In 1984 I bought my first computer because of a Disney comic from the 1950s. In it Donald Duck was painting a checkerboard with checkerboard paint. That had been a fantasy of mine since childhood. Suddenly there was a computer with software that allowed me to make my dream real. It was too expensive for me, but it made a fantasy real. The little 128k Mac was the first computer that really fired my imagination and brought delight.
The next few years didn't disappoint, but then the company wandered after Steve Jobs, waiting over a decade to get the magic back. In 2001 my research group had been working on digital music for several years and part of the effort was a player. We knew micro hard drive based players were going to be the next bit thing, but we couldn't figure out an interface that would allow you to easily navigation a thousand or more track. Then the iPod was announced. Again it seemed too expensive for me, but I drove over 100 miles to one of two Apple Stores in New Jersey to be first in line to buy one. After using it for an hour I realized it was not an expensive toy but something that added to my life. A complete delight and it changed the way I interacted with music.
Jobs and his crew saw the relationship between people and machines deeply. When you think about these things deeply, you begin to see things and make connections others miss. It goes well beyond technology, well beyond marketing and well beyond user interfaces and user experiences. Steve has created teams of people that work well enough together to see the future that is often so simple in retrospect, but too difficult for those of us who are not looking with diverse enough backgrounds to divine. They make it seem easy. It isn't and, properly done, it is disruptive.
Apple, under Steve, has been able to spark several revolutions - almost enough to wobble the mind. Perhaps his ultimate achievement has been to build an organization that can do this by deeply understanding technology and people. I suspect it will continue as Apple has hired and grown people and given them the right organization and institutional culture. They are not just a technology company. Not having Steve at Apple is certainly a loss, but I believe he has architected an organization that is wired with his DNA.
I wish Steve and his family peace and hope his condition is not as dire as it seems. I thank him for showing us that the simplicity that comes from deep understanding can be so powerful.