I owe my life to Steve Jobs

I know people find it dramatic when I say I owe my life to Steve Jobs. The truth is, I didn’t realise how much I owed my life to him until in recent years.

I was pro-Windows when I first got into computers, at a pretty late age – 15. I was assembling PCs on my own and I loved tearing computers apart. I first came across the Mac a while later. That was in the dark ages of OS8 – 9. I’ll be honest and say that I hated the Mac OS before it was version X. I was used to the “Start” menu and the multi-tasking taskbar on Windows and I didn’t find the “Finder” user-friendly. It seemed harder to switch applications.

Back then, I couldn’t understand why would the fanboys pay 3 grand for a computer that didn’t encourage people to tear apart and the usability of the OS sucked.

A couple of years later, the first version of OS X was released. I had to use a mac for one of my jobs, so I did. Reluctantly. The more I used it, the more it made sense, the more I fell in love with in.

From the very first moment I touched OS X, it was another short few months that I decided to buy my first iMac. I was not doing financially well back then but I really couldn’t resist the beauty.

I don’t know about you, but after using Windows for so much of my early life, I was in love with the type-rendering on OS X. I know how some people complain it is too blurry, but for me that was sheer beauty.

Applications like Quicksilver made me fall in love even more. It was no longer about beauty in the aesthetic sense, but actually comprehending how much more productive I get on the mac because everything seems to be a quick keystroke away. I think the defining application for me was Panic’s Coda. I knew it then, there is no way I could find this sort of beauty and functionality combined on Windows.

Till today, sadly, it is still true. I have moved on to Espresso and Textmate, but I doubt there is any app on Windows remotely comparable to what these can do. I cannot re-iterate how much difference it made to development just to be looking at apps like Coda everyday. The subtlety in the menu dividers, the level of detail in the UI feedback. I am serious when I tell people now, if you are a designer, you cannot *not* use a mac.

I became an apple fan-girl and with each magical device released like the iphone, my love and desire for Apple just grew, and grew.

But I still didn’t realise the true impact of Jobs until a couple of years ago.

I read this entire write up of Steve Jobs and there it was, written in detail, how he brought us the Personal Computer during the time when there were only mainframes and business computers. He saw the Mouse at some obscure Xerox research lab and refined it for our use and input. Again, he saw the GUI at Xerox and implemented it, even better on the Mac.

We know Windows copied the GUI of the Mac.

So if not for Jobs. Where will I be right now? We *may* still be using DOS, designers may not exist much because what can we design in the command prompt? Maybe there will still be a GUI, just like there had been smart phones before the iphone, but will it even be remotely as influential as the iphone has been?

Consider the number of times Jobs had redefined the way we look at things. He brought the PC to us, he gave us the iPod, he made the iTunes eco-system possible – and now the App Store eco-system. As much as some of us hate how they take a 30% cut, but sorry, now there’s tons of obscure developers having a real chance at selling their apps.

He also breathed new life into publishing with the iPad. I remember thinking to myself, I don’t ever buy comics anymore, but when I got my iPad, I was lured into buying them again. He made consumer video/audio editing possible and easy.

Would we even have the Android in its current incarnation if not for the birthing of the iPhone? Will we be able to be wowed by the Kindle Fire? I am not so sure.

I just cannot imagine how my life would be if there was no Steve Jobs. And you know how everyone is now talking about how important design is to a product? I think releasing a product like the iphone into the mainstream market was key to raising everyone’s expectations for design. Back then only the Apple crowd cared about design. Now that the mainstream market got a taste of how delightful great product design can be, everyone wants to have more of it.

You can no longer build an unusable ugly app just built with tons of functionality and hope for it to be a great success. Apple raised the bar. Many times.

I am in an era whereby being a designer is an increasingly respected profession – back in the days when I was out of high school, I was told I would have no viable future as designer. How things have changed. I have no illusion whom I attribute that to.

I know and believe death is only but a transition, but it doesn’t make it hurt less.

I love you, Steve Jobs. I don’t know about the others, but I know with certainty that you’ve changed my world. I know the best way to return that gratitude is to continue striving for what you’ve taught me and others. He wasn’t only a tech genius, for he inspired countless people with his individuality, beliefs and determination:

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”