Why Steve was our Elvis

Thousands of more respectful and talented writers will pen an eulogy for Steve Jobs. Many will recall his personality, belief system, impact on technology, and his business style and successes. Hopefully I’ll stand alone in comparing him to The King.

I broke the news earlier this evening to my good friend, who also happens to have been the primary reason I ended working at Apple in the 90s. Even though Steve was in exile most of our tenure, we talked like we had lost a friend. And even with the company only a few years away from it’s innovative-less darkest hours, the often-cited DNA was firmly still part of the Apple culture. We really did believe we were “changing the world one person at a time” and “the journey is the reward.”

For my mother’s generation coming of age in the 1950s, Elvis Presley was the icon of change. While he borrowed ideas from others, he alone popularized them. While he was clearly full of talent, it was his style which overflowed. He broke the rules, smiled and others laughed along with him. He was going to do it his way, or not at all.

More importantly, like Elvis, a new pop culture emerged around his talent becoming something bigger; almost a reflection of how a generation lived, valued and thought about their life. No one knew exactly where they were going, but everyone wanted to get there.

My professional career began as the first personal computers were finding their way into the workplace. While the original Macintosh borrowed ideas from others, its execution felt remarkably new and it did in fact popularize the graphical user interface we use everyday. We didn’t know it then, but we were just starting the journey toward the persistently connected technology enriched mobile life many of us live today.

From his influence on mainstream entertainment (music, Disney, Pixar), and products like the Macintosh, iPod and now the iPhone, Steve Jobs became a icon that defined how my generation imagines, creates, communicates, collects, and shares it’s life with others and in that, in some ways how we value it. For many of us who worked in the technology industry, we didn’t want be like Steve Jobs, we wanted to be Steve Jobs.

I only had one uneventful three minute conversation with Steve Jobs back in 2003 and thanks to my mother I was drug to the LA Forum as a preteen and saw the King in concert. Both were flawed men. They left us in two absurdly different ways, but while they were here they bent the universe in a new direction. And like Elvis, Steve Jobs will ultimately be remembered as the first to leave the generation he defined.

Was the journey the reward? Funny, only they now know.