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.
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.
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.