Steve Jobs, a modern-day Christopher Wren

Steve Jobs, the visionary founder of Apple, has died aged 56.
Steve Jobs was often thought of as a modern day Benjamin Franklin or Thomas Edison during his life, an archetypal American inventor of the most revolutionary kind who was able to not only create new products that changed people's lives, but to also market them with equal zest.
There's no doubt that Jobs deserves a front-row seat in the pantheon of great inventors and entrepreneurs in history. In the 35 years since he founded Apple, he created the Apple II, the iMac, iPod, iPhone and most recently, the iPad – five products that transformed the technological, music, film, TV, gaming and publishing industries. Few could claim to have even developed a single such product.
Steve Jobs, a modern-day Christopher Wren But there's another person whom we could compare Steve Jobs to who's a little closer to home: Sir Christopher Wren. One of the greatest architects in history, Wren was responsible for building St. Paul's Cathedral as well as dozens of other churches, libraries, palaces, and hospitals across the country. Like Wren, who had interests in astronomy, biology, and physics, Steve Jobs was not 'only' a computer engineer or a programmer, but he had a deep love and appreciation of the importance of design and the humanities when it came to making objects that real people had to use.
The easiest way to see Jobs' instincts at work is to simply watch Apple's TV commercials; not the just iconic 1984 Macintosh announcement, but a couple showing off the iPad 2 entitled We Believe and Learn. In stark contrast to other electronic companies' efforts which typically highlight processor speed and screen size with incomprehensible acronyms, Apple – and Steve Jobs – prefers to stress focus on what people can do with their products. We see children learning how to write Chinese by drawing on the screen, or flying around a 3D solar system, or playing a piano on the screen.
It's not that you can't do these things on other tablets or computers, because you can – it's that Jobs understood that these very human activities were the singular purpose for why his products were important and why people would want to buy them, and he made absolutely sure that they were designed with humans in mind. No interface could be too simple, no icon too lovely. If he was going to sell a computer that would be used by a hundred million people, he wanted it to be more like an exquisitely balanced pen or paintbrush rather than a brutish, functional hammer. How could he not, given his grounding in art and design?
Job also co-founded Pixar Animation Studios. Originally, he imagined the company would build computer hardware and software for other film studios, but Pixar consistently lost money for several years despite many groundbreaking creative and technical advances in computer animation. Jobs frequently found his co-founders' insistent desire to make their own movies more than a little frustrating, but the company eventually signed a deal with Disney to produce three computer-animated films, with the first being Toy Story.
Other businessmen might have cut their losses far earlier than Jobs, either selling or liquidating Pixar in favour of risky bets, but he clearly had enough confidence in the technical and artistic abilities of his employees to keep on going. It's safe to say that whatever you think of Apple's products, you'd need a heart of stone to not be impressed or moved by any of Pixar's movies like Up or Wall-E or Ratatouille.
I came to Apple comparatively late in my life; we were a PC household and Macs had no place there. But when the iPod was first announced, I rushed to immediately buy one straight from the US. Portable MP3 players had already existed for years, and the iPod not only didn't have a radio or recording capabilities like the others, but it had far less storage space. The only two things going for it were that it was far smaller – the size of a pack of cards – and that it was far easier and more fun to use. It turned out that these two things were enough to effectively demolish every single competitor. Once again, Jobs had proved that technical specifications alone were not enough, that you needed to focus on the human experience to succeed.
Everywhere you look, you can see people playing games and talking on their iPhones, reading books on their iPads, and browsing the web on their MacBooks. But Jobs didn't want to make devices that were only fit for consuming content, he wanted to help people make it. What we can't see are the countless books, artworks, movies, websites, apps, and songs that were made on Apple products and have enriched the world. He combined technology and the liberal arts.
Sir Christopher Wren's epitaph at St. Paul's Cathedral was si momumentum requiris circumspice: if you seek his monument, look around you. Steve Jobs more than earned those same words to describe his legacy.

By Last updated: October 6th, 2011, posted by Daves Solomon

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