Changing Planet

A Tribute to Steve Jobs

A Roomful of Sleeping iMacs... (Photo by the author.)

August 10, 2011. The Crystal Serenity, the cruise ship on which I was serving as a lecturer, was anchored in the French Riviera, off the coast of Cannes. Late at night I wandered into the computer lab where a roomful of 27″ iIMacs (68 cm) were fast asleep, their screen savers creating an eye catching piece of abstract art, streaks of colors dancing to a quiet tune, or perhaps revealing their dreams.

Steve Jobs, 1955-2011

On October 5, Steve Jobs, the immensely creative co-founder of Apple Inc., passed away. He had made it a practice to marry the best of form and function, indeed better than anyone else had done since the Renaissance genius Leonardo. I use an iPhone, an iPad, a Mac mini, and an iMac computer, routinely downloading music by ITunes. They are all so brilliantly integrated that I can show slides using my IPad, with the IPhone as a remote. And I marvel at how all of his inventions have worked their way into my marrow, as they have into our society’s collective marrow. He introduced technology that we have come to take so much for granted that we do not know how we can ever do without it. It was his computers that introduced the mouse, and the dark print on white screens, mimicking typed paper, unlike PCs that used to feature light print on dark screens, akin to viewing carbon paper.

The Mac is my computer of choice, and at home I have a 24″ iMac (61 cm). In working on a manuscript, I can easily view two pages at the same time, and I love it.

The backs of the 'roomful of iMacs.' (Photo by the author.)

After I started receiving royalties for a book a few years ago, I purchased a laptop, the 17″ Mac PowerBook-G4. A few days later, a friend sent me an essay by the Italian writer Umberto Eco, who claimed, “I am firmly of the opinion that the Macintosh is Catholic and that DOS is Protestant … [The Macintosh] is cheerful, friendly, conciliatory; it tells the faithful how they must proceed step by step to reach — if not the kingdom of Heaven — the moment in which their document is printed. ”

Bill Phillips is seen blowing on a cup of coffee, cooling it symbolically, incrementally. (The drawing of Einstein on the mug is by the author.)

I sent the essay to a friend, the 1997 Physics Nobel Laureate William D. Phillips, who I knew also preferred Macs. Bill fired back, “When the girls went away to college, we sat them down and admonished them, ‘Date within the religion. Stay away from boys using PCs.'”

Bill Phillips and his collaborators, Steven Chu and Claude Cohen-Tannoudji, developed the technique of ‘super-cooling’ by trapping and cooling atoms with laser beams. With this technique they achieved temperatures approaching absolute zero to within a nanoKelvin (a millionth of a degree Celsius), and were awarded the Nobel Prize. Supercooling led to a new theoretical framework for understanding laser cooling, it also helped to confirm some earlier theories that were hitherto untested. In 1995, a team of scientists from NIST and the University of Colorado used supercooling techniques as a first step to create a new state of matter that had been predicted in the 1920s by Albert Einstein, using some new ideas from the Indian physicist Satyendra Nath Bose. This new state of matter — a new kind of gas called a “Bose-Einstein condensate” — occurs when the gas is very cold and dense and a large fraction of the atoms essentially stops moving.

Photo compliments of Matt Maniano

Steve Jobs was a creator-rebel, in the mold of Einstein, and also in the mold of Newton, Beethoven, and Leonardo — all creator-rebels and all quite simply the best in their fields. Whatever Steve Jobs touched he left infinitely richer.

The originality of Steve Jobs is seen in every aspect of his company’s endeavors, from the design of fonts to the design of the stores. The Apple Store on the corner of Central Park South and Fifth Avenue in New York City is a transparent glass cube. For a tribute, Matt Maniano provided the lines, ‎”Three apples changed the world: 1st one seduced Eve, 2nd fell on Newton, and 3rd was offered to the world half bitten by Steve Jobs. R. I. P.”

Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford Commencement Address: Death Is The Destination We All Share

POSTSCRIPT. An improvised Apple Logo by UK-based designer known as "Raid71" and incorrectly attributed to a HK-design student.
Bulent Atalay, a scientist, artist and author, has been described by NPR, PBS and the Washington Post as a “Modern Renaissance Man.” He is the author of two successful books on the intersection of art, science and mathematics, with Leonardo, the pre-eminent Renaissance man, serving as the foil. His best selling book, "Math and the Mona Lisa," (Smithsonian Books, 2004) has appeared in 13 languages. Professor Atalay's academic background is in theoretical physics. He travels around the world lecturing at academic institutions and on cruise ships on the "A-subjects," art, archaeology, astrophysics, atomic physics and Ataturk, confessing that he knows much less about the "B-subjects," business, banking, biology and botany... He is the President of the Ataturk Society of America (ASA), dedicated to promoting Ataturk's ideals of science and reason over dogma and superstition, of a secular state with full equality of genders. For more details click on Bulent Atalay
  • Sherry

    Awww Sorry 2 hear this ! [ Wow ] what a mind a legend in my time !

  • hpc

    It seems strange, but I feel connected to SJ in a way I wouldn’t expect. Except for our similar ages, our lives, interests, tech/non-tech are as far as apart as could possibly be. Sure my family has its median ownership of his products but that’s it. Yet his magic has touched me, as countless others. His story resonates with me & many. His is a passing of a legend. I’m privileged to have lived in his time. Long live SJ.

