Originally published in the Rutland Herald on Oct. 9, 2011, and the Rutland County Express on Oct. 13, 2011.
It’s difficult to separate Steve Jobs, the man, from his work. Apple and Jobs are widely seen as inextricable — his personality and presence as central to the company’s brand as its products’ minimalist aesthetics, colorful ad campaigns and ubiquitous “i” prefix.
From a garage in California, Jobs changed the way we communicate and, in many ways, live our lives.
As President Barack Obama noted in his remembrance of Jobs last week, “… 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.”
But beyond catchy ads, sleek designs and momentous product announcements, Jobs was an innovator who has been compared to Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. He developed products that revolutionized multiple industries, be it music, telecommunications or home computing.
Jobs’ drive to inspire took him outside of Apple. At Pixar Animation Studios , he fostered a generation of animators who brought characters and their worlds to life, from “Toy Story” to “WALL-E” to “Up.”
Several Vermonters took time to reflect on Jobs’ impact after his death at 56.
‘Part of a bigger world’
Terry Holden of Cam-bridge isn’t the traditional Mac-head. In the PC vs. Mac battle for supremacy, she’s a neutral party.
But in her life, the iPad has been a godsend. Holden’s son Graham, 10, is autistic and nonverbal. Communicating with him is difficult. It is a constant struggle to find ways in which he can express himself. Several months ago, Holden bought an iPad, and that soon changed.
Graham took to the device immediately.
“In 10 minutes, he got it,” said Holden, who explained that the touch screen is an intuitive way for her son to work rather than a keyboard, which she said is not useful for him.
In the iTunes App Store, parents find dozens of apps designed for children with developmental disabilities. Holden purchased a few apps and soon began to observe a vast improvement in Graham’s social skills. These apps allow Graham to communicate nonverbally, as well as learn basic math and reading skills.
There is also the cool factor.
“When he has (the iPad), other kids want to join him, not avoid him,” said Holden. The tablet makes Graham a magnet for classmates curious about the new technology and gives him the opportunity to interact and actually teach them. “He shows them how it works,” Holden added.
According to Holden, the iPad has made her son more social and confident.
On Jobs’ death, Holden expressed gratitude for his contribution, saying, “I don’t know if he ever imagined kids like my son, but he made them part of a bigger world.”
Indeed, iPad use among children with developmental disabilities is becoming increasingly widespread.
Claudia Pringles, an attorney in Montpelier specializing in special needs planning, is an advocate for breaking down cost barriers with private insurance companies that prevent families from providing more speech and physical therapy for children with disabilities.
Pringles also moderates a Facebook group called “iPad Apps for Developmental Disabilities,” where parents and therapists can share and review various apps.
She said her daughter, Katarina, 11, is moderate on the autism spectrum and uses an iPad to improve language and reading comprehension.
The iPad is Pringles’ first Mac product. “I’m really happy with it,” she said, adding that her next laptop will almost definitely be a MacBook. “They’re people-friendly — intuitive,” she added, citing a word often used by fans of Apple products.
Kate Richards said she “usually isn’t the type of person who takes to the soapbox when it comes to brand loyalty.” But Apple is the exception.
“Their software has changed how we do, well, everything,” she said, explaining how Apple’s technology has streamlined her digital life by centralizing all her digital media on her home iMac, which syncs easily with her iPhone, so she can take all of it with her.
Most of her loyalty, though, comes from the quality of Apple products, said Richards, who is a graphic designer working as a communications assistant at Castleton State College.
As a college freshman, she bought a PC. Today, she still regards that as “one of the worst decisions” she’s ever made. In just one year it crashed three times. Having had enough, she bought a Mac — the same one she owns today, seven years later.
“I think the key to Apple’s success is how they captivate their audience,” she said. “Every part of being an Apple user is an experience — right down to the packaging.”
Richards said all graphic designers would agree with her that Apple set a new standard for design. Her current work machine is a 27-inch iMac.
“Visually, it is unlike any other,” she said of the iMac’s trademark large screen and bright display that has the ability to handle vivid colors that remain when they go from screen to print. That’s “essential in this business,” Richards said.
While many people make the argument that the initial cost of buying some Apple products is too high, Richards said it’s an investment. “In the seven years I’ve owned my iMac, I’ve only had to have it serviced once,” she said. “The quality you get over the lifetime of an Apple product is what keeps you going back for more.”
Don Mayer, CEO of Small Dog Electronics, which has stores in Waitsfield, South Burlington and Manchester, N.H., has been in the Apple business for more than 20 years. He said Jobs’ contribution has been “nothing short of monumental.”
Mayer met Jobs several times over the years. The first time was during the launch of Apple’s 1997 “Think different” campaign, which featured historical and cultural icons such as Mahatma Gandhi, Bob Dylan and Thomas Edison, calling them “the crazy ones” and “rebels” who challenged the status quo.
Mayer said he was overcome emotionally when he first saw the ads.
For Mayer, Jobs’ lasting contribution to the world is the gift of time. The technology he helped develop and refine “made our lives easier,” said Mayer.
“He made products work the way we think.”
Reflecting on Jobs’ death, Mayer called him “one of the geniuses of our time,” adding, “He belongs in that pantheon with those other ‘Think different’ people.”
Innovative. Intuitive. Inspirational. It is, indeed, difficult to separate Steve Jobs from the things he created. He imbued his devices with a sense of creativity, beauty and playfulness. He approached business with a refusal to accept the status quo. In both arenas, he redefined the rules of the game, which was, it seems, his true aspiration.