Steve Jobs

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Oct. 5 2011 11:32 PM

Steve Jobs

This post is being written on a MacBook Pro, which replaced a MacBook earlier this year. Plugged into it, recharging: an iPhone. At some point in 2007, I forgot what it was like to write and edit on products produced outside of Apple. This is a pretty banal story; I'll let the president tell it.

By building one of the planet’s most successful companies from his garage, he exemplified the spirit of American ingenuity.  By making computers personal and putting the internet in our pockets, he made the information revolution not only accessible, but intuitive and fun.  And by turning his talents to storytelling, he has brought joy to millions of children and grownups alike. Steve was fond of saying that he lived every day like it was his last.  Because he did, he transformed our lives, redefined entire industries, and achieved one of the rarest feats in human history: he changed the way each of us sees the world.
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.

This seems about right. Jobs was a genius, as unconvential as any other genius, with an impact that's probably impossible to calculate. How much credit does he deserve for it? The lesson of the Xerox story, in which Jobs took the interface that would change personal computing, is probably key here -- Jobs recognized a good design when no one else did. He was able to design products for needs and utilities that people didn't realize they had. That's a rare enough skill, but the skill to do that again and again and again? That's impossibly rare. I think the Jobs legacy vis-a-vis the way Apple products are mass-produced in Foxconn has yet to be grappled with. Thinking hard on that, and donating to fund research on pancreatic cancer, would be two good ways to remember him.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.