Steve Jobs’ death doesn’t come as a particular shock — he clearly wouldn’t have stepped down from his role at Apple had he not been extremely ill. And people other than me will do a better job of summing up his impact on the international technology market. But what stands out for me is how astonishing Apple under Jobs was at creating incredibly powerful desires. Thanks to him, we all live, in bits and pieces, in a Jetsons-like vision of the future.
When I bought my first laptop in preparation for college, Apple wasn’t particularly on my radar, even though the iPod had come out the fall before (Jobs passed away just short of the 10-year anniversary of the product’s announcement). I bought a Dell on the advice of the woman who did IT at my summer job because it was comparatively inexpensive and powerful. But within a year, I was sighing over a friend’s used iPod that I just didn’t have the money to buy myself. I remember vividly unwrapping the iPod my parents gave me for my birthday a year later, and the moment several years later when I lost that one on a post-college train trip, and realized that the prices on them had come down enough so that I could effectively make the replacement an impulse buy. To a certain extent, Apple has replaced McDonalds as a threshold consumer experience: with caveats for socioeconomic class, sometimes it seems like everyone has some sort of Apple product, and getting one of your own is a membership badge.