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A Note On Steve Jobs

October 7, 2011

The last few days have seen an avalanche of media content about Steve Jobs. And what more appropriate topic? As we mourn Jobs’ death, we also celebrate the vision, innovation and perspective he brought to our lives. As much as anyone, Jobs was a prophet of our modern technology lives. In the midst of the thousands of posts and articles about Jobs, one really stood out for me.

Steve Jobs, Father of Social Media,” on HBR.com‘s blog page made me stop and think a little. In this article, Alexandra Samuel credits Jobs with laying the foundation of modern social media. That’s not exactly what we really think of first when we reflect on Jobs’ accomplishments, but Samuel has a good point. She explains: “It was through the Mac — and later, the iPod, iPhone, and iPad — that we discovered computers could be tools for creativity and personal expression.” [italics denote article excerpts and are mine in all cases]

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a fan of Macs. But I do remember the first time I saw one, and how fresh and new it felt. It really wasn’t a computer at all, in the sense that any of us had ever known. It was personal and approachable, more of art and purpose than of electronics. It ushered a generation of young people into a space that had always been the exclusive domain of button-down shirts. And that infused the world of computing with a bolus of energy and creativity. How did that influence the age of social media? Samuel boils it down to this, “The social media revolution rests on this discovery of the creative, expressive, and emotional potential of digital technology.”

Steve Jobs recorded many impressive accomplishments in his lifetime. But his real impact reaches perhaps even further than we often realize. The echoes of his contributions reach the far corners of modern life, and Alexandra Samuel’s observations are as insightful as they are eloquent. You may want to follow her on twitter at @awsamuel.

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