Steve Jobs’ impact on how the world looks, how we create images and use images has been as significant as anyone else over the last 30 years. From the Mac’s Graphic User Interface to the evolution of Desktop publishing, Jobs’ changed how images were produced and distributed. Jobs not only changed how we create and use images he also changed the image of technology itself, both in terms of how it looked and felt on the outside, and how we worked with it on the inside, the Mac being famously ‘intuitive’. The creative-friendly technology developed by Jobs contributed hugely to the evolution of the ‘image culture’ we now live in.
In the spirit of the famous Monty Python sketch from The Life of Brian we list some things Steve Jobs has done for us. The fact some may not be particularly well-known is a testament to just how much he shaped the world of everyone who works with images.
The original NeXT computer used by Tim Berners-Lee. Wiki-Commons
OK maybe Tim Berners-Lee could have used a machine other his NeXT computer for the first server for the internet! And perhaps he could have created the first web browser (initially called WorldWideWeb) on a different computer. But he didn’t. He used the computer developed by Steve Jobs at NeXT the computer company he founded in 1995 after he had left Apple.
A Post-Beige world
It’s hard to imagine now but before iMacs the world of computing was seriously Beige. It wasn’t just a matter of colour. Jobs understood that Beige never really expressed the future in the way that the minimalist, futuristic white iPod did, or even the candy-colored iMacs. (More great examples of Mac product adverts)
Woody, Buzz Lightyear and Mr. Potato Head
Children’s animation and storytelling was reinvented by Pixar, a company bought by Steve Jobs in 1986, and in 1995 the John Lasseter directed Toy Story was released. Under Lasseter’s creative direction Pixar went on a roll of critical and commercial success. In an interview on Charlie Rose with John Lasseter, Jobs was asked ‘how do you think of yourself?’ He replies, “The things I do in my life and the things we do at Pixar, these are team sports, they are not something one person does…One person can’t do it.”
We take it for granted that in the era of Desktop Publishing (1985, The Apple Mac + The Apple Laser Writer + software programs unique to the Mac) we can all enjoy the pleasures of considered Typography. But it might not have been the case had Steve Jobs not gone on a Calligraphy course. He reflected in a commencement address to Stanford University that the beauty he discovered in typography…
“had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it’s likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards 10 years later.”
Technology As a Way of Seeing the World
Jobs understood that computer technology was more than a tool. Software, the User-Interface shaped how we interact with things. Jobs understood the fundamental importance of graphics and iconography in harnessing our imagination when we work with computer technology. The Apple Mac inspired creative people all over the world including the Italian novelist and philosopher Umberto Eco who famously was inspired to write an essay comparing the Mac to the MS Dos system, as the difference between two belief systems.
“The fact is that the world is divided between users of the Macintosh computer and users of MS-DOS compatible computers. I am firmly of the opinion that the Macintosh is Catholic and that DOS is Protestant. Indeed, the Macintosh is counter-reformist and has been influenced by the ratio studiorum of the Jesuits. It is cheerful, friendly, conciliatory; it tells the faithful how they must proceed step by step to reach — if not the kingdom of Heaven — the moment in which their document is printed. It is catechistic: The essence of revelation is dealt with via simple formulae and sumptuous icons. Everyone has a right to salvation.” Using the Mac, as fans will testify is a truly religious experience!
Working for Apple and Pixar, Steve Jobs inspired new ways of using pictures, new ways of thinking about technology and new forms of creativity.
R.I.P. Steve Jobs
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