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Steve Jobs Brought Style to our Desktop Then our Pockets

Written by Cindy Marie Jenkins on Tuesday, May 8th, 2018 at 4:17pm.

Welcome to #TastemakerTuesday, where we’ll feature the visionaries in our favorite nooks who are dedicated to building a better community through their talents.

“You cannot connect the dots looking forward, so you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” - Steve Jobs at his 2005 Stanford University commencement speech.

For 20th anniversary of the iMac, it's hard not to reflect on the role of Steve Jobs in our modern lives. In a time of cultural excess, he saw the future he wanted, which in 1996 included the very controversial decision to not include a floppy disc drive in the iMac. (Remember floppy discs? Unless you worked at the Pentagon in 2016, you haven’t touched one in years.)

As he said at his famous Stanford commencement speech “How to Live Before You Die,” Jobs never graduated from college. He followed his curiosity and intuition towards a self-directed education. Through his description of taking a calligraphy class, you can understand how Jobs’s obsession with precision and spatial relation followed him into designing the Mac.

I shared an iMac with a roommate in early 2000, one of those delightful blue ones with a handle on the back for portability. Can you imagine grabbing that huge hunk of a monitor now? That was cutting edge in the late 1990s. Now, I’m an Android user, yet I can’t help but acknowledge how Jobs and Apple influenced many of the good things about my own products. Beyond my user experience, Jobs was also instrumental in infusing life (i.e. money) into Pixar, which allowed the computer animation studio to turn from making commercials to the masterpiece of storytelling it is today. He did this by essentially leaving the creatives to their own devices while installing Lawrence Levy as Pixar’s CFO.  

In between his much-publicized oust from Apple and triumphant return, Jobs created NeXT in 1988. Incredibly fast and priced at $6500, mathematicians and academics gravitated towards it. The first elements of the world wide web were created on a NeXT, to give an idea of how integral his work is in the modern world.

Once he returned to Apple, the change was relentless. For someone who grew up balancing a walkman in high school and discman in college, an iPod was a revelation. The very idea that you do not have to carry your music in a physical form changed the music industry from the outside in, and very begrudgingly. That could be part of why people have a love or hate relationship with Steve Jobs and Apple: they made you not only rethink your design and function but forced people to look further into the future than many were comfortable doing.

Enter the pristine and successful Apple stores at a time when physical stores are struggling, the iTunes store that completely dominates music, and of course, his invasion into the cellular phone industry. As Wired described in an article when Jobs died, “Before Apple, carriers insisted on controlling the hardware and software on their phones. Now, if they want the hottest phones, the carriers have to play ball.”

Many may have resisted the rise of slick design, but there’s no denying how appealing style can be in all aspects of life, and especially in our homes. We thank Steve Jobs for continually pushing the envelope until we could hardly recognize it was made out of paper anymore.

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