I went to the Apple store at Union Square, San Francisco, having heard that a crowd was gathering. The sidewalk in front of the store was packed with people, and a makeshift candles-and-flowers memorial grew as people stopped to leave gifts and messages for recently departed Steve Jobs.
The crowd was a combination of Apple consumers and members of the Bay Area technology community.
That's because however you feel about Steve Jobs, many of us found out by way of our feelings that something really ended today. Something bigger than life. For many of us Bay Area tech denizens, that something is tied to what has made us who we are today.
The engineers, the programmers, the artists, the photographers, the hackers, the hardware hackers, the video geeks, the writers and among all of these people all comprise couples, families, lovers, children, friends, passionate coworkers - social and literal architects of the modern internet, all of us. A hell of a lot of us "grew up on" and still use Apple products.
Not just Apple computers, but equally the mad outsider vision of the man behind Apple.
Steve Jobs was a complex character. He was not a polite man. Serious scandals happened under his watch.
But to paint him as either a devil - or a saint - would be inaccurate.
More: Perlow: Jobs made me think different | Farber: He thought different | “Stay hungry. Stay foolish.” | CBS News: Wozniak on Jobs | CNET: A Jobs timeline | ZDNet Steve Jobs memories | CNET roundup |Buzz Out Loud Live | Techmeme | Apple statement
At the San Francisco Union Square Apple Store sidewalk gathering tonight, emotions were unexpectedly strong. People were drawn to the store for no reason they could readily explain. They lit candles with their kids and left personal notes on the store window. They heavily considered Apple's Jobs-era role in their own lives.
Local technorati - including some Apple ex-employees - walked from SOMA and came from various parts of The City to pay respects. Standing front of the store, they each mourned a different Steve Jobs, and a different facet of Apple's diamond.
Some were mourning the "Think Different" Steve Jobs. Many grieved for the Stanford speech Steve Jobs. I spoke with the coming-and-going mourners for two hours. Some knew Jobs personally; these rare birds were reflective upon losing the man.
Yet every single person I talked to told me they would not be the person they are today in technology in some way if it weren't for Apple products. Not just the hardware or software, but importantly, the Jobs-era Apple products.
The products made with the arrogance to think that computers should just work.
The era where Apple's vision was to make computers work together.
The madman that disrupted the way the world uses phones.
The era where there was a still grain of wanting to smash the status quo, to welcome the brilliance of outsiders, to upset media distribution chains and wake everyone else the hell up, to make technology attractive to everyone.
There's more. But tonight, everyone grieved for that thing - that tirelessness, and the acute pain of listening to a man self-aware enough to die and tell us to live like him so we feel, and make the most of, our destinies and our fates.
The question repeated in the crowd was, "Who's going to do this now? Who will push and shove technology and worldviews to at least try and make this place a bit better than when they found it?"
The answer is us.
- We were there: see our gallery of the spontaneous San Francisco Apple store memorial.