Steve Jobs 1955 - 2011

The news is everywhere already. Apple CEO and pioneer of the digital age, Steve Jobs, has died. This man truly changed the world with his ideas and innovations and should ever stand as a role model to creators of any industry who wish to carve their own path. His passion for his work gave us devices that made our lives fun, easier and more enjoyable. He made our work simple, and in some cases, even possible because he chose to think different. In a statement from the Apple board of directors, the write, "Steve's brilliance, passion and energy were the source of countless innovations that enrich and improve all of our lives. The world is immeasurably better because of Steve."

As an innovator, Steve Jobs has been compared to likes of Edison, in as much as he has truly transformed our world. A great example would be when his foresight allowed Apple to release the iPod in combination with the iTunes music store when the record industry slowly dying because of file sharing. The iPhone was a similar breakthrough. One only needs to look at how nearly every major handset manufacturer has copied it to understand the power of this idea. The great change to the world, though, might be found in his first product, the Apple II, which some consider to be the world's first personal computer.

Imagine for a moment that before this system, computers were something that existed in laboratories and universities. They were huge machines dedicated to work and there was nothing personal about them. The idea of a single person having one on their desk would likely have been seen as absurd. Contrast this with today, when nearly everyone has a PC on their desktop or in their office. If there is another revolution on this scale coming, Jobs will be behind this too, as it may be the iPad and iPhone, or smart phones in general of course, replacing the PC forever. That will be my next article, though.

Back in August, I wrote an article called, "A World Without Jobs" which touched on his resignation from Apple. In that article, I told my Apple story, of how I came to use and enjoy their products, as I still do today, and I also touched on the issue of work and health. I wrote, "I have been working hard for many years to build a dream. Right now, it seems like I am working 16 or more hours every day. I am lucky to get 6 hours of sleep, and, in fact, rarely do. I have been told I am destroying my health and making myself old too fast. So how does one find the balance?" Steve Jobs has written before how much he loved his work, and it shows in every product Apple creates. I do have to wonder, however, if that passion drove him to overwork and neglect his health.

The story of his passing is significant to me, not just because I am typing this on a Macbook Pro or dream of getting the next iPhone, but because I also very much love what I do and, perhaps, overwork at the expense of my health. I have a desire to do what Steve Jobs did. I don't design cool devices or create world changing technology, but animation is about ideas too. The impact this man has had extends far beyond his own products. He was something of a mentor to other great creators who have changed the world on some level.

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote, "Steve, thank you for being a mentor and a friend. Thanks for showing that what you build can change the world. I will miss you." We all know that Facebook was a latecomer to the world of social networking, but quickly took over that market. The founder of Yahoo similarly wrote, "Steve was my hero growing up. He not only gave me a lot of personal advice and encouragement, he showed all of us how innovation can change lives. I will miss him dearly, as will the world." HIs wisdom, however, wasn't limited to the technology field. There are statements from politicians, entertainers and CEOs of nearly every type of industry claiming great thanks to Steve Jobs for sage advice that helped them achieve what they did.

I never met Steve Jobs, though I wish I did. His creations, however, have had a tremendous impact on my life, allowing me more creative freedom than I dreamed possible in the old days. More than that, though, his ideas have made me want to be the greatest creator I can possibly be, so that I might also change the world, even if just a little bit.

I think nothing can sum up the loss of this legend better than this quote from President Obama, "The world has lost a visionary. And there may be no greater tribute to Steve's success than the fact that much of the world learned of his passing on a device he invented."



Steve Job and the iPad
No, this is not an article about the severe economic downturn in the U.S. and the rising rate of unemployment. This is about the official resignation of Apple CEO Steve Jobs and what that might mean for me, the world of computing, and the future of consumer electronics. It's no secret that Steve Jobs has been ill for quite some time. There have even been rumors of his demise, though unfounded. After three leaves of absence in the last few years, now it seems Jobs is gone for good.

This is quite a personal issue for me. It's not because I am a card carrying Apple fan. I'll tell my Apple story later. It's because Steve Jobs is a model of independent success. He is not an animator, of course, but his story follows a creative path that those of us who want to contribute something to the world via our ideas could only dream of. As someone who intensely studies the mechanics of success, through stories like that of Jobs and other visionary CEOs like Henry Ford, this raises some very important questions and strong emotional reactions for me.

First let me tell my Apple story. I was never a big fan of Apple. I got my start in the late 1980s on a computer called The Commodore Amiga. This followed my introduction to computers with the previous Commodore 64. This Amiga computer was light years ahead of its time. I could do much of what I am doing today that, now, 20 year old machine.

Apple computers were, of course, in existence back then. I would inevitably, in the world of computing in that day, run into the professors of the Mac religion, touting how their computer had more colors, or better fonts, or whatever might have been the case. I admit, I saw some impressive graphics, especially since Macs were really coming to prominence in the print advertising world at that time, but I didn't see anything that led me to believe I could make what I wanted to make on those computers. Even some of the software that allows me to do the shows I do today, like Lightwave and TVPaint, were around on the Amiga so many years ago, and got their start there.

In the early 1990's the Amiga died out. It was time to embrace something new and different. The world as whole seemed to have moved in the direction of Windows, and so did I. It would be almost ten years before I regained the ability to do everything I wanted to do again. Starting in the horrid Windows 3.1 I felt like I had lost an arm.

