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Oct. 06, 2011

Steve Jobs Unveiled the Future -- Again and Again

by Leslie Taylor

When I was a kid, my family's first home computer was an Apple IIe, on which I played endless games of the imitation Pac-Man game Snack Attack. Right now, in my purse, is my iPhone, which I use as my alarm to wake me up in the morning, as my phone to keep me close with friends, as my news-provider, my Scrabble set, my camera, and my calendar. I thank Steve Jobs for creating both of these iconic products.

I tend to be a fairly late adopter of new technologies. Pretty much until the day I purchased my iPhone, I wondered why on earth I would ever need all the features I now take for granted. But, as Steve Jobs once told Businessweek: "A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them." That was definitely true for me. I now consult my iPhone approximately 10 billion times per day.

Steve Jobs passed away yesterday at the age of 56 after a long struggle with pancreatic cancer. He was responsible for so many innovations. But to me, Jobs' legacy is not just the unparalleled cool of the gadgets he brought to market. Nor is it the way iTunes revolutionized the music industry, or the way Apple stores turned retail conventions upside down.

The Macintosh, iMac, iPod, iPhone, iPad, and the whole suite of innovations that came out of Apple were indeed well-designed and industry-disrupting. But I believe what made Jobs' contribution unique is that he introduced to our daily lives technologies we didn't even know we needed, and now don't know what we'd do without.

In the video below, recorded in 1984, watch as Steve Jobs unveils the original Macintosh. About three and half minutes in, the crowd goes wild as the computer tells a joke. The petite Mac -- which, when I was growing up, was a fixture in so many of my classrooms and friends' homes -- intones in creepy computer-speak: "I'd like to share with you a maxim I thought of the first time I met an IBM mainframe: Never trust a computer you can't lift!"

Video by Macessentials

It is always such a great moment when Steve Jobs reveals a new top-secret product, as above, when he literally lets the Mac out of the bag. And Jobs the showman unveiled mind-blowing technologies on stage year after year. In the video below, watch a montage highlighting some of the dramatic reveals Jobs performed between 1984 and 2010.

Video by TechOvercast

Reading the tributes to Jobs this morning, I was most touched by the addendum at the end of Jacob Goldstein's piece on the Planet Money blog:

Full disclosure: I played Oregon Trail on an Apple IIe in elementary school; fell in love with fonts on an early Macintosh in high school; danced to an iPod playlist at my wedding; and read about Steve Jobs on my iPhone on the subway this morning.

To me, the gift Steve Jobs gave us is not in the magnificent iProducts themselves, but in the shared experiences the new personal technologies facilitated. For that, and for all the new devices he never had the opportunity to conceive, Steve Jobs will be greatly missed.

 

About Leslie Taylor

Leslie is Science Friday’s Web editor. She has a background in oceanography and is passionate about getting non-scientists and young people to realize how cool science can be.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Science Friday.

Science Friday® is produced by the Science Friday Initiative, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

Science Friday® and SciFri® are registered service marks of Science Friday, Inc. Site design by Pentagram; engineering by Mediapolis.

 

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