Commentary: Steve Jobs' remarkable vision and legacy

The Sacramento BeeOctober 6, 2011 

Steve Jobs was that rarest and most extraordinary of Californians, a man who in his 56 years helped transform an industry and left his imprint on us all.

An iconic figure, Jobs, who died Wednesday, started Apple with his original partner, Steve Wozniak, in his parents' garage in Cupertino, where he attended public schools.

Over time, the company he led directly challenged the world's leading computer company, IBM. Apple became the state of the art and the industry standard.

Jobs, who had battled pancreatic cancer, introduced the first commercially successful desktop computer, and spawned desktop publishing and computer-animated movies.

Does he rank with the likes of Thomas Edison? Historians will mull that one over. But in the tributes that flowed on Wednesday, it is noteworthy that his name was mentioned in such company.

Robert X. Cringely, a technology entrepreneur and writer, wrote in Inc. Magazine in 2004 that Jobs had "the best taste in product design, the best ability as a one-on-one technical manager, and the greatest skill at making the rest of us want to buy stuff we don't strictly need of any American industrialist, ever."

Jobs was demanding, enigmatic and secretive. He also helped expand the boundaries of our knowledge by bringing elegant products to market including the Mac, the iPhone, iPod and iPad. Each in its own way helps broaden users' knowledge.

In a commencement speech given at Stanford in 2005, Jobs spoke about life and mortality:

"When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: 'If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right.' It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: 'If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?' And whenever the answer has been 'No' for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something."

We all should live by those words.

Among its innovations, Apple was the first company to move jobs from the Silicon Valley to the Sacramento region, where there is little fear of earthquakes, where land is less expensive, and where 1,200 people still call Apple their employer.

Jobs' place in history as an innovator is secure. The question will be whether as a businessman, he left the right people in charge of his company. Our hope is that he did, that his legacy continues, and that the company he helped start flourishes.

This editorial appeared in The Sacramento Bee. To read more, visit www.sacbee.com.

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