'Steve Jobs changed the whole world' | News | Palo Alto Online |


'Steve Jobs changed the whole world'

Residents reflect on the influence, impact of Apple visionary and leader

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As word of Steve Jobs' death Wednesday swiftly spread -- via iPhones and other technology the Apple co-founder had pioneered -- local residents of all ages made their way to his Old Palo Alto home and the Apple store on University Avenue to pay tribute to a man they said had irrevocably changed their lives.

Bouquets of carnations, apples with bites missing (representing the trademark Apple logo) and even a few old iPods and other Apple products were left on sidewalks, expressing grief, and appreciation.

Children wrote messages on the pavement in front of his home.

"Thanks for changing the world," Libby Spier, 8, penned. "You made a big difference."

Jared Freeman drew a picture of an iPhone with the message: "R.I.P. Thanks for the iPhone tech. Apples are awesome."

City leaders also paused to reflect on the contributions of one of the city's most prominent, but in some ways also one of its most low key, residents.

City Manager James Keene, a self-admitted "Mac addict," said that when he was hired by the city in 2008, staff told him that they don't use Apple products.

"Now we do," Keene said he responded.

"People talk about his role in the creation of the personal computer, but it goes far beyond that," Keene told the Weekly. "We have an intimate relationship with Apple products -- they are as close to ourselves as any piece of technology can be, and I think that's what makes his work so distinctive."

Jobs, Keene said, "embodies the highest reaches of creativity in service of humanity."

"We are personally devastated and saddened by his loss, and we feel just lucky to have had him be a part of our city," Keene said.

Former Mayor Gary Fazzino, known as one of the city's unofficial historians, said Jobs belongs at the pinnacle of revolutionary inventors who lived in Palo Alto, a list that also includes William Hewlett, David Packard and Lee De Forest, inventor of the vacuum tube. Fazzino, a former executive at Hewlett-Packard, said he met Jobs at various events in Palo Alto and said Jobs was "always very pleasant and very enthusiastic about living in Palo Alto."

Jobs provided some philanthropic support to the city, Fazzino said, but always did it "very quietly."

"Neighbors who knew him knew he was always warm and gracious to them," Fazzino said. "He was not only a global technology leader, but on the community level, he was very appreciative of living in Palo Alto and wanted to support the community."

Jobs was devoted to his children and involved in their schools, fellow parents recalled Thursday.

"Mr. Steve," as he was known to his son Reed's then-second-grade class at Walter Hays Elementary School, once dropped by to make a film of the students and teacher. Later he gave each a VHS copy, said parent Cherie Sopkin, whose younger son, Michael, was Reed's classmate.

"It was all silent and set to the Beatles' 'Here Comes the Sun,'" she said. "It was creative and ... a lovely memento of elementary school. It was a very warm gift to receive."

"Many parents will remember seeing him and (his wife) Laurene and the girls at Walter Hays in the multipurpose room, at all the plays and musical events. He was a good dad and walked his kids to school, always said hello," she said, adding that she and other Walter Hays parents still watch the movie from time to time, even though their children are in college.

Lisa Van Dusen, whose son Daniel was a year ahead of Reed at Crystal Springs Uplands School, recalls seeing Jobs and his son walking in downtown Palo Alto last year around the holidays. She was with her own son, as well as another mother and son home from college. She recalled thinking: "You just get the moments you can get. That's what I was doing, and I wasn't facing what he was facing.

"He was pretty low key in those situations, kind of just being with his family in a very quiet way. ... There was a quiet and gentle quality about him when he was with his family.

"It made me happy to see him, walking with his son. I just hope he had lots of those moments," she said.

At Palo Alto High School on Thursday, many students recalled trick-or-treating at Jobs' house in their younger years.

"It was more tricks than treats," said junior Daniel Fischer, recalling the haunted walkway leading up to the door. "He'd have people lying down who would grab your legs. It was very interesting to go there."

Other youth called Jobs a "great man" who transformed their daily lives.

"Steve Jobs changed the whole world," Paly freshman Phil Lewis said. "I have three iPods. I use my Apple stuff every day."

