Urgent Matters

On the icon who gave us the computer icon — and a whole lot more

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There are a lot of people writing about Steve Jobs today and his untimely passing. It seems the right thing to do. How does one not acknowledge a visionary who truly changed the world?

When I was in college, I was forced to take a class on FORTRAN, one of the first programming languages, which was developed by IBM in the 1950s. (I won't go into how I found myself in that predicament — it's a long story.) I absolutely hated the class. Each week, we'd have to do flow charts and punch data into cards that then were sent through a reader. If we did things correctly, the image of a bunny, flower or tree would appear on the computer printout. Mine always looked like a mutation. I don't believe I would have made it through if one of my dorm mates hadn't been in my class. His tutoring was worth every beer I bought him — and I bought plenty.

So, I always have had great admiration for the world's computer geeks — a moniker I use with the utmost respect. And Jobs, a college dropout, was the ultimate computer geek. But he was more than that — he was the man who made computers accessible to the masses. Apple, the company he formed with high-school buddy Steve Wozniak in 1974, was the first to introduce the graphical user interface — complete with desktop icons and drag-and-drop utility, and later color graphics — which ushered in the era of personal computing. Suddenly, people like me who had absolutely no idea how computers worked could use one, for both work and entertainment.

For an encore, Jobs — who left Apple in the mid-1980s due to internal strife — returned as CEO a dozen years later and transformed not only the company, but also the computer world, by launching the iPod, iTunes, the iPad and the iPhone. Today, Apple sits atop the tech world. It is the most valuable technology company on the planet, and the second most valuable of any kind in the U.S.

What a legacy.

Steve Jobs was one of a kind and will be impossible to replace — there's no app for that.

What do you think? Tell us in the comment box below.

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Insights from Donny Jackson concerning the most important news, trends and issues.

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Donny Jackson

Donny Jackson is editor of Urgent Communications magazine. Before joining UC in 2002, he covered telecommunications for four years as a freelance writer and as news editor for Telephony magazine....
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