In 1996, I was working for The Computer Shoppe, in Metairie, Louisiana. The Computer Shoppe is distinctive in that it was one of the original Apple retailers signed up nearly twenty years before. That year Apple Computer, Inc. celebrated its twentieth anniversary, and there was much hullabaloo. One such bit of hullabaloo was the visit by Apple bigwigs and Steve Wozniak to our humble shop. Then-Apple CEO Gil Amelio had enlisted Woz, as one of the company’s original founders, to act as the face of the company for the anniversary goings-on.
Woz spent an entire day at the store, and the entire staff got to go to a dinner that night, where The Computer Shoppe’s owners were presented with a crystal apple as thanks from the company. Some time during that day, I got Woz’s signature on the mostly-blank side of one of The Computer Shoppe’s tri-fold flyers.
I’ve attended two Macworld Expo keynotes where Steve Jobs was presenting. The first time I was in the same (albeit very large) room as Jobs, I thought about that flyer with Woz’s signature, and how neat it would be to get both founders’ autographs together.
These were the heady days of two Macworld Expos a year, and I knew I’d be attending the very next Expo, so for that time, I dug through the box of momentos and found the flyer. It was with me in the keynote hall, and it was in my hand as I got within about fifteen feet of Jobs after the keynote had concluded and the hall had mostly emptied.
That flyer still bears only Woz’s signature.
I don’t remember who Jobs was talking to. It didn’t appear to me it was a media-related conversation, and my memory isn’t deep enough to recall whose badges said what, so it very well could have been a less-publicly known Apple executive. Or just a friend.
What I do recall is that Jobs appeared at ease. Comfortable. He wasn’t having to be “on” for the keynote presentation. He was more relaxed now. There were a few other people were milling about, waiting for a chance to talk to Steve, shake his hand, whatever. I looked around at them, and the thought occurred to me, This just doesn’t feel right. I cannot recall there being anything specific triggering that thought, but I do remember the thought. This just doesn’t feel right. So I stuck the flyer back in my laptop bag and headed out, no looking back, no regrets.
There may have been a time to ask Jobs to sign the flyer, to get his John Hancock next to his former partner’s. But that wasn’t it. Not when he was coming down from arguably some of the toughest in-the-public-eye work he did each year. It was time to let him bask in the finish, to relax, to enjoy.
Many words have been and will continue to be spilled about the life of Steve Jobs. He will be called many things: visionary, leader, driven, egotistical, asshole. He will be remembered fondly by many. He will be remembered foully by some. Love or hate, he will be remembered.
The first computer my family owned was a used Apple ][e, purchased from a teacher at my high school. I distinctly remember going with my dad to the teacher’s house to pick up the system, and I distinctly remember seeing my first Macintosh in person, for that was what had replaced the ][e for this particular teacher. I remember buying my first Mac in the Tulane University book store while my wife was in law school. And I remember going into the Dallas metroplex’s first Apple retail store to buy the first iPod.
Like many of my friends, I would not have had many of the experiences, the jobs, I have had were it not for two Steves getting together to build a personal computer. Which led to another. Which led to another. And another. And so on.
What we should remember most about Steve Jobs, for all that he accomplished, is that, in the end, he’s just a man. A man with family and friends who loved him deeply, and who will mourn his passing more deeply than any one of us outside that circle. For me, tomorrow is just another day in my life. For them, tomorrow is another day without the dear one they loved.
So I do not mourn Steve Jobs for myself, despite what his life’s work meant to mine. Instead I mourn for his family, who now face life without a husband and father.
And for the rest of us, tomorrow will be just another day. Tomorrow, there is no chance of Steve returning. Tomorrow, there is no amount of mourning and what-iffing that will bring him back.
Tomorrow is the time to turn to the ideals Steve believed in: striving for perfection, though it is never attained; demand the best in yourself, and strive to bring it out in others; and to live your life to the fullest in pursuit of your dreams.