When Steve Jobs passed away I was taken by surprise, just like everybody else. One reason was because it came too quickly —we knew it would happen, but we assumed he would make it until the Christmas season, when his autobiography would be published. But the bigger reason was because I discovered that I was genuinely sad.
I used to think Steve Jobs was just an eccentric genius, a bottomless source of episodes. (For example, his commencement speech at Stanford University is an address composed entirely of quotable sentences.) But the day he died, I felt sadness and emptiness that were comparable to the loss of a family member. I knew this because I went through the same emotional cycle when my family dog died a couple of days later. Judging from the reactions on the Net, I was just one of the millions who had the same feeling; I was lonely, but I wasn’t alone.
Everybody on the Net mentioned two things regardless of their status, opinion, or background—Thank you, and Miss you. The feeling of loss was so strong among us, it was almost physical, as if we were collectively trying to scratch an itchy part of our back that doesn’t exist. I wondered why the emotional pain was so real.
It all made sense when I widened my view and saw the platform on which I was reading the news, writing comments, watching videos: a Mac. I have been interacting with embodiments of his vision, therefore, himself. No wonder his loss felt so personal and physical. Barack Obama’s statement also echoed this point.
The world has lost a visionary. And there may be no greater tribute to Steve’s success than the fact that much of the world learned of his passing on a device he invented.
The personal computer, as we know, is the offspring of Steve Jobs and his team from the 70s. With millions of Apple products sold each year, more people are getting closer to his vision, and therefore, himself. In other words, Steve Jobs has been part of our lives, and he will continue to do so. He is a father figure we didn't know we had, therefore never appreciated enough—except when he came around during Christmas seasons with gifts we didn’t know we wanted: iMacs, iPods, iPhones, iPads.
And now I see why few people talked about what people usually talk about when a great CEO passes away: Is Apple over? Instead, I read stories of people buying the just-announced iPhone 4S even though they were perfectly happy with their older phones. (The iPhone 4S posted record sales in its first three days.) It was as if they had decided to carry his torch, using their own cash to keep it burning.
Steve Jobs may not have cared about other people in the way they wanted him to. He might have had his back turned toward people, including his fans, but it’s because he stood strong and kept walking ahead of us to pave the road. After all, that’s what we all want from our dad. And probably that’s also what Steve Jobs wanted us to do: Keep walking.
So I am back to where I am, waking up in the wee hours and typing on his child, Macbook Pro. As I watch, the sky brightens up and I look forward to another day. Thank you, Steve. And it’s time to go to work.