Steve Jobs eventually made me Think Different

Summary:I despised Steve Jobs and Apple for the balance of my career. And yet it is a testament to his life that he was even able to make someone like me Think Differently.

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At the end of August, when Steve Jobs resigned from Apple as CEO and handed over the reins to Tim Cook, I said that I would not give into the pattern of eulogizing a human being while they were still alive. And I also promised that when he passed, I would write something that was heartfelt and honest.

That time is now.

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A lot of things are going to be said about Jobs over the coming weeks and months. Over the next several years books about him will be published, including the many chronicles of his achievements, and also the personal stories from those who worked with him that I hope will actually separate the myth from the man.

He is a person who without a doubt had a tremendous hand in the industry in which I participate in. And for that I am very grateful.

However, I didn't like Steve Jobs very much. In fact, for most of my life, after Woz left from having an active role at the company, the hackerish, open culture of my beloved Apple ][ disappeared and the proprietary, closed Mac was released in its stead, I despised him.

Indeed, I projected my own perverted anthropomorphism onto the Apple he transformed and the products that swept away the early Apple I grew up loving as an impressionable young adult.

I hated Jobs and the "new" Apple so much that I pursued computing interests as well as a career that mostly kept me away from the products he influenced and helped to create.

It is relatively easy to eulogize someone you love or admire. It is much more difficult to do this for someone you really don't like.

Jobs was a repelling force that caused me to become an actual technologist as opposed to an end-user. And for that, I thank him.

I don't want to repeat many of the things I have said in the past because now is a time of mourning and catharsis. But I'll leave them here for you to read because I feel that they are just as important as the glowing praise for the man you'll read elsewhere.

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None of this should surprise anyone who has been reading my column for any length of time.

It should be noted that not all of these things which I have written are from the sheer and vast ideological differences in how Jobs and I think about computing.

I've actually had several in-person interactions with him during my college years and the early part of my career that have helped me form actual impressions of what Jobs as a human being was actually like. He was... unique.

I'm not going to relate them here because I think they would simply come off as selfish and anecdotal, and frankly, they would only represent a very tiny snapshot of the man who successfully re-invented himself several times.

It would not be fair to him. But now that he is gone I consider myself lucky to have interacted with someone that brilliant, if only briefly and intermittently.

That being said, in the last year or so, I've mellowed out quite a bit when it comes to Jobs and Apple. Heck, I bought an iPad. No, two iPads.

I even did the unthinkable: I bought a Mac.

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And then I bought an Apple TV. I even bought an iPad for my mom. In a short year, I've become a vast consumer of the objects born from the man I loved to hate for most of my life. As Peter Cohen, the spiritual ringleader of the Angry Mac Bastards has said so eloquently, "Perlow is now drinking it straight from the tap."

In fact, in any number of my own posts in which I have actually complimented Apple, I've been accused in the TalkBacks of being a fanboy.

Can you imagine? Me? An Apple fanboy? Seriously? After all I have said and done? After all the bile I have spewed against this man?

Perhaps this is Steve Jobs' ultimate achievement. Not that he was able to make so many people idolize him and extol the products and ideas he helped to create, but that he and the company he re-created in his own image have even been able to turn around dyed-in-the-wool naysayers like myself.

It took him the better part of 30 years to do it to me, but he eventually got me in the end.

I don't think you can give anyone who you can't stand a better compliment than that.

Goodbye Steve. Please don't give the Almighty too much of a hard time about his design choices. And thank you for making me challenge my own perceptions and notions of computing and technology. Rest well.

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Topics: Apple

About

Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet is a technologist with over two decades of experience with integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer... Full Bio

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