Students mentioned how he changed their access to and interaction with music.

"Steve Jobs is a great person to me because when the crisis of downloading music was illegal, he created iTunes and everybody uses it. If it wasn't for him, we wouldn't have free music or be able to buy music," freshman Mayerlin Rico said. "He basically saved our lives."

A sophomore student mentioned that she received a free Apple computer four years ago from the Palo Alto school district under a program for low-income students. A teacher at JLS Middle School told her about the program after she had failed to turn in assignments typewritten, and she continues to use the desktop machine for her schoolwork.

Jobs was the speaker at Paly's baccalaureate ceremony in June, 1996, the year his oldest daughter graduated from the school, staff members recalled.

Librarian Rachel Kellerman noted Apple's transformational effect on education in the years she has taught at Addison and Escondido elementary schools, the American School of London and Paly.

"All of his products have made information, teaching and learning just explode," Kellerman said, recalling teaching typing and programming with Apple IIs, big Macs, little Macs and colored lapbooks.

Palo Alto resident Christopher Radin, in a post on PaloAltoOnline.com, called Jobs "an artist whose medium was technology."

"He changed the goal of technology. It wasn't enough WHAT something did (which is what traditional technologists did), but HOW it did it. The concept he brought was: doing something, functionally, wasn't enough. The new goal was to emotionally like what you were doing.

"It took changing the mindset of the people who worked on technology, the structure of a technology company and yes, the products itself. But it also required changing the expectations of the people who used technology, to expect to like using technology. And this, I think, is his biggest and will be his longest lasting achievement."

Outside the Jobs' home Thursday morning, clusters of passersby braved the rain to visit the spontaneous sidewalk shrine, many snapping photos with iPhones.

Ryan Jiang lit a circle of tea lights.

"This is my memorial to Steve. He changed my life in a good way," Jiang said. "I wanted to wish him to rest in peace."

Kris Norvig called Jobs "a special human being."

"I just wanted to pay my respects to a fallen hero. I bought my first Macintosh in 1986; it had less memory than a single RAW photo. That was my grad school computer," she said.

"I travel all over the world, and I don't go anywhere without my iPhone or my Macbook Pro. He's always with me. I heard about his death on a breaking-news alert on my Macbook. I don't think that will happen again in my life, hearing about someone's death on the machine they created," she said.

Andrea Wolf, a Midtown neighborhood resident, expressed her sympathy for his family and reflected on the loss for Apple fans like her.

"It was always great knowing he was out there in the world, thinking differently," she said, adding that she is an Apple user "definitely. Always."

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Like this comment
Posted by Enough!
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Oct 6, 2011 at 3:09 pm

As was trending on Twitter yesterday, after it was temporarily shut down as people spread the word, #iSad.

Says it all. Heartfelt condolences to the family.

Like this comment
Posted by Jonathan Lustig
a resident of Stanford
on Oct 6, 2011 at 5:04 pm

Because of his passion and determination he was able to change the world for the better. His legacy will never be forgotten. I am sure he will continue doing momentous things on the otherside. Steve Jobs will always remain a true hero.

Jonathan Lustig

Social Crusader

Like this comment
Posted by Rob Browne
a resident of another community
on Oct 7, 2011 at 1:33 pm

Such a loss to his family, Apple and the world! He had such an incredible impact on our modern world, across so many disciplines. I would like to do a sculpture honoring Steve Jobs and welcome suggestions.

Like this comment
Posted by iphone lover
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 7, 2011 at 2:24 pm

I don't go anywhere without my iphone. Steve Jobs is always with us, he lives in our heart!

Like this comment
Posted by Observer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 7, 2011 at 2:48 pm

Rob - how about a sculpture depicting people using their iPhones while walking into others or tripping on the sidewalk? That would be honoring the reality.

