Steve Jobs On Life

Steve Jobs in interview for PBS’ ‘One Last Thing‘ documentary, 1994 (via Wikipedia):

When you grow up you tend to get told the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money.

That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact, and that is – everything around you that you call life, was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.

The minute that you understand that you can poke life and actually something will, you know if you push in, something will pop out the other side, that you can change it, you can mold it. That’s maybe the most important thing. It’s to shake off this erroneous notion that life is there and you’re just gonna live in it, versus embrace it, change it, improve it, make your mark upon it.

I think that’s very important and however you learn that, once you learn it, you’ll want to change life and make it better, cause it’s kind of messed up, in a lot of ways. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.

I’ve always admired how he pushed the limits. I can’t help but read “… embrace it, change it, improve it, make your mark upon it” and think of the “Crazy Ones” ad campaign’s: “because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do”.

He was a crazy one.


Steve Jobs Wanted To Play Willy Wonka

Steve Jobs Willy WonkaMacRumors is reporting that the new book Insanely Simple: The Obsession That Drives Apple’s Success mentions Steve Jobs was looking to do a Willy Wonka like promotion for the sale of the 1 millionth iMac.

I find this so hard to believe, but I so want it to be true. Apple in many ways is like Wonka. It’s secretive, nobody knows how the popular products come out, it’s founder was fanatic about privacy, secrecy and was without question a little quirky and eccentric. In many ways, Steve Jobs was like Willy Wonka.

Whomever would have went on the tour would have had one heck of an experience to talk about.

Steve’s idea was to do a Willy Wonka with it. Just as Wonka did in the movie, Steve wanted to put a golden certificate representing the millionth iMac inside the box of one iMac, and publicize that fact. Whoever opened the lucky iMac box would be refunded the purchase price and be flown to Cupertino, where he or she (and, presumably, the accompanying family) would be taken on a tour of the Apple campus.

Steve had already instructed his internal creative group to design a prototype golden certificate, which he shared with us. But the killer was that Steve wanted to go all out on this. He wanted to meet the lucky winner in full Willy Wonka garb. Yes, complete with top hat and tails.

Just remember: Don’t touch the fizzy lifting drinks. He hasn’t perfect it just yet.

Apple Open Source

Linus Torvalds Said No To Steve Jobs

Wired has a great piece on Linus Torvalds. Linus is one of the most under appreciated people in the world. We all interact with his work daily, yet very few even know what his work is, much less him. Even Steve Jobs apparently realized that:

Torvalds has never met Bill Gates, but around 2000, when he was still working at Transmeta, he met Steve Jobs. Jobs invited him to Apple’s Cupertino campus and tried to hire him. “Unix for the biggest user base: that was the pitch,” says Torvalds. The condition: He’d have to drop Linux development. “He wanted me to work at Apple doing non-Linux things,” he said. That was a non-starter for Torvalds. Besides, he hated Mac OS’s Mach kernel.

“I said no,” Torvalds remembers.

Had he said “yes”, the world could be a very different place. Mac OS X surely would be different, same for iOS. Linux would also be different as the kernel would have likely lost some steam as different folks forked and went their separate ways. Linus is a driving force and a constant in the Linux world. Linux runs many of the most popular services in the world from Google to Facebook to the Android OS among others. It’s being free, open and a rock solid OS is part of what helped these companies grow.

It’s amazing to think how far that chain reaction would go.


5 Years Of iPhone

iPhone Announcement

Yesterday was 5 years ago Steve Jobs took to the stage to launch the iPhone. It’s amazing to think it’s been 5 years since the iPhone was announced. Watching this again, it’s amazing. In many ways it’s still almost futuristic, yet there’s so much vintage about it from the empty feeling home screen in the UI, to the name “Cingular” to the rather healthy looking Steve Jobs telling the world “…to unlock the phone I just take my finger and slide it across [applause]”.

This presentation is undoubtedly up there with the January 24, 1984 Macintosh Launch. Steve at his best, 5 years ago.

Part 2 can be found here.


Siri, Wolfram Alpha And History

There’s quite a bit of talk on the web lately about Apple’s new Siri feature which uses Wolfram Alpha behind the scenes to answer the questions Siri gets asked. Unlike Google, which searches the web for content that matches, Wolfram Alpha is a service which “figures out” (runs algorithms to derive) the answer to your question based on data it has in its massive databases. It’s an amazing service and a perfect partner for a service like Siri.

What many don’t know however is that Wolfram Alpha is by a company called Wolfram Research who has a long intertwined history with Apple. They have one other major product in their portfolio that many know called Mathematica. Many who never used the product know it as something that’s been demoed several a few times during a keynote after being introduced by Steve Jobs. I think the most recent was WWDC when Mathematica was ported to Intel on OS X in 2005.

