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At 5.45am

I’d been awake for about 20 minutes before my iPhone blared into life; Wake Up Boo filled the bedroom, and I leapt off the bed to switch it off before my wife woke. As is my habit, I flicked the phone off airplane mode, and gave my e-mails a cursory look.

Oh, shit.

I remember my first encounter with a Mac vividly. I was still in my teens – just – and in my first year of an English Literature degree. I’d been persuaded by a friend – whose name I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve long forgotten – to see what I could do to get the college magazine back on its feet after a disastrous year. There, sat in the cubbyhole that masqueraded as the magazine office, was a Mac. No hard drive, tiny greyscale screen. That tiny little box changed my life. We wrote in Word and laid out in Aldus Pagemaker on that little box. It did what we had several expensive typesetting machines and a handfuls of PCs to do back at Felix, Imperial College’s student magazine. I had the power to publish on a desk, in one box. I was hooked.

RIP Steve JobsWhen the news came, years ago now, that Steve Jobs had pancreatic cancer, I felt a chill. The last time I heard that diagnosis, it was applied to my Dad. The oncologist had looked each of us in the eye, and then handed me a piece of paper with the number 3 written on it. “Years?” I asked. “Months,” he replied. Dad beat the odds. He made it to 9 months.

Within weeks of that horrible day, I had bought myself my first Mac of Jobs’ second era at Apple: one of those much-mocked clamshell iBooks, in graphite. I bought it so I could work from Suffolk when I needed to, and my brother bought a digital video camera so we could capture some of those last, happy days. And so I discovered iMovie, and a new set of opportunities for creation, for recording and sharing opened up. Within a few months of my Dad’s death, I was blogging, and using that to post the first pictures from my very first digital camera. 2001 changed my life in many ways, but many of those changes were mediated through that toilet-seat iBook.

I’m sat on a train somewhere between West Sussex and London, typing these words on an iPad. (You know that whole “iPad is for consumption not creation meme”? I never got the memo.) It’s given to very few to change the lives of millions in a positive way. It’s given to even fewer to provide the world with beautiful, functional tools that change our relationship to both our own creativity and the creativity of others. Jobs looked at the digital revolution and dreamed of using it to do things better, to live better, to make things better. And he did that. What a life.

Thank you, Steve. I can honestly say that your work made my life a better place, and continues to do so every single day. 

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Some other posts about Steve Jobs from friends or acquaintances:
Thank you, Steve – Jen Dixon
I met Steve Jobs once – Mike Butcher

Jobs is right about newspaper apps

From an article about Gordon McCloud’s abrupt departure from the Wall Street Journal:

In a Q&A session with the assembled executives and managers, including Journal editors, [Steve] Jobs railed against the apps newspapers like the Journal have created for his iPad. Their interfaces are terrible, he said, and their content is all too often limited. That the Journal’s archrival the New York Times was among those singled out for criticism — Jobs hates the limited NYT Editors’ Choice app — must have helped take the sting off. And Jobs did praise the WSJ’s iPad app as very attractive. But the CEO also said the app was too slow, essentially calling it a clunky reading experience.

The thing is, in my experience, Jobs is right. Most apps from traditional publishers are a league behind offerings like Flipboard in their usability and reader experience. Jobs may be rude and arrogant at times, but there are few on the planet with his obsession over good user experiences, particularly on his own devices. 
Gawker, as you would expect, is trying to characterise this is “if you cross Steve Jobs, you get sacked”. However, if you can’t take advice on a good user experience from a man whose entire career has been based on providing it – then perhaps the company is better off without you. 

Jobs, Blogs and Media Money

So, Mr Steve Jobs of Apple, Inc took to the stage at All Things Digital’s D8 event earlier in this week, and actually had some interesting things to say about the way Apple views the world, their clashes with Google and Adobe, and the relationship between the iPad and iPhone. 

However, my eyebrow did a Roger Moore-esque twitch at this:
“I don’t want us to see us descend into a nation of bloggers,” says Jobs. “I think we need editorial oversight now more than ever. Anything we can do to help newspapers find new ways of expression that will help them get paid, I am all for.”
There have been some good rebuttals of his financial arguments, of which Mathew Ingram’s is probably the best. But it’s the first half of the quote that surprised me: the dismissal of bloggers. On reflection, though, it shouldn’t have, for a number of reasons. For one, it’s clearly being used as shorthand for the difference between professional news-gatherers and the amateurs, rather than a dismissal of blogging as a method of publishing per se. We know that Jobs reads Daring Fireball, for a start. For another, Apple’s recent run-ins with a blogger over an, uh, misplaced iPhone 4G are well documented.
However, I think it’s deeper than that. Apple is a company founded on the idea of control – they control news about their new products ruthlessly. They control the user experience of people using their devices. They control the very hardware that the user experience is found on. Apple’s success is predicated on control. They are, in the parlance of online journalism discussion, gatekeepers. And thus it’s no surprise that Jobs values the gatekeeping function of  newspapers over the free-for-all open debate of the web. 
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