Like this comment
Posted by not a believer
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 7, 2011 at 3:15 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Like this comment
Posted by Ron
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 7, 2011 at 6:33 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Like this comment
Posted by not a believer
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 7, 2011 at 10:09 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Like this comment
Posted by Rob Browne
a resident of another community
on Oct 8, 2011 at 12:40 am

Sharon and Not Believer -
I don't really know about Steve Jobs' role as a family man nor do I know his record of philanthropy. Many significant figures in history were flawed. (Even I am flawed!) The sculpture is to honor his accomplishments and worldwide impact on today's technology in terms of art, business and entertainment.

Observer -
I like your sense of humor and wouldn't mind doing that sculpture as well. (FYI: I have a Blackberry.)

Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 8, 2011 at 4:46 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

I found the iPhone almost impossible to use. Perhaps if my fingers were smaller?

Like this comment
Posted by Mort Blort
a resident of another community
on Oct 8, 2011 at 11:17 am

Hrm ... looking in on this from afar, it strikes me that there are some whose disaffection is so great that they can't allow the rest of us a simple period of profound respect. Steve Jobs touched so many in such a positive way. How? With the ultimate humility of producing products of quality. Sure, he drove his employees hard, and his style sometimes went beyond demanding. But that's because he cared like too few do about the people on the other end of the transaction. Sometimes Apple gets it wrong, like all of us, they make mistakes. But what distinguishes them is that they try really damned hard to get things right. And to me, that's a sign of respect for their customers that all good capitalists should learn from.

Whatever Jobs did to make you angry, leave it alone. Let it die. Let it be. Rest in peace.

ps. To questions of Jobs as a philanthropist ... I know Jobs did not subscribe to my faith. But my faith teaches me that one does not take credit for things done in this life. Among other things, that would be down to taking credit publicly for philanthropic activity. Matt 6:1-20 says to not make outward display of humility or generosity, but to do so in private. I've gone in and out of being a Christian in my life, but I've never doubted the essential universal truth of what that particular prophet was getting at there. Give quietly, and take satisfaction quietly. Giving loudly is to take a reward; the action becomes less about giving and more about showing off. Which was the point at the Last Supper.

Like this comment
Posted by Lacey
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 8, 2011 at 9:58 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]

Like this comment
Posted by Jill
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 8, 2011 at 10:02 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]

Like this comment
Posted by Svetlana
a resident of Meadow Park
on Oct 16, 2011 at 12:54 pm

The world is empty without him and his spirit, the Macs are just part of him. To live in the USA and don't believe in the money and expensive pants... his value far beond his gadgets

Like this comment
Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 16, 2011 at 3:43 pm

Jobs was a goods salesman.

He took ideas from Bell Labs--C ++
and Xerox PARC

Hired good engineers--he was not and engineer

Hired good designers--he was not an industrial designer

This hagiography about Jobs is getting really absurd.

Jobs was a successful Willy Loman--and self promoter with a good eye for machine fashion and selling.

The inventors of the Polio and Smallpox Vaccines did change the world.

Jobs is dead--RIP-- but lets see what his money does to " change the world " after his death.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

His legacy so far is that he made a lot of money for himself--good for him.

Like this comment
Posted by svatoid
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Oct 17, 2011 at 9:50 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 17, 2011 at 12:39 pm

I agree w/svatoid. I'm not a huge Steve fan, for a variety of reasons, but that doesn't blind me to reality. Sharon wants to spin reality because he was a Demo. She even snarked about him on the style thread here at Town Square - talk about petty!

Besides, Jobs's wife founded a nonprofit w/several locations in the area which makes an incredible difference in peoples' lives. She didn't do it all on money she made prior to their marriage, ergo, he contributed. Also, he was a businessman, not a scientific researcher, MD, etc. We can be aware of the facts of his life that are public w/out tearing the man down publicly.

Like this comment
Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 17, 2011 at 9:01 pm

Jobs deserves whatever the Buddhist equivalent of RIP is.
Our question is who pays for the massive security for the event @ Stanford?

Can we have a report on this?

Jobs had $billions--he was in the 1%

Palo Alto and US taxpayers should not have to pay for any of the security around the Stanford event nor any other security issues around his death.


PAPD where stationed around his house for many days--these costs should be paid by his estate ASAP

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