I recently watched a 60 Minutes profile of Steve Jobs where they spent time delving into his personal flaws as well as his legacy of connecting people with technology. I was surprised that they devoted a whole show to Jobs, considering everything else going on in the world. In fact, I remember opening my Facebook page the day after his death and finding the majority of posts about Jobs. The response outweighed any single event I’d ever experienced while on social media. It made me wonder what it would’ve been like if Facebook had been around during 9/11 or the Kennedy assassination. (Twitter reported over 1.5 million tweets about Jobs on the day he died.) All of this seemed disproportional. Sure he was a great innovator but the way he treated other humans was less than desirable, and his premium, proprietary products weren’t affordable for everyone. However, since his death I’ve reconsidered the man and reflected some about his products and their impact on my life.
As a struggling graduate student, and having just been diagnosed with a learning disability, I broke the piggy bank to be the first among my peers to own a personal computer, an Apple IIc. I talked about the influence of computing on my life in Daveland:
“My writing skills grew with computer technology. As software improved, my spelling improved; eventually my visual world came closer to my auditory world. I even made a game out of eliminating colored lines from the text. The computer didn’t make it personal; it didn’t care if I misspelled the same word five different times in the same document and it didn’t care if the second part of my sentence didn’t match the first. It just pointed it out and rewarded me by taking the colored line away when I fixed the problem. It still allowed me to write wrong words correctly, as when gallery becomes allergy, but nobody’s perfect, nor are computers.”
I stayed with Apple through the lean times because of their commitment to accessibility and intuitive design, even though I’ve managed to screw up the simplest things on my computers, some of my miscues becoming legend around Apple. (Apparently my intuition is not always the same as the design engineer’s.) Even with our occasional mismatch of logic the technology allowed me to accomplish things, develop skills, and learn in a way that I never could in school.
More advancement in software has brought more accessibility and opportunities to many learners. In the 60 Minutes report there was a segment about how the I-book has opened the door for autistic people, especially for those unable to communicate. Some autistic people are now able to express themselves to those around them for the first time in their lives. And I realized that in a way my laptop does the same thing for me every day by helping me organize my distracted mind, helping me make sense with my words, and allowing me to explore my unique talents in new ways
For autistic persons and the broad spectrum of learners alike, Apple designs will help lead this technological transformation that will forever change the way we learn. Whether schools adapt to these advancements or not, Jobs’ work will be a part of changing the way we all learn for the foreseeable future. In his life and as a leader he was an imperfect genius. However, I guess we all, not just Apple stockholders, owe Steve his due.
How has Mr. Jobs’ innovations impacted your life? Please share.
BTW, two pieces about Jobs in the media caught my attention. The first was a very unflattering portrait by Maureen Dowd and the second a very moving tribute and eulogy written by his sister Mona Simpson.