I never met Steve Jobs. I probably was in the same time zone as the man no more than four or five times in my middle-aged life, but his passing is one of those times when the death of a stranger hits one rather hard. The last artist whose death affected me as viscerally was likely Jim Henson. Henson was by all accounts a sweet, gentle man, of which, as Rob ably limns, Steve Jobs was never accused.
That said, Steve and I first crossed paths somewhere around the turn of the seventh decade of the last century, when my grandfather bought me and my siblings the Apple ][+ I'd been asking for since I'd written a program on my Sinclair ZX-80 which had taken up its entire, capacious 1K of memory and crashed it. Plus, the ][+ had color! A floppy-disk drive! (Back when disks were, in fact, floppy, kids.) 64K of memory!
My elementary-school self had no idea, but three decades on, I'm still sitting in front of an Apple. Actually, three at the moment, as my years-old MacBook Pro shares desk space here in my monastic cell with an iPad and an iPhone. It's been a long road. //e, Mac Plus (Steve giveth color, Steve taketh away), LC III (color back!), a PowerComputing clone during the Amelio Interregnum, a couple iMacs, a couple laptops, a first-gen AppleTV, an iPod, a couple iPhones, and an iPad. I never got a NeXT, but I've covered the Pixar catalog end to end.
Jobs has always struck me as a Renaissance man, not in the conversational sense of the word, but in a more literal understanding of what the geniuses of the Italian Renaissance were about. They were about exploring the world as a view into the mind of God and illuminating it with beauty. Jobs was no sort of Christian, I don't think, but something in his Zen æsthetic saw something of the ideal, the Platonic, behind the world's veil, and I think in this he realized something of the humanitas that the Renaissance geniuses were about: helping people lead better lives. Jobs's view wasn't directly moral, as theirs was, but in his relentless, monomaniacal quest to make technology beautiful—to make it human, the opposite of say, Italian interwar Futurism—and to force it to absent itself from the space between thought and action, I think he was on the same page as the geniuses who perfected perspective to make the wall and paint irrelevant to the viewer’s reception of the image.
From a very early age, probably because of Jobs, I have shared his passion for beautiful, useful, amazing technology. I'm no more able to do what he did than I am to draw like Leonardo, but I am unusually moved by both.
I could go on at considerable length about Jobs the complicated, difficult, astonishing man and the creations he realized and those he discarded and destroyed, but there are professionals out there who'll do a better job. If I can leave you with one thought, it's how singular and rare men like Jobs are—and how lucky we were to have him, however briefly. We won't see his like again, but if we're lucky, somewhere out there is a child thinking differently who will amaze us with something we'd never thought of—something insanely great.
Dona ei requiem, Domine. Et lux perpetua luceat ei.