the past couple days.

    #17 3 years ago
  18. DSB

    @12 Looks to me like you just can’t take the fact that it’s a very succesful company, with a very succesful CEO and visionary behind it.

    The only person attributing major value to that tumblr in this thread is you. I personally just think it’s pretty funny, and I have no problem that Apple is as succesful a company, as Jobs was a a CEO.

    The only Apple product I own is a years old iPod Nano. I’m hardly a member of the club. I just, you know, have eyes.

    @13 I’m no cancer expert, but isn’t that a little one-dimensional? We can all agree that the people drinking beet juice to cure themselves of whatever ails them are delusional, but if the only other alternatives you have is painful laser therapy or miserable chemo, then how much can you really blame them for needing to believe that?

    I’d cut ‘em a little slack on that one, personally.

    #18 3 years ago
  19. revolting

    I love that everyone is assuming I’m an “iSheep”, just because I think some respect is due to a guy who died and left his mark on the world, be it good or bad.

    I hate quoting myself, but I’m going to have to: “Whether you love or loathe or are completely indifferent to Apple, Steve’s work unquestionably impacted your life, if not through their own branded products then through those of their competitors.”

    I fall into in the “indifferent” part of the equation; I like some of the stuff they make, but not others, and I don’t approve of many of the things they do as a business. I own one or two Apple products, yes, and I also own many other products by many other manufacturers and love them all equally. My mp3 player is an ipod, yes, but my phone is not and never will be an iphone. My mobile internet/entertainment device of choice is currently (heavy emphasis on currently) and ipad, yes, but I also own and enjoy a nintendo DS and a PSP, and a laptop running windows for actual mobile work. Not one of my desktop computers are macs, because I can’t stand the pretentious things. I am not a fan of any one company; I am a fan of technology, both functional and just plain neat. I have three self-built pcs running windows (two of which are exclusively for gaming, one for work), an HTC phone and a work-provided Dell laptop… if you think that makes me an iSheep, you’re too caught up in your self-righteous “Steve Jobs is the Devil and anyone who buys anything he touched is a moron” campaign to see past your own self-proclaimed morally superior agenda.

    I am certainly NOT a mindless Apple worshiper; I hate some of the things they do, especially the yearly overpriced update of their idevices. (I’ve had my one ipod for 4 years and it does not need replacing, nor will it ever short of an accident. Similarly I will not replace the ipad… the current one does everything I need it to.) As a business entity, they’re one of the most appalling I can think of in terms of sales practices and market exploitation.

    But that does not change that respect is due where respect is due. It does not change the fact that Steve Jobs’ work, directly or indirectly, influenced all of our lives. You cannot deny that even if you don’t use Apple products, you use products that compete with Apple. That’s how competition works… everyone tries to make better stuff than everyone else, which drives the technology industry as a whole forward. So even if you hate one brand, it’s existence improves the quality of the alternative brands you use instead. That’s the nature of competitive business, like it or not. Exactly the same as Microsoft and Sony constantly trying to one-up each other with each iteration and update of their xbox and playstation products… both brands would be lesser in quality were it not for the competition of their adversary pushing them forward. You are utterly naive if you cannot see this.

    Ultimately, though, business is business, and we all know that; a guy who created stuff died at a relatively young age, and that deserves some respect. Just as much would be true if we were talking about Bill Gates, Ken Kutaragi, or even Alan Sugar; all possibly complete tossers, no doubt each one has left a wasteland of abused business partners and disgruntled customers in their wake, and yet all have contributed to, pushed forward and left their mark on the technology we all benefit from.

    #19 3 years ago