Crazy different

I don’t really have anything of value to add to all the commentary on the death of Steve Jobs, other than to note that I don’t think its volume can be attributed solely to the fact that everyone knew it was coming. Though his revolutionary work lasted three and a half decades, he really became a titanic figure in the last 15 or so years. Calling him the 21st century’s Edison is probably not overselling his impact and stature.

My first computer was an Apple //c like the one seen here. Remember the closed Apple key? Good times. Photo by Mike Maginnis.

What struck me reading the MetaFilter obituary thread was how many people’s experience mirrored mine — starting with a classroom Apple ][ Plus running BASIC, secretly coveting your friend’s IIgs, eventually moving into the more open design and development world of the early Macs — and how many didn’t. There was something really communal in reading people describe the same path, but starting with an iMac G3 and ending with a MacBook Pro and an iPad. As tough as it is to measure the impact of Apple (and Pixar, let’s not forget) on society in general, it may be even tougher to figure at the individual level. There are whole industries full of people whose lives have been altered by Jobs and his determination to pursue the path as he saw it.

And it probably won’t get much press this week, but Jobs credits that vision to his 70s-era use of LSD and other psychedelics, which he called “one of the two or three most important things” he had done. In a very real way, the revolutionary promise of the counterculture was finally brought to bear by Jobs and his unusual and uncanny ability to understand how people relate through information. It’s no accident that Jobs referred to the original Mac as “insanely great” or that the first ad campaign after his return to Apple was the “Think Different” series, featuring a monologue beginning, “Here’s to the crazy ones.” His legacy is one of having the foresight to understand what most of us could only grasp looking back, and of having his contemporaries perched on his rear-view mirror, desperate to figure it out for themselves.

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    • Guest

      Very interesting point on the psychedelics use–isnt the same said of Crick’s realization of the double helix?  The rhetorical use of insane, etc, is a connection and theme I and many others probably missed.  All that might be worth looking into more.

      • I think I’ve heard that about Crick, but probably not from an authoritative source. When you consider how LSD in particular was developed and used in its early days, there’s probably a really interesting social history to be made of its impact on science and technology. As a corollary to the clear impact of psychedelics on art, it’s kind of obvious, except that we so often don’t think of scientists as “creative” in that way.

    • Steph