It was almost exactly 14 years ago when I learned of the death of someone who had a surprisingly profound impact on my life. I was sitting in a dimly-lit cubical in downtown Denver, employed by one of the “Big 6” consulting firms, working for a large telco client. I had a client-issued Pentium desktop, connected to the company mainframe that allowed me to complete my assigned COBOL programming tasks. Sigh. Risking the wrath of both the client and my employer, I read the news that morning of the death of John Denver on my personal (color!) Apple PowerBook laptop, that sat next to the Pentium in case I needed to get some “real” work done.
Say what you will about John Denver and his music, but he provided the soundtrack to our frequent family vacation pilgrimages from St. Louis to Colorado. Our family, especially my Mom, was touched by his work. The more we listened to his musical postcards for the place we loved to visit, the more we longed to return. I’ve been living happily in Colorado for almost two decades as a result of those many happy Colorado vacations as a kid.
John’s was the first death of an artist that I remember having an impact on me. He had built up a huge body of work over his lifetime. Surely he produced enough tunes to satisfy a lifetime of road trips through the Colorado Rockies! But it was disappointing to think there would be no new material—no new way to describe the beauty of our state and the world.
And that’s what makes me disappointed about the death of Steve Jobs. He too has built up a huge body of work over his lifetime. He has changed the world in remarkable ways to an astounding degree. But there will never be “One more thing”.
I didn’t own my first Apple product until I graduated from college. In high school, I walked up the street to borrow time, lots of time, on Lori Campbell’s Apple ][e. I wrote my first BASIC program on it while Lori’s family enjoyed family dinner after family dinner in the next room. I’ve owned dozens of Apple’s computers, iPods, iPhones, and iPads since. They’ve been a part of everything I’ve done professionally for nearly the past twenty years. And it’s not just me. I’m fortunate to have joined with like-minded people and grown this software development company in a converted ballet studio in downtown Boulder. There are Apple logos on products everywhere you look in the office. Steve’s work touches everything we do.
While I’m pleased that Apple’s products now have broad appeal, I care most that they make great products for me. Market share is only important to the extent that Apple will survive. Steve has put that discussion to rest for a long time to come. I’m grateful to Apple because they make tools that feel great in my hands. That’s true of the hardware and the software, especially in the last five years. Their products inspire me to create and give me the tools to share with the world the visions I have in my head.
While few may connect the dots between John Denver and Steve Jobs, there are connections for me. Both were prolific artists. One led me home to a state that I love. The other made my career possible. They both died too young in their fifties. I’m disappointed that we won’t see “One more thing” from either of them, but as a father myself, I’m sad that they both left a loving family behind.
There’s a significant difference between John and Steve and their legacy. John was a solo artist. His backup band will never write new tunes to expand John’s catalog. While Steve may have been cast in a similar light, he leaves throngs of dedicated, hard-working, inspired team members who will carry out his life’s work for many years to come.
I’ll miss you Steve—your passion, your creativity, your amazing come-back. And I thank you for so much of the pleasure I derive from my work every day.
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