Sunday, October 9, 2011

Thinking of the Recent Passing of Steve Jobs

First of all, I would like to express my deepest condolences regarding Mr. Steve Jobs' recent passing. His passion, sympathy, and spirit contributed to the personalizing of computers.  Computers in the 1970s and early 1980s were business and office equipment centered on IBM’s domination of the world market with the mainframe computer. Huge cabinet-like machines sat in a special room that was constantly air-conditioned, even when offices for workers were not. I remember those machines looked like the statues of Greek gods in Apollo’s gods’ palace. Even office workers, who were responsible for using the terminals to input data, were not aware that these cabinet-like machines were the ones that made them work. These machines had a very high cost.  When the hard disk drive was introduced to the market, I remember a calculation that one mega-byte was about $100,000.

One of the pioneers who tried to bring these huge and extremely expensive machines to the top of our desks was Mr. Steve Jobs. When the first Macintosh machine was introduced at the office where I used to work, I had no idea what kind of device it was. I was familiar with word processors by Wang Lab or Japanese word processors by leading electronics companies. I tried to use the early-stage Mac, practicing after work. I remember it took a long time to get to the HDD navigation menu after I turned the computer on. Even after I saw the first screen, I was still lost at what I should do with the icon. When I asked our system people about the cost, I thought the price was not too high. However, it still required additional an investment for modems, printers, and so on.   
It was not my machine. My impression was that it was not worth my investment. My office colleagues and I discussed the machine, asking each other if we should choose a word processor or a personal computer for our next purchase. The majority opted for the word processor.  Japanese word processors were well developed at that time; printers and communication modems even came with the main units.

Another 10 years passed before I re-encountered the Mac. I was thinking about replacing my PC when I heard that an Apple Store was opened in my town. I was aware that compatibility of data between Macs and Windows was extremely high, presenting almost no problems. Interested, I visited the newly opened Apple Store. What first impressed me was their design. As a laptop user, I always wanted a simple design, which I could never find. MacBook, however, was a simple and sleek white box with elegant curves on the corners. It was something I wanted to carry around and show to people, not just because of the design, but because the machine also was equipped with powerful capabilities and specifications, which satisfied all communication and multimedia requirements I needed at that time. In addition, when I asked about the OS language, I was surprised to learn that a variety of languages could be selected. I did not know OS X is multilingual. I am Japanese and live in the San Francisco Bay Area with my Chinese wife. The OS language-switching capability among English, Chinese, and Japanese impressed my wife and me. We ended up bringing a MacBook home despite having had no intentions of buying one during our first visit to the shop. The vision of Steve Jobs, which enabled the computer to become “multimedia” and “global” at the same time, was prominent.

We cannot forget that Steve was an excellent mentor for current and future entrepreneurs.  
When I revisited Steve Jobs’ speech from Stanford’s graduation ceremony in 2005, the address was still vivid, active, and impressive, even six years after he first delivered it.  The speech was simple, persuasive, and attractive.  After he had joked about himself being a dropout from college, he focused on three basic points, using clear, simple language to grab and hold his audience.  His first point was on “connecting the dots.”  He referred to the calligraphy he first learned after he dropped out of college, which taught him the benefit of designing the Mac with smooth, scalable fonts.  He emphasized that one should not be desperate even after a devastating experience, since at some point the value of the experience will become clear.  His second point was “love and loss.”  When he was removed from Apple Computers, Mr. Jobs grew from the experience, developing new companies, innovative technologies, and even finding his wife.  He strongly believed that we should look for what we truly love in order to be successful, something that stayed with me a long time.  He said, “If you did not find what you love, do not settle.  Keep looking.”  His last point was about “death”.  He told the graduates that facing death taught him the importance of his own preferences and directions, without being overly influenced by the opinions of others.  Steve concluded his address with his favorite words: “Stay hungry.  Stay foolish.”

Although Mr. Steve Jobs was sometimes criticized for his ego and temper, these traits were what needed to bring about change and to build the personal computer age.  Without these characteristics he would not have invented so many popular products, such as “Macintosh”, “iMac”, “MacBook”, “iPod”, “iPhone”, or “iPad”.  I strongly hope that Apple Computer will not lose his innovative spirit, even though Steve Jobs is no longer with us.

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