Steve Jobs – Game Changer

By Geoff Ratliff

Just as sports has once in a generation athletes that come along and cause us to rethink our idea of what the human body is actually capable of, we observe that same type of “where did that come from?” talent in other walks of life. Steve Jobs’ brilliance was two-fold in that he not only created a company that became a pioneer of technological innovation, he also redefined the rules of business by taking what many saw as niche products, and turning them into must-have items for millions of Apple loyalists. The story of Jobs’ and his turnaround of Apple has been told ad nauseam, so rather than retell a story that you’ve undoubtedly heard before, let me try to define his influence with a couple of personal anecdotes.

I used to hate cell phones. Other than the company issued, Zack Morris style brick phone that my mom would let me borrow for road trips from Virginia to St. Louis and back, I really didn’t see the point. Even when the Motorola Startac flip phones became popular in the early 2000s – I was issued one for my first job out of college – I just never accepted the idea of anyone having that much personal access to me. I think I was the last of my friends to finally purchase a cell phone for myself.

Fast forward to Christmas day, 2008. I had been bitching about my little flip phone for months, and had also been talking about the need to get myself an iPod, but I was firmly entrenched in the anti-Crackberry crowd, so a smart phone of any kind wasn’t on the forefront of my mind. I’d seen how they had turned millions of seemingly well-adjusted human beings into techno slaves, tricking them into working endless hours due to the power of technology. Apparently my steady complaints about the flip phone drowned out the anti-smartphone chatter because, to my surprise, my wonderful sister blessed me with a shiny new iPhone 3G. I was shocked! I was happy as hell, but I was shocked.

Now almost three-years later, I still have that same iPhone, and I don’t really use it to it’s full capacity, but I will tell you that December 25th, 2008 began my full on conversion to an Apple devotee, and frankly I freak out anytime I even think that I’ve lost my phone; I’m lost without it. I’d be lying if I didn’t selfishly admit that one of the first thoughts that ran through my mind when I heard of Jobs’ passing was “Will this delay my ability to pre-order my iPhone 4Gs on Friday?”

The second story really speaks to the multi-generational impact that Jobs’ brilliance in product development has had on our world. In the spring of 2010, I was having a conversation with a few friends when one of them mentioned that her sister and brother-in-law had purchased iPads for their two-year old twin girls. Upon first hearing this, I was incredulous! What the hell could a two-year old do with an iPad? She explained to me how they were really trying to put their kids on the fast track to child development and the device was filled with kid friendly learning applications. The explanation was logical, but something about it still didn’t compute. About nine months later, I noticed my own daughter playing with my iPhone on the couch. Now normally this was fine because she was not quite 18-months old and hadn’t quite figured out how to work the slide function to get past the home screen, except on this particular day, I watched as she slowly moved her finger across the screen and opened up the wonderful world of the iPhone. As any parent usually is during a new developmental milestone, I was as proud as could be, but I also realized I needed to put a password back on my phone to avoid a tragic baby-texting incident. Since then, me and my wife have downloaded numerous child friendly apps for our iPhone and iPod Touch respectively, and Beverly has been the better for them. For the past 8 months, we have been involved in a somewhat playful debate over whether or not to by her an iPad2 when she turns two on Halloween. You can guess which side of the debate I’m on.

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