News that former Apple CEO Steve Jobs had died staggered long-time technologists of all stripes, giving them pause and a chance to remember their passion for an industry that grew out of a garage -- one very specific garage.
"Even if he had done nothing after leaving Apple [in 1985], even if all he had done was create the Apple II and the Mac, this would be huge news," said Harry McCracken, a former editor of PC World and now a noted blogger who also writes for Time. "He started in this tiny, tiny industry in 1977, and continued to influence it in ways so profoundly that it's really sort of amazing."
Late Wednesday, Apple -- the company Jobs co-founded with Steve Wozniak in 1976, but which was not incorporated until 1977 -- confirmed that Jobs, 56, had died. No mention was made in statements issued by CEO Tim Cook and the company's board of directors of the cause of death.
Jobs' family issued a statement that said he had died peacefully surrounded by family, and thanked those who had "shared their wishes and prayers during the last year of Steve's illness."
Jobs, who had taken a medical leave -- his third -- early this year, had resigned as CEO in late August to take the title of Chairman.
At the time, Jobs said, "If there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple's CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come."
Some technology luminaries took to Twitter to express their condolences after hearing the news.
"What a gift we all had in Steve Jobs' life," said Dan Bricklin, the co-creator of VisiCalc, the first spreadsheet, a program that drove the Apple II's adoption by businesses and helped make Apple a success. "May his memory be a blessing. May his family be comforted."
Others delivered statements to the press.
Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft and both a long-time partner and rival of Jobs, issued a statement to, among other media outlets, the AllThingsD blog.
"The world rarely sees someone who has had the profound impact Steve has had, the effects of which will be felt for many generations to come," said Gates. "For those of us lucky enough to get to work with him, it's been an insanely great honor. I will miss Steve immensely."
Gates' theme -- that Jobs will be missed, that he was among the most influential Americans of the last several decades -- was echoed by many, many others, including analysts whose duty it was, like Kremlinologists during the Cold War, to parse hints and clues to determine what Apple would do next.
"It's no exaggeration to say that Steve Jobs has transformed four different industries: mobile phone, computing, content distribution and animation," said Mark Hung, an analyst at Gartner Research, in an email. "Just as we're moving into a post-PC world that needs to integrate these disparate devices and content sources into a cohesive whole, he has unfortunately left us. Jobs created the PC for 'the rest of us,' and now we are left wondering what the post-PC world will look like without his vision and guidance."
Another Gartner analyst, Michael Gartenberg, added his own accolades.
"This was a person who defined the PC, changed the universe of cell phones, the music industry and went on to redefine computing with the iPad," said Gartenberg, also in an email. "That's a pretty strong legacy to leave behind. He was a visionary of our time, but not just a visionary - he could take a vision and bring it to life.
But it was Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research, who was most eloquent.
"There never was a personal computer industry without him," said Gottheil in an interview late Wednesday, talking about Jobs' presence in the business from its start. "I am very moved, very sad. Jobs made this a much better ride for me, and for hundreds of millions worldwide."
Gottheil, who from 1980 to 1993 was a product design manager with Lotus Development, the creator of Lotus 1-2-3, the spreadsheet for the IBM PC that in many ways sounded the death-knell of the Apple II's dominance in business, talked about the generational attraction of Jobs to those who started in the personal computer business alongside the early years of Apple.
"There was this cohort, these people of a certain age and common culture, a generation that took a trip with personal computers," said Gottheil. "It all seemed part of the sixties, and the buy-outs and the sell-outs of that decade. We all had a ride."
Jobs was instrumental to that ride, said Gottheil, and not only because he helped create the long line of Apple products, from the Apple II to the Mac, from the iPod to the iPhone and the iPad.
"What's important to remember is that he was always about bringing things in from the outside, he was always shaking it up," said Gottheil, referring first, but not only, to the Apple II.
"They were sold one by one, it was 'I want this thing' and it wasn't asking an institution if you could," Gottheil said. "What Jobs did was make something so compelling and useful that you took it in with you. That's what consumerization is all about."
McCracken, who bought his first personal computer in 1978 -- not an Apple II, but a Radio Shack TRS-80 -- recounted his favorite Jobs memory: Jobs, who had left Apple to found NeXT Computer, was demonstrating the new machine to the Boston Computer Society in the mid-80s.
"It was his demo of the NeXT on the East Coast," remembered McCracken. "It was him alone on stage, demoing the NeXT, and at the end someone played classical music, just as Apple events now end with music.
"He just blew me away," McCracken said. "By the time I walked out, I was smitten."
"Like a lot of our generation," said Gottheil, 61, "we were perhaps unjustifiably optimistic. And he was too. He just never gave up."
Apple has made available an email address -- email@example.com -- that people can use to leave thoughts, memories and condolences.
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