By Stephen McDill
Where were you when Steve Jobs died?
I was browsing iTunes when I got a text on my iPhone delivering the sad news. It was a couple hours before I was ready to turn on the TV and watch the reports. Now I am writing this post on my Power Mac G4.
The pundits are comparing the late founder and CEO of Apple Computer to Thomas Edison.
Jobs’ friend and longtime colleague Steve Wozniak says he was more like John Lennon.
I think Steve was a little of both- a big, bold light bulb with a little imagination glittering inside.
Hundreds of gallons of ink have already been spilled on the Steve Jobs legacy but I wanted to share a few memories of my own along with perspective from our neck of the woods.
I still remember the day the McDill family got our first Mac- one of the early Performa models. It was a massive desktop computer with a place in the front for floppy disks. For a young writer, it was a sanctuary.
My snow white PowerBook G4 was the best study buddy in college and I wrote all my papers on it including one on how the new iPod had revolutionized the music industry. I probably was listening to my iPod Nano as I wrote. I still have both. Even though I’ve moved on to other devices I just can’t get rid of them.
I called Frank Owen, an Apple aficionado who handles social media for the Jackson advertising agency Mad Genius. “I was crestfallen… shocked,” Owen said. “He is someone that was a mad genius.”
Like Jobs, Owen practices Zen, the Buddhist art of meditation. Owens said that at a conference in Colorado he got to hear Koben Chino Otogawa, the Japanese Zen priest that Jobs befriended after being fired from Apple in the 1980s. Jobs, of course, returned to the computer company triumphantly in 1996 with a head full of Eastern-themed ideas ranging from art to management.
“The loss of this brilliant mind… it’s a loss for each person who uses the products but also for this country,” Owen said. “Even if a person was a competitor of his, they were stretched by him.”
That’s a beautiful point. As we mourn his passing, I can’t help but wonder, “Where is the next Steve Jobs?” Is he or she in a garage somewhere right now hatching out a scheme that will revolutionize industries, culture, and language- in short everything?
Is this a country that can cultivate that? In this struggling economy, do we have enough Steve Jobs wannabes not just in the tech sector but every business sector to take us to the next level? Are companies and capital willing to take a chance on these young innovators in the same way that Hewlett-Packard did when it hired Jobs as an intern?
I called one such innovator right here in the Magnolia State. Joel Bomgar, founder of Bomgar Inc, an IT-based technology firm in Ridgeland, was sitting in a hotel room in Atlanta when he was e-mailed the news of Jobs’ passing. “I was immediately saddened,” Bomgar said. “Apple will never be the same and the technology sector will never be the same.”
Bomgar said that while Jobs’ management style was a bit controversial, no one ever doubted that it worked for him. “Apple marched to the beat of their own drum, and never focused on a new market unless they knew they could be good at it and had the resources to win,” Bomgar said. “That level of focus and discipline is unparalleled in today’s marketplace. With the loss of Steve Jobs, our country has lost one of its best visionaries and best leaders.”
Frank Owen shared with me the following image. It’s a graphic design from Jonathan Mak, a student at Hong Kong Polytechnic University. I will value it over the dozens of tributes that I am sure to read and see this weekend. Thank you Steve.