The scene outside of the Old Palo Alto home of Steve Jobs on Wednesday evening was a remarkable and emotional display of affection by a community that deeply admired and respected our most famous resident.
As the rest of the world mourned the news of his death from afar, hundreds of Palo Altans of all ages spontaneously brought flowers, notes and other offerings as a tribute to a beloved technology icon, neighbor, husband and father.
Who could have expressed the emotions of the community better or more simply than 8-year-old Libby Spier, who wrote on the sidewalk in front of the Jobs home: "Thanks for changing the world. You made a big difference."
Others shared memories of trick-or-treating at the home on Halloween, when Steve and his wife Laurene and friends set up elaborate decorations in the courtyard and when kids, usually unaware of who Steve Jobs was, would hold their bags out for candy and instead receive fruit or other non-sugary treats.
Many neighbors who paid their respects Wednesday recalled how Jobs was quiet and unassuming, and a good person.
Valerie Menager said she attended the same middle and high school as Jobs, who she said gave lots of money to local schools, often anonymously. He was a great believer in public education, she said, adding that she and her children have benefited greatly just by living in the neighborhood.
Andrea Wolf said she appreciated that he left his Palo Alto home the way it was. As part of a family that has lived in the neighborhood since the 1920s, she said she thanked him for "respecting the integrity of the house."
Others, like Kris Norvig, think back to the early days of Apple. "I bought by first MacIntosh in 1986. It had less memory than a single RAW photo." His loyalty to Apple continues today. "I travel all over the world and I don't go anywhere without my iPhone or my MacBook Pro. He's always with me."
Other tributes came Wednesday from Palo Alto resident Mark Zuckerberg and Google co-founder Sergey Brin. In a Facebook post, Zuckerberg said Jobs was "a mentor and friend," and thanked him for showing that what you build can change the world. "I'll miss you," he said.
Brin, posting on Google+, thanked Jobs for his leadership. "From the earliest days of Google, whenever (co-founder) Larry (Page) and I sought inspiration for vision and leadership, we need to look no farther than Cupertino," Brin wrote. He finished by saying, "Steve, your passion for excellence is felt by everyone who has ever touched an Apple product (including the MacBook I am writing this on right now)."
Gary Fazzino, the former mayor and City Council member who is known for his knowledge of the city's history, said Jobs belongs at the pinnacle of the revolutionary inventors who have lived in Palo Alto, naming William Hewlett, David Packard and Lee De Forest, inventor of the vacuum tube. Fazzino said he met Jobs at local events and said he was always very pleasant and very enthusiastic about living in Palo Alto. He also remembered Jobs providing some philanthropic support to the city, but said that he always did it "very quietly."
Palo Alto City Manager Jim Keene said when he was hired in 2008 the staff told him they didn't use Apple products. A "Mac addict," Keene changed that perspective and said now the city staff does use Apple products. He sees Jobs' role going far beyond the creation of the personal computer, saying users have an "intimate relationship with Apple products, which are as close to ourselves as any piece of technology can be and I think that's what makes his work so distinctive."
The life and genius of Steve Jobs is a quintessential Silicon Valley story, from his link to Steve Wozniak at the Homebrew Computer Club in the early 1970s to the formation of the Apple Computer company that was formed shortly after the Apple I was launched in 1976. From there, Jobs' trail to the leadership of a $1 billion company in 1982 to his dismissal in 1985 and then victorious return in 1996 is a success story built on his genius for marrying technology to products built with his unrelenting commitment to quality and design. Throughout his career Jobs was able to push the latest technology into products that in recent years have become icons, like the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad. It has been a remarkable string of successes for Jobs and Apple that we can only hope will continue to define his legacy.