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Thursday, October 06, 2011

Of Renewable Innocence, Not Loss

From the start, Steve Jobs knew that an apple had to be associated with his vision. The first logo of his nescient company was Sir Isaac Newton sitting under an apple tree; a reference to both scientific discovery and placing oneself in the correct environment to receive inspiration.

But very quickly he realized that the apple – the catalyst for Newton's 'Eureka' moment – had to be the logo for his company.

This sort of winnowing down, distillation… getting directly to the core (pun intended) of what had to happen next, was what set Jobs apart. His choice of the apple over the entire Newton-discovery scene was, for him, an obvious nod to what was the essence of the discovery. Of all the elements in that first logo, only the apple was ubiquitous. Newton was clearly unique. But because it was the apple – the generic apple - at the center of Newton's changed perceptions, Jobs chose it as his new company's logo. With that choice he broadcasted his belief that the opportunity for discovery and innovation was all around us. We just had to become open to seeing things in new ways.

Although never directly stated, one can assume that the logo; an apple with a bite out of it, is also a reference to Adam and Eve becoming enlightened after eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge. However in Judeo-Christian theology, that early chapter is associated with a loss of innocence; specifically trading enlightenment for innocence. But in the case of Apple Computers, the emphasis seemed always to be on renewable Innocence. Nearly every new innovation from Apple seems to have been designed to return us to a state of childlike wonder… of slack-jawed awe.

As Clarke's Third Law states: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

In Sir Arthur Conon Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories, a recurring theme was Holmes' reluctance to reveal his methods to Watson. In his own words, "You know a conjurer gets no credit when once he has explained his trick; and if I show you too much of my method of working, you will come to the conclusion that I am a very ordinary individual after all."

Steve Jobs knew that once we started using his 'magic', we would become instantly comfortable with how simple and obvious it was. But unlike Holmes, Jobs wanted that to happen. He knew that with each new revelation, people would become comfortable with the new technology… creating the forward momentum necessary for the next discovery… and the next ('next' being, not coincidentally, the name he chose for the company he founded during his exile from Apple).

Tech writers and Apple fans will be writing about loss today; about the untimely loss of an innovative genius; about the loss of a leader in the technology sector that was founded by Peter Pan-like child prodigies… wunderkinds building wonder machines in their parent's garages.

But for me, Steve Jobs' legacy is about never having to mourn the falling of the scales from our eyes; That we need never experience a sense of loss when it comes to understanding and adapting to new technology. We may pine for the warmth and fullness of phonograph records or the throaty, simple power of muscle cars. But he helped create a world where we would never need to look longingly back at C: prompts, Windows 3.1 or even the Apple II. With each genuine innovation the world around us was recreated anew.

Steve Jobs helped establish a reality where every few months, or even weeks, we could renew our innocence and wonder at the latest discoveries that had fallen from Cupertino as (seemingly) easily as an apple falls from a tree.

I selfishly hope that he left enough of himself and his philosophy behind at Apple, Inc. so that we can continue to renew our innocence and sense of wonder, for decades and centuries to come.

Posted by David Bogner on October 6, 2011 | Permalink

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I've not been much of an Apple adopter, I have an iPod, but I've always admired "the magic" of Apple.

This is an excellent tribute to a man with terrific vision. I too hope some of that was left behind.

Posted by: Jethro | Oct 6, 2011 3:28:21 PM

A very interesting analysis, Trepp. I used to compare Jobs and Gates. Both are worth more money than I can imagine. But they managed their corporate strategies in wildly different ways. Apple consumers were always zealots about their platform/technology -- even dating back to the early Macintosh computers. Jobs wanted to develop technologies which people could use transparently to accomplish real world tasks. He borrowed the GUI concept years before PCs because a "desktop" and a "trash can" were familiar items to users. People didn't care how an iPod worked -- they loved that they could listen to music on a tiny little device which fit comfortably in their pocket and was feather-light. iPads gave people a light-weight alternative to laptops and used an intuitive design.

Bill Gates may have initially dominated the marketplace, but he was never a true innovator like Steven Jobs. And now Apple has more money than the US Treasury... I think Jobs won that contest.

Posted by: ProphetJoe | Oct 6, 2011 3:28:34 PM

Very eloquent tribute!

Posted by: Shoshanna | Oct 6, 2011 8:52:29 PM

Very eloquent tribute!

Posted by: Shoshanna | Oct 6, 2011 8:52:29 PM

I read that Jobs and Woz moved from their parents garage to a barn in an apple field-- and hence the name. But your garden of eden imagery is nice too

Posted by: jordana Schoor | Oct 6, 2011 9:30:08 PM

I read that Jobs and Woz moved from their parents garage to a barn in an apple field-- and hence the name. But your garden of eden imagery is nice too

Posted by: jordana Schoor | Oct 6, 2011 9:30:09 PM

I read that Jobs and Woz moved from their parents garage to a barn in an apple field-- and hence the name. But your garden of eden imagery is nice too

Posted by: jordana Schoor | Oct 6, 2011 9:30:09 PM

Trep:
That's the most moving tribute I've read about Jobs's passing.

On a related note: I heard a quip today that there
were 3 apples that changed the world: Eve's, Newton's, and Jobs'.

BTW, I pine for my 1985 Fat Mac or my Max SE from around 1988/89.
Computers were so simple then.

With connectivity we can do so much more now.
But the grace of those early machines is gone. Connectivity leads to complexity
which leads to headaches. Connectivity also puts one in a virus-rich environment.
Hence anti-virus defenses and the headaches they bring.

On net computers are better now. But they also bring more headaches.

Posted by: Jonathan | Oct 7, 2011 12:28:10 AM

Nicely written :) Thank you

Posted by: It's Full of Stars | Oct 7, 2011 5:55:44 AM

How fitting that your tribute, like the man himself and his company's products, is so simple and elegant. I always look forward to encountering what you have to say and how you say it.

We can hope that he's left some of his magic behind, but given the way Apple foundered while he was gone the first time, one is less than perfectly sanguine.

Posted by: bratschegirl | Oct 7, 2011 6:16:14 PM

How fitting that your tribute, like the man himself and his company's products, is so simple and elegant. I always look forward to encountering what you have to say and how you say it.

We can hope that he's left some of his magic behind, but given the way Apple foundered while he was gone the first time, one is less than perfectly sanguine.

Posted by: bratschegirl | Oct 7, 2011 6:16:14 PM

What a delightfully fresh approach to eulogizing this creative mind! Thank you for another marvelous piece of writing and vision.

Posted by: rutimizrachi | Oct 9, 2011 5:52:51 AM

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