Thursday, October 6, 2011

two deaths

For once in his life, Steve Jobs was upstaged.

In this morning's paper here in Silicon Valley, the announcement of his death was dwarfed on the front page by the saga of yesterday morning's workplace shooting at the cement quarry up in the nearby hills. After which, the shooter fled, past Apple HQ, right down to my neighborhood, if you please, where he abandoned his car in the parking lot of a Vietnamese pho restaurant where I often have lunch, and tried unsuccessfully to perform a carjacking a couple blocks away, shooting the driver in the arm.

After this, nobody saw him for about 24 hours, while a dragnet went on for him around where he was last spotted, but early this morning he was reported shot and killed by police on a residential street about a block from the carjacking attempt. Naturally, everyone who knew him says he was a peaceful guy whom you wouldn't expect to do something like this, so now that he's dead we'll never know what made him snap, though I'm sure there'll be no shortage of media blitherers willing to guess.

Our home was outside the immediate search area, so instead of being locked down, all I had to do was worry about it and listen to a lot of helicopters hovering overhead.

Meanwhile, Steve Jobs. I never met him (I've met Woz a couple times, in a brief passing manner, but not Jobs) and he didn't affect my life as closely as he did that of many other people. I've never bought an Apple hardware product, and I'd like to see if I can keep that string up for the rest of my life.

But you couldn't live in Silicon Valley or be affected by the computer world without being captivated by the vivid story of this driven man and how he enacted on the world what he wanted to do, whether you liked it or not. He had visions, but I think a key to understanding him is Pixar, where, unlike Apple, the vision was not his own. He just recognized its quality and gave the responsible people room to create it.

Jobs was, among many other things, a showman who knew how to package his ideas properly. And nothing demonstrates this better than his early departure from life, a topic that many otherwise talented people screw up on. When he saw that his health would no longer let him work, he resigned calmly and with dignity, he made sure that he left his company in ship-shape condition, and he didn't whine in public about his circumstances. That was true class.

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