If I remember correctly, I was in my middle school keyboard class when I first took notice of a series of black and white images that encouraged me to "Think different."
As we tested for our highest WPM (words per minute), it was hard not to take a break, stare up at the series of at least a dozen posters and just daydream.
There was Albert Einstein, Muhammad Ali, Amelia Earhart, Jane Goodall and, my favorite, Jim Henson and Kermit the Frog. Individuals whose very existence inspires the imagination.
Yesterday, we lost one of those individuals. Not one featured in that campaign, but the one at the center of the company behind it and the person who came to most embody it.
I don't have any unique connections to Apple, stories of being a kid and using an Macintosh II or being first in line to buy the an iPod, iPhone or iPad.
I am a dedicated Apple user and tech enthusiast (not even a real technical person myself though), and through that, I've had some odd pull to Steve Jobs, some connection that I was finally able to define tonight.
The manner in which Jobs led Apple was one of a kind, it was with the upmost leadership and the final say. When I bought a product from Apple, I felt like I was buying a product with Jobs' direct stamp of approval. And the products that I've bought, used and evangelized – my family is now full Apple users – are products that Jobs' "think different" mentality brought to market.
There have already been thousands of articles, blog posts and tweets written about the remarkable life of Jobs, and I'd encourage you to take time to read some of them. You can find a good list on techmeme.com.
In addition to the articles in the link, here are three article written before yesterday about Jobs that I've found particularity defining of the man:
Wired Magazine: "Steven Levy on Apple’s Smart Ascent"
One day, while interviewing Steve Jobs, I pulled out my iPod to begin recording. Jobs recoiled as if I had introduced something toxic into the room. His look seemed to say, why would you hide something so gorgeous? My translucent neoprene was making a mockery of all the innovation and sweat that he and his employees had expended on visual design. Besides, he told me, "I think stainless steel looks beautiful when it wears."
The New York Times: "The Auteur vs. the Committee"
At Apple, one is the magic number.
One person is the Decider for final design choices. Not focus groups. Not data crunchers. Not committee consensus-builders. The decisions reflect the sensibility of just one person: Steven P. Jobs, the C.E.O.
Vic Gundotra on Google+: "Icon Ambulance"
"So Vic, we have an urgent issue, one that I need addressed right away. I've already assigned someone from my team to help you, and I hope you can fix this tomorrow" said Steve.
"I've been looking at the Google logo on the iPhone and I'm not happy with the icon. The second O in Google doesn't have the right yellow gradient. It's just wrong and I'm going to have Greg fix it tomorrow. Is that okay with you?"
Lastly, with the life of Jobs fresh on our minds, I'd encourage the entrepreneurs in the Silicon Prairie to embrace that simple but powerful phrase. Think different. Let's be visionaries.