When Steve Jobs was asked in 1985 why people should make a heavy investment on a new computer built by Apple, he replied that if one had asked Alexander Graham Bell about the possible uses of a telephone, he would not have been able to say. Moreover, he envisioned a time when computers like the one he had made would be linked to a nationwide communications network. That uncanny understanding of the future course of technology, the intuition, vision, and courage necessary to build it marked the extraordinary life of Steve Jobs. When he died on Wednesday at the age of 56, he left the venture he co-founded in his parents’ garage the most valuable technology company in the world. A restless diviner of the digital future, Jobs made things for people before they knew they needed it. The first Macintosh computer brought technologies such as the graphical user interface and the mouse to the mainstream, scoring a giant leap over text-based displays. The iPod, the iPhone, and the iPad were products of his belief that humans, as instinctive users of tools, would love them. These creations successfully disrupted the universe of gadgets and entertainment, creating new benchmarks for products.
A quarter century ago, at a time when the computer business was focussed on big corporations and mainframes, Jobs pursued a vision to take the productivity of the computer to the small businessperson and the home user. He used innovation and reliability as growth engines. He was the digital woodworker who never compromised on design, materials, or craftsmanship, in hardware and software. Early in his career, Jobs argued that creativity was an asset of the young. As people grew older, they got stuck in the patterns etched in their mind by their thoughts. Companies with many layers of middle management filtered out the passion for products. Jobs was the great exception – mercurial, driven, and eager to connect the dots of the future till the end. Unceremoniously thrown out of the company he co-founded, he returned to it enormously enriched with creative ideas. Despite suffering from a rare form of pancreatic cancer diagnosed soon after he unveiled the iTunes music store, he persevered with the development of new products such as the iPhone. In his famous commencement address at Stanford University in 2005, he reflected on the inevitability of mortality: “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living somebody else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking … And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.” This summed up the life and work of a college dropout who, by connecting the dots and having the courage to follow his heart and intuition, changed the world.