Artists are our storytellers.
Since our ancestors’ earliest days, we’ve told stories about our dreams, our heroes and villains, our struggles. About how we live and how we die. If we are to find peace and understand our commonalities, we must have stories.
Over the last 25 years, creation has been reborn and democratized by technology, becoming at once personal and expansive. It still has the power to connect us in vital ways.
With advancing technology, everyone can tell their tales. Not just the rich and powerful, but the struggling single mother in Queens. And the penniless King’s grad returning to the writing world after 15 years of painful silence.
Apple Inc, under visionary Steven Jobs, has largely created and sustained this revolution. But the technology is just a tool. It’s our music and our words and our films and our images and our podcasts that foster the hope that we might grow beyond our parochial natures and accept a world that is, at once, familiar and excitingly unfamiliar.
I will miss Steve Jobs more than I can say.
We all know the legend. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak designed an easy-to-use computer for the masses in a garage. Company propaganda suggests they ignited the PC revolution but, for once, the hyperbole is understated. Wozniak and Jobs changed the world.
Launching the Macintosh and Laser Printer a decade later, Apple created a publishing renaissance rivaling Gutenburg’s. But Jobs was ousted from the company soon after. He started NeXT Computer, and bought a little software and media company that he renamed Pixar.
Pixar’s artists spent years refining their first feature, which was distributed by Disney in 1995. Toy Story was deemed the most charming animated film in a generation, and since then, Pixar has created a bevy of award-winning films, including the Incredibles, Finding Nemo and, my favorite, Ratatouille. Now the companies have merged, bringing an incredible synergy to bear.
Meanwhile, without Jobs, Apple became bloated and inefficient. For a time, it appeared the company wouldn’t survive. In 1996, Apple was hemorrhaging red ink when the company bought NeXT. Within a year, Jobs was again running the company he founded, making business decisions so savvy that his return was called The Second Coming.
By hiring and promoting brilliant people, and by investing in R&D, Apple created dozens of revolutionary products described as artful and elegant. With iPhoto, iMovie and Garageband, he gave each of us the tools we needed to tell our stories. That’s why Apple has become now the world’s largest and best-run company.
But this eulogy isn’t about computers or corporate triumphs. Jobs’ true legacy is that Apple technology empowers writers, photographers, artists, songwriters and filmmakers so they can create works of enduring beauty and tell our true stories. The ones we can’t forget.
At both Apple and Pixar, Jobs had been controversial. He was considered mercurial, impatient, and unkind. But he sought out innovative minds who challenge and seek perfection, and artists who understand the simple virtue of storytelling. Jobs owned a penetrating intellect, made thoughtful and more introspective through a long battle with cancer, the same cancer that took my mother’s life.
Through Apple and Pixar, Jobs has ensured that his legacy will endure. He truly understood the value in our search for meaning, through legend, myth, and literature. And now, technology.
This visionary has given each of us an opportunity to change our lives. And in doing so, Jobs has given us the opportunity to change the world.
I hope we don’t let him — but more importantly ourselves — down.