For those of you who haven't visited "almost any site on the internet," news has just hit the wire that Steve Jobs has died at age 56. No official cause of death had been given, though Jobs had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer - a notoriously difficult and dire form of the disease - for which he had received treatment, and received a liver transplant in 2009.
Jobs's family released the following statement:
"Steve died peacefully today surrounded by his family.
"In his public life, Steve was known as a visionary; in his private life, he cherished his family. We are thankful to the many people who have shared their wishes and prayers during the last year of Steve's illness; a website will be provided for those who wish to offer tributes and memories.
"We are grateful for the support and kindness of those who share our feelings for Steve. We know many of you will mourn with us, and we ask that you respect our privacy during our time of grief."
The board of Apple, founded by Jobs in 1976 and incorporated in 1977 (yes, it was that long ago) also released a statement, saying:
"We are deeply saddened to announce that Steve Jobs passed away today. "Steve's brilliance, passion and energy were the source of countless innovations that enrich and improve all of our lives. The world is immeasurably better because of Steve. "His greatest love was for his wife, Laurene, and his family. Our hearts go out to them and to all who were touched by his extraordinary gifts."
More after the jump
I tend not to get overly-sentimental about business tycoons -- chalk it up to some holdover from the "quasi-Marxist, college dropout" years - but credit must be given where credit is due. Particularly in the last ten years, Jobs & Co. have had an undeniable knack for refining and, most significantly, popularizing products that have since become part of our everyday lives. When you think of an mp3 player, chances are the first thing to pops into your head is "iPod;" the same rule applies to the iPad and iPhone, respectively. iTunes found a way for consumers to conveniently pay for downloadable music, flying in the face of the recording industry's hitherto, preferred method of "suing select Joe and Jane Nobodies into submission" (their backup plan consisted largely of "threatening to sue everyone who dare crossed them into submission"), helping to facilitate the faint trend of legal, downloadable music. Then, of course, there is the famed "Mac," stubbornly staying on the scene against the backdrop of a PC-centric world and, according to my Mac-owning chums, delivering a friendly alternative to Windows. Lastly, for us gamers, there is the App Store. While games and apps may vary in quality, the sheer volume of that virtual monstrosity has allowed those of the "financially disadvantaged" stripe to enjoy an utterly obscene amount of free content or, if one is feeling fancy, modestly-priced titles.
I'll reserve for Mr. Jobs the rather balanced view of one who helped to usher in the new age of consumer electronics. The CD player died at the hands of the iPod, cellphones became proper, multimedia devices with the iPhone, and the iPad - well, i'm pretty sure the iPad does something. Regardless, the company's turnaround has been nothing if not stunning: When I was a lad, back in the mid to late nineties, Apple was something of a running joke - desperately hanging on, despite the fact that no one outside a cadre of core devotees seemed remotely interested. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, Apple came roaring back with a vengeance. Since then, the company has earned at least a passing admiration from yours truly, every know and again penetrating the layer of cynicism that I wear like a burqa by showing its willingness to take risks and push innovation. For that, I give Jobs, his peers, and all the little proles at Apple a good deal of respect. While the fast-paced nature of our age doesn't leave much room for legends, I think its safe to say that Jobs has left his mark on tech history, with accomplishments sufficient enough to - dare I say it - inspire the next Steve Jobs.