TWO giants of technology died in recent weeks in widely contrasting fashion. Many mourned the passing of the genius who was Steve Jobs, only a few marked the demise of the genius who was Dennis Ritchie.
But despite that disparity, in life as in death, there is a thread that binds Jobs and Ritchie – that of greatness, genius and Unix.
Jobs changed technology and made it elegant, producing product after product that transformed industries — the Apple II, Mac, iPod, iTunes, iPhone and iPad. Any one of those products would have been enough to cement the legacy of a technology entrepreneur.
Jobs was uncanny in seeing technology trends. “He told us what we needed before we wanted it,” the Associated Press said in reporting his death. And it was something he was particularly proud of.
“There’s an old Wayne Gretzky quote that I love. ‘I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.’ And we’ve always tried to do that at Apple. Since the very, very beginning. And we always will,” Jobs said in 2007.
DEATH is the “single best invention of Life,” Steve Jobs told graduates of Stanford University in 2005. It is life’s change agent, clearing out the old to make way for the new, he said in his commencement speech that regained popularity online with his resignation last week as Apple chief executive officer over medical reasons.
“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.”
Jobs said that starting at 17, he’d look in the mirror every morning and asked himself, “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?”
That question, however, became more than rhetorical when he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2004 and underwent surgery. He was fine for a while but needed a liver transplant, which he had in 2009. He had been on medical leave since January.