Steve Jobs had a long lasting relationship with Stephen Wolfram going back to the days of NeXT and Mathematica 1.0. Apple using Wolfram Alpha to power Siri wasn’t a whim, it was coming full circle years later. Stephen Wolfram’s blog post is really an amazing story on how their companies intertwined over the years in a quite organic way. Steve Jobs gave Wolfram feedback through the years that seemingly was centered about simplicity. Siri is the culmination of Steve Jobs UX vision and Stephen Wolfram’s information vision.

Quite amazing to think the groundwork for that relationship and in a sense this iPhone feature goes back more than 20 years.


On Dennis Ritchie

The past week there has been a ton of recognition for the contributions Steve Jobs had made to computing and society through his work. Steve Jobs was a household name. Dennis Ritchie however was not a household name. Despite this his work was amazingly influential on almost every aspect of our daily lives either directly or indirectly. Everything from the computer I wrote this blog post on to the server sending you this blog post involved his work.

Rob Pike best eulogized his work, copied below for posterity. An amazing legacy.

Photo A Day 2011

Project 365 Week 40


Crazy Ones

The Crazy Ones

This Steve Jobs narration of “Crazy Ones” ad is pretty awesome. The aired version was voiced by Richard Dreyfuss.

What would it take to convince Apple to air this with a simple slate at the end with an Apple logo and “Steve Jobs 1955 – 2011” at the end? Getting Jonathan Mak’s Steve Jobs Logo Tribute would be even better. I now there are a few Apple employees reading this blog. Dare I suggest we make this idea viral enough to get the attention of Tim Cook?


On Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs

I could write an essay, and I generally do for any post that starts with the word “On”. That however seems inappropriate for a man who defined himself by making things clean, simple, and easy to use.

Like most of my industry colleagues I likely wouldn’t be where I am if it wasn’t for Steve. Given I started on Macs and to this day work on the web which was invented on a NeXT workstation. I literally work in a world he created and laid the groundwork to create.

I could think of only one appropriate way to conclude…

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes.

The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.

About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They invent. They imagine. They heal. They explore. They create. They inspire. They push the human race forward.

Maybe they have to be crazy.

How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art? Or sit in silence and hear a song that’s never been written? Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels?

We make tools for these kinds of people.

While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Here’s to the original crazy one.


Steve Jobs Steps Down As CEO

As released by Apple:

To the Apple Board of Directors and the Apple Community:

I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come.

I hereby resign as CEO of Apple. I would like to serve, if the Board sees fit, as Chairman of the Board, director and Apple employee.

As far as my successor goes, I strongly recommend that we execute our succession plan and name Tim Cook as CEO of Apple.

I believe Apple’s brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it. And I look forward to watching and contributing to its success in a new role.

I have made some of the best friends of my life at Apple, and I thank you all for the many years of being able to work alongside you.


A few things strike me here:

First of all, the letter is addressed “Apple Board of Directors and the Apple Community” (emphasis mine), which as far as I know is unprecedented by Steve Jobs and really by Apple. Apple has never really acknowledged the community around it. In past “letters” (for example Thoughts on Flash), Steve Jobs just starts. It’s like an actor only acknowledges his audience when he comes out to take a bow to ensure they don’t remove the fourth wall.

Second, I sadly suspect this position of “Chairman of the Board, director and Apple employee” is largely symbolic. From what’s known about Steve Jobs is he almost lived for this job. Stepping down is a major concession for someone so obsessive about a vision and passionate about achieving it with perfection. That said, he seemed pretty strong a few weeks ago at the Cupertino City Council, so I don’t mean to suggest he’s on his deathbed. Just unlikely to regain enough health to keep a CEO schedule. Several changes in 10.7 Lion like the odd design for Calendar and Address Book make me think he didn’t have much say in it’s design either.

Third, this succession plan is hardly shocking. Tim Cook was groomed for this a quite some time. I suspect this was known by a select few for a little while now. Jonathan Ive was long suggested as his replacement, but that seemed unlikely given he already is in charge of industrial design, and the other half of the role (the business side) he has no experience in. He’s also notably reclusive and more subtle in presentations in contrast to Steve’s “reality distortion field” persona on stage. By elevating Cook and leaving Jonathan Ive to focus on design Apple gets the best of both worlds.

Lastly, I think Colin Barrett’s tweet put my personal perspective on this best:

I was 11 when Steve came back, and I’m 25 now. Can’t overstate the enormous impact Steve and Apple had on me growing up. Good luck, dude.


Indeed. Good luck Steve Jobs.