  • Leszek

    Steve Jobs – went to eternal rest. We will not be able to see him, dressed in dark clothes and in jeans telling about his new products. This man changed our world.

    Steve lives in our hearts!

  • Dave Labarthe

    What a great person, cannot be forgotten.

  • Mary Anne Burns

    In the 80s a battle was going on in Corporate America for the control of information. The only way to get price information was to wait, from 60 to 90 days, for a mainframe generated report written by a remote programmer. If you wanted to get a column added to your report, you had to go through management to get this approved and then through IT to get a custom report written. By the time we got the information it was useless. Then came the personal computer. We smuggled them into the office. The burden of “proof of concept” was on us.

    Were it not for Steve Jobs, we would still be at the dot prompt typing single lines in cathode green.

    He brought in icons. He brought in “the click.” And color. And the idea that the user could completely customize his or her relationship to information, without an IT person. He was scorned in Corporate America. At first.

    In so doing, Steve Jobs ensured that the entry of human kind into the High Technology Age would be fun and engaging. When the Internet came, we were ready for everyone to have access to all the learning–and yes, the junk–of the world. He was of inestimable value to human freedom, empowerment and expression.

  • Stella Marinazzo

    I feel like I lost a friend I had never met. Mr. Jobs was an inspiration to me, my colleagues and friends, and indeed to the entire world, I think. Your words are really appreciated Dr. Atalay!

  • Linda

    He touched billions of lives so subtly but so deeply! RIP Steve Jobs

  • Tina Ryan

    Steve Jobs was one of the world’s most creative visionaries and will be sorely missed. He tipped the world on its side with his innovative computer technologies (the iPod, iTouch, iMac and iPad) that, in turn, made way for a brand new industry focused on consumer-generated content, conversations and interactions through social media marketing. He also introduced “apps” for the iPhone which later revolutionized the software industry, so that bulky, packaged software programs are now being replaced by quick and easy downloadable apps. These apps have also become the backbone of social media marketers.

    This technological pioneer exhibited such personal strength and perseverance in the process of aiming for perfection which allowed him to follow his dream and ensure that the most elegant computer products would remain ahead of the competition and the market.

    What a fine example of “how to live before you die”!

  • Tina, thank your for the thoughtful comment, especially in pointing out the words by Job’s, “… how to live before you die.” The line is from his commencement address to the Stanford University’s graduating Class of 2005. There is a recording of that talk somewhere. I’ll see if I can create a link. Bulent

  • Mary Ann Ward

    Bulent, you certainly captured the essence of Steve Jobs in your blog. . You were able synthesize what he was able to do in his shorten life. Thanks for sharing your insight with us.

  • Vivek Gupta

    Hi Bulent,

    You echo the thoughts of so many. I have the same wonder in using the tech that he created that “Just Works” – Whether its doing presentations on my iPad controlled by iPhone or sending images and videos instantly to my apple TV or bringing up videos on my iMac using my iPad.

    We have lost a great innovator with too big a shoes to fill.
    Its a sad sad day.

    P.S. BTW I created the following tribute using my igadgets –

  • B. W. Jones

    Your tribute to Steve Jobs is lovely, very well expressed and well written. It speaks for me too. You mentioned that he “made it a practice to marry the best of form and function.” I agree. His ability to combine exceptional technological vision with design is rare. One thing I admire very much about the Apple Products is their look. They are elegant and smooth with clean simple lines. They are thin and have the appearance of lightness. Steve Jobs will truly be missed. Everyone using an Apple Product is part of his legacy.

  • Romy

    Words cannot express my grief at the passing of a man who influenced my life as a graphic designer.

    I made a Steve Jobs Eternal Flame animated gif as my tribute.

    You can download them from this site-

  • […] And everyone is blogging about that time they met him and what he was like. At All Things D, Walter Mossberg describes “the Steve Jobs I Knew” in multiple personal anecdotes: “he’d insist – even in private – on covering the new gadgets with cloths and then uncovering them like the showman he was, a gleam in his eye and passion in his voice.” At InvestorPlace, Dan Weiner presents the Steve Jobs HE knew, via several meetinsg in the 80s and 90s: “… As the plates were brought in (I don’t remember what was served — steak, chicken, whatever), Jobs waved his away and asked if he could have fruit.” Everyone has a story. “Steve Jobs was always kind to me,” recalls the Wire Cutter. But could you really know Steve Jobs? Rolling Stone has The Steve Jobs Nobody Knew. Craving Tech has an iffy list of 5 things you didn’t know about Jobs (Pixar is something we don’t know?). Sex Lies and Fairytales doubles down with 10 things you didn’t know, including background on his biological and adoptive families. Social media self-marketer-extraordinaire Guy Kawasaki has Google-plussed an essay on “what I learned from Steve Jobs.” Even National Geographic (well, its Newswatch blog) has weighed in, assessing Jobs’ place on the high-tech Mount Rushmore: “Steve Jobs was a creator-rebel, in the mold of Einstein, and also in the mold of Newton, Beethoven, and Leonardo.” […]

  • micro job

    I have been browsing online more than three hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours. It is pretty worth enough for me. In my view, if all web site owners and bloggers made good content as you did, the internet will be a great deal more useful than ever before.

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