I was hired at Apple on May 13, 1996. I was twenty years old, and had been using a Mac for approximately two years, during which time I had been contracting for Apple on and off as a QA engineer, while I finished my B.A. at UC Santa Cruz. Gil Amelio was the CEO.
I had grown up using mostly non-Apple products. My dad bought me a Timex Sinclair when I was six. I moved on to a Commodore 64, an Amiga 1000, and finally a Unix-based Sun 3/50 before I caught Mac fever in 1994. Two years later, I was working full-time at Apple as a software engineer at Apple.
When I signed on, Jobs was long gone, but his legacy was strong. Ten years after his departure from the company, bumpers in the parking lot remained plastered with the aspirational “The Journey is the Reward” proverbs that he had famously reiterated. Jobs made his mark, and the pursuit of excellence was alive and well inside Apple.
In late 1996, Apple announced that it would acquire Steve Jobs’s NeXT computing. Steve Jobs, in one role or another, was returning to Apple. I was overwhelmed, but excited. Although I had never worked for Steve Jobs, I felt that I had been working on his vision.
When I left Apple in 2002, it seemed that Jobs had won. He proved himself to critics by rescuing Apple from the throes of bankruptcy and restoring it to a company of huge successes. The iMac, iPod, and Mac OS X were all new testaments to his enduring legacy at Apple.
But he was just getting started. Still to come were not only the obvious iPhone and iPad, but dozens of less obvious successes ranging from the ever-improving Mac OS X, to the incredible Airport Express, to the fact that every damn thing Apple makes just works so damned well together.
Pixar Animation Studios is another of Jobs’s great successes. My three-year old, Henry, has lately been obsessed with everything Pixar. This includes “Cars,” which I have seen more times than I care to admit. It’s actually a pretty great film, and I’m fond of the romantic interlude where the protagonist Lightning McQueen is led on a carefree drive through the desert by his love interest, Sally. Their ride is set to an upbeat Randy Newman tune, which helps to pack an emotional punch in the scene.
Today I was driving in my own car, and heard an old Bob Dylan song that I realized the Randy Newman score reminds me of. Steve Jobs is known to be a huge Bob Dylan fan, so it’s especially poignant that on the day of his retirement as CEO of Apple, I may have found myself listening to one of his favorite songs. Buckets of Rain also includes a concise proverb of its own, which serves as an appropriate comment on Jobs’s career:
“Life is sad, and life is a bust, all you can do is do what you must. You do what you must do, and you do it well.” — Bob Dylan, “Buckets of Rain”
Well said, Bob. Well done, Steve. For the rest of us: let us do what we must do, and do it well.