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OUR VIEW: Steve Jobs liberated the creative class

By: WAYNE LAUGESEN
October 5, 2011
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Steve Jobs, who died Wednesday, surely ranks high among history’s 10 greatest innovators and producers of wealth. Born to a single mother and adopted in 1955, Jobs grew up to liberate the creative class. He freed artists, musicians, composers and writers from the oppression of technology that wasted energy on codes and technical maneuvers that are best left to machines.

He co-invented the personal computer and began perfecting it with the Macintosh in 1984. In the 1996 PBS documentary “Triumph of the Nerds,” Jobs nicely explained Macintosh and everything else his company, Apple, Inc., produced: “Part of what made the Macintosh great was that the people working on it were musicians and poets and artists and zoologists and historians who also happened to be the best computer scientists in the world.”

They weren’t the best computer scientists due to computer proficiency. They were the best because they used computers to produce entertainment, literature, art and research. Jobs enhanced their efficiency by easing their struggles.

“Jobs’ idea was that we’ll make it easy enough that anybody can do it ... a grandmother, a kid, people who don’t have any experience,” said Leander Kahney, author of “Inside Steve’s Brain,” as quoted by National Public Radio.

After losing a boardroom battle in 1985, Jobs was fired as CEO of the company he founded. Unemployed, he bought a tiny film company. He renamed it Pixar and revolutionized animated film.

During his absense, Apple nearly went out of business on several occasions for lack of bold innovation. Jobs returned in 1998 to once again reinvent our world. He invented the iPod, which replaced stereo systems, CDs, albums and photo books with one simple-to-use handheld device. He reinvented the phone in an effort that gave us the iPhone — a gateway to the world. The iPhone — and an array of copycat contraptions — is today’s newspaper, encyclopedia, Internet, road atlas, calculator, camera, video camera, stereo system — the list could go on almost endlessly — in one easy-to-use device.

He visualized splitting the difference between an iPhone and a laptop and gave us the iPad, which is becoming the interactive personal TV, library, bookstore and more.

One cannot eulogize Steve Jobs in a manner that does justice to his life. Most who live today have, in some magnificent way, had their lives improved by Jobs.

In these times of economic despair, we should look to the legacy of Jobs for inspiration. He never waited for a niche to fill. He didn’t wait for problems to solve in order to generate income for himself or his employees. He didn’t need government grants. He saw what never was and made it so. He dreamed of inventions that defied the imagination and brought them to life. He brought out the best in millions of talented people, who were willing to produce, by giving them powerful tools. He showed that prosperity is nothing other than creative elevation of the human condition.

Friend editorial page editor Wayne Laugesen on Facebook, follow him on Twitter

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