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Steve Jobs’ impact goes far beyond phones, computers

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Updated: January 23, 2012 3:46AM



His impact was enormous.

From Buzz Lightyear and Woody and Nemo to the incredible sound emanating from that tiny music player in your pocket to the amazing features loaded into that tablet emblazoned with your fingerprints, Steve Jobs was in charge of companies that forever changed the worlds of pop culture and communication.

Turns out space is not the final frontier. It’s technology, and Steve Jobs was one of the most foremost pioneers of our time. These days, the word “genius” gets thrown around for everyone from pop singers to smart quarterbacks to whiz kids in the office, but in the case of Jobs, it’s a fitting label. Only Apple could get away with having “Genius Bars” in their stores, thanks in large part to Mr. Jobs.

It’s fitting that Apple had the same name as the record label of John, Paul, George and Ringo. In the world of computers, along with Steve Wozniak, Mike Markkula and a few others, Steve Jobs was a founding member of the Beatles.

In 1976, Jobs was a co-founder of Apple, staying until a parting of the ways a little more than a decade later. In 1986, he made one of the best investments in entertainment history, buying a company called The Graphics Group from Lucasfilm for $5 million and investing another $5 million in it.

The Graphics Group would become Pixar. Its focus shifted from the development of graphics to the development of movies, with Pixar teaming with Disney. Under the guidance of the brilliant mind of John Lasseter, Pixar revolutionized the animated film, giving us movies such as “Toy Story” and “Finding Nemo” and “The Incredibles.”

Jobs wasn’t a screenwriter or a director. Maybe Lasseter finds another way to get those movies made without a Pixar. But it’s a wonderful thing for us that those movies were made the way they were made. (On Wednesday, Pixar’s Lasseter and Ed Catmull called Jobs “the guiding light of the Pixar family. He is why Pixar turned out the way we did.”)

In the mid-1990s, Jobs returned to Apple. You know the rest. The computers, the iPhones, the iPads. The familiar site of Jobs in jeans and New Balance shoes and a black mock turtleneck, standing on a stage in front of a giant screen, introducing the latest generation of communication device to a breathless worldwide audience that would immediately respond with passionate responses ranging from “Brilliant!” to, “What a disaster, I’m never getting that.”

And then they’d line up to buy it.

The passion
of Apple fanatics

What other product entices people to get in line for hours, even days? A car? A television set? A personal computer?

No. But when the next iPhone or iPad comes out, when Apple introduces some new gizmo to the world, the Apple fanatics will be lining up in the dark to buy it.

There are two kinds of people in this techno-world: those of us who are passionate about Apple products, and those who look at the Apple Fanatics and say, “What is wrong with those people? It’s just a phone. It’s just a computer. It’s just a music player.”

Right. It’s just stuff that makes our lives better, easier, more fun, more exciting, and yes, sometimes more exasperating.

When Steve Jobs died Wednesday, I first heard the news from a friend texting me on my iPhone. I reached into my bag and took out my iPad to read about Jobs’ passing. Later that evening, I was on my MacBook Air, emailing colleagues at the Sun-Times and at ReelzChannel about doing tributes to Mr. Jobs. When it was time to write the pieces, I did so on my iMac desktop, the screen so big and clear it blows away the portable TVs I once knew.

ABC News reported that outside an Apple store in Tokyo, bouquets of flowers shared the space with iPads and iPhones that had screens showing flickering candles.

On the window of an Apple store in Santa Monica, someone had written “Thank You Steve,” along with a drawing of an apple. It was reported that in China alone, more than 50 million messages were posted on the Chinese equivalent of Twitter.

Everyone from George Lucas to President Obama issued statements. As the headline on ZDNet put it, he was “Our digital version of Walt Disney.”

Steve Jobs was only 56. In a life far too short, he made a difference that will be felt for 560 years to come.



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