In the Palm of Your Hand

It’s no exaggeration to say that before Steve Jobs and Apple, computers were esoteric machines for researchers and academics. Few people had a chance to interact with them, and their relevance to everyday life was marginal. This changed with the Apple II. Introduced in 1977, it was the first successful mainstream computer, and its follow-up, the Macintosh, was the first mass market-computer to feature a graphical user interface -- a radical change in how we used and interacted with computers.

This focus on how we approach with computers -- and the relentless drive to normalize computing in everyday life -- would define Jobs’ career, even as he left Apple in the mid-1980s to found NeXT (a software company) and Pixar, the animation studio. As he explained at the 1997 Apple Worldwide Developer’s Conference, shortly after returning to Apple after a ten-year absence, “You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology. You can’t start with the technology and try to figure out where you’re going to sell it.”

When assessing Steve Jobs’ legacy, it’s easy to point to the last 14 years and call it a day. Between the iMac, the iPod, the Macbook, the iPhone, and the iPad, Jobs had a blistering record of success; by the end of the decade, Apple stood as one of the most valuable companies in the world. Along the way, Jobs revamped the market for selling and listening to music, redefined the cell-phone industry, and pioneered a new category of computing with the iPad. But more significant than any given product is the sensibility Jobs brought to technology. From the beginning, he took a populist approach -- everyone should have access to a computer that just works.

In a hundred years, when we look back at this era, we might not remember anything about the particular gadgets. But Steve Jobs will almost certainly stand as the man who brought computing to the forefront of everyday life. In other words, you don’t have to own an iPhone or use a MacBook to appreciate the impact Steve Jobs has had on the world. Every time you use a computer -- any computer -- you touch a piece of the world Steve Jobs built.

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