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“Thank You, Steve Jobs” — Your Friends at SPIN


October 2001: I am driving from San Francisco to New York City, for good. Everything I own of even marginal value is packed onto a dodgy moving truck, possibly to be seen again in a few weeks. The two exceptions are my dog, taking up the entire front seat, and all of my CDs, taking up the entire back seat. Within the year, a sizable chunk of that music will fit in my shirt pocket. Within four years, all of it will. By next week, when iCloud launches, none of it will need to.

There are, of course, downsides to this downsizing — anyone’s gripes about the devaluation of music, of its conversion from fetishized personal totem to interchangeable zeroes and ones on a hard drive, begins with the late Steve Jobs and Apple. But above all else, the iPod and all it wrought is the rare — if not only — modern technological sea change that can be attributed to a person.

We think of ourselves as living in a time without inventors. Innovators, pioneers, forward-thinkers, paradigm-shifters, sure. But individuals who dream up and create things that didn’t, or maybe shouldn’t, exist, feels so hopelessly antiquated. The very word “inventor” either conjures Thomas Edison, dead 80 years, or Balloon Boy’s dad — there’s no in between.

Except for Steve Jobs.

His closest analog, Bill Gates, never sees that word mentioned in the same sentence as his name. I imagine that’s the one thing a multi-jillionaire could get sore about. And the faster things move forward into points unknown and unfamiliar, the more important that humanization, that need to put a face on this breathtakingly exponential advancement and upheaval became.

Right now, people are leaving flowers outside an Apple retail store a few blocks from our office in downtown Manhattan to honor a man about whom they actually know very little. It’s impossible to think of a head of any other corporate entity (the greatest trick his company ever played was making themselves not seem like one) inspiring an emotional, personalized reaction like this, no disrespect to Ben or Jerry.

October 2011: SPIN magazine, my place of employ for the past six years — six years that have been historically tumultuous for both the music industry it covers and the publishing industry itself — finds itself, against the odds, able to thrive, facilitated in large part by Steve Jobs’ singular vision for the future of both those industries. Science-fiction as recently as a few years ago (simultaneously read about and listen to a band on a magic glowing tablet!), his iPad is in my hands right now.

It’s not worth speculating what another decade might bring. Certainly there are many others in offices everywhere this morning breathing similar sighs of relief and gratitude and wonder and, sure, trepidation. And while this isn’t about us, it also is, as this is a loss that everyone feels because of his products’ — his inventions‘ — unfathomable ubiquity and prevalence, and trying to separate this man’s professional life from any of our own professional lives is folly. There is so much to unpack that the natural reaction is to say nothing at all, but that doesn’t feel quite right, either.

And if nothing else? Thank you, Steve, for making it so we never have to talk to anyone in an elevator ever again.