Over time, each version of Windows improved, and the software I knew and loved began to migrate to this platform. Before long, I was able to create again, and had all the power I once enjoyed to do full video with sound and editing and music. This was thanks, in large part to the advent of MiniDV. Not long after, I created Understanding Chaos.

Over the years I continued to grow with Windows, refining my workflow, gaining efficiency, and dreaming of creating new things. I was not wholly unaware of Apple and the Mac. There was a MAc guy working in one of the studios, who often touted the greatness of his chosen platform. He was often the guy who got the most jokes thrown at his computing preference. I also was already using iTunes, and Apple product, for my music and organizing my sound FX libraries. It is because of iTunes, actually, that things changed drastically.

There came a time when I wanted to do a series called Anigen. I wanted this series to be in the form of a video podcast, properly synched with iTunes and easily downloadable to supported devices. Me and a friend of mine struggled to figure out how to make all this happen using out Windows computers and software. We worked on it until 5:00 AM in the morning and never saw any progress. The next day, in the studio, I mentioned to that Mac guy we always laughed at what I was trying to do. He said something like, "Oh, that's easy!" He was already sitting at his Macbook Pro, and he opened some different iLife tools and did everything we were struggling all night to do in about two minutes. That very day, I went to the Apple store and bought my first Mac.

The Mac Mini
I didn't completely switch over. For years I ran both, using the Mac for what it was good at and continuing my workflow on the PCs I had always used. I also did my 2D animation on a WIndows based Tablet PC. Over time, though, I began migrating more and more tasks to the Mac, and things got better and better. I didn't have a plan to give up Windows, but when it came time for my travels to begin, I could only take one computer with me. I had to choose. Because of all that had transpired, including buying an iPhone somewhere in there, and where my workflow was at that point, I chose to go with the Mac.

So that's my Apple story. It doesn't seem to have a lot to do with Steve Jobs, right? Well, let's look at some aspects of that. First, I still very clearly remember the emotional impact of the death of the Amiga computer. In many ways that changed my life. It seemed to sidetrack my dream of creating. In the first couple of years, there was no more Lightwave, no more TVPaint and no equivalent software that, at least not that I saw as viable, with which I could continue. I was handicapped.

I should say, at this point, I do not expect Apple to suddenly die off like the Amiga did. I believe they are in good hands with Tim Cook, the former COO running things. I do however, believe that, over time, things will change. Things must change. Right now, though, as I have reached my highest level of productivity and the greatest workflow I could ever devise, I don't really want things to change, not anytime soon anyway. While it is true that all the major tools I use, like TVPaint, Vue, Poser, modo and others, exist on Windows, and the latest versions of WIndows are being touted as quite amazing, there would still be an inevitable downtime during transition. Worse, I don't see anything resembling iLife, which is really the glue that makes me current workflow as strong as it is. Everything talks to each other and is able to share data seamlessly. I would seriously miss that and feel, again, handicapped without an alternative.

Although that issue is something of a worry, it is not a huge deal. I have transitioned before and came out unscathed for the most part. The other issue, relating to Steve Jobs, is WHY he is resigning. It is because of his health. As I mentioned before, I am somewhat who intensely studies success and follows the stories of those, especially in any kind of creative field of endeavor, who have achieved success. The story of the self made man who puts everything into building success, but loses his health in the process is far too common. Is it a prerequisite? This is about finding balance. We all know that Jim Henson (The Muppets, The Dark Crystal) dies of an illness that is hardly life threatening in this day and age, but he died because he refused to stop working, take a rest, and go get treatment.

I have been working hard for many years to build a dream. Right now, it seems like I am working 16 or more hours every day. I am lucky to get 6 hours of sleep, and, in fact, rarely do. I have been told I am destroying my health and making myself old too fast. So how does one find the balance? My way has always been by improving my workflow, gaining efficiency and leveraging technology to make the impossible a reality. Is it enough? That remains to be seen. I certainly have no desire to work like this for the rest of my life, long or short. I know what my ideal life would be like and I am doing this now in order to get there, but what if when I get there I am already fit for the wheelchair? These issues of work/life balance have been of greet concern to me for a long time.

Although I don't have all the answers, and I doubt Steve Jobs does either, there is another issue surrounding this story, which I have to mention


What is with all the hate? Reading the comments indifferent news sites and blogs concerning this story, I am astounded at the amount of hate being directed at Steve Jobs. While I understand that no one can please everyone, and I myself have stopped even concerning myself with it, why would people actually wish this man dead, and his company gone? That, to me, is unfathomable.

Indiana Jones 4
Do people hate success? I have long given up on trying to please everyone out there. I would rather make my things and let those who are looking for that find it. Look at George Lucas and his new Star Wars films, or even the venerated Spielberg and the recent Indy sequel. All great successes and yet the amount of hate directed at them is astounding. There is even an unreasonable amount of hate directed at James Cameron and his Avatar, which may be the most successful film of all time. It's a battle you can't win. I have seen that clearly in the internet age.

For this reason I will do what makes me happy. By that I mean where the doing is what makes me happy without caring about the result. It may sound like strange proposition, but that is one thing I have found in common with all the successful people I have studied. Steve Jobs worked so long and hard, perhaps too hard, because he loved what he did and reveled in every second of it. I want this same thing, though I also desire to keep my health while doing so.