Midnight in Paris with Steve Jobs

Written by Larry Port

Aug 26, 2011

Our normal Friday segment, the Legal Productivity App of the Week, is on hiatus to celebrate the man who brought us apps in the first place, Steve Jobs.

Steve Jobs with an Apple II
Steve Jobs with an Apple II

I’m a big history nut, especially intellectual history. And like Woody Allen’s nostalgic characters in Midnight in Paris, I tend to romanticize the past and overlook the gritty present.

Steve Jobs, who as we all know stepped down as CEO of Apple Inc., is Hemingway, Picasso, and Edison all wrapped up in one bundle.

I remember learning about inventors when I was growing up (I used to read the World Book for fun, remember those?). So and so was famous for inventing this, another guy renowned for discovering that. Then along comes Thomas Edison, who brought us the phonograph, the lightbulb, the motion picture camera, and quite literally electrifies America.

“Whoa,” I remember thinking, like Keanu Reeves.

Now think of the products, services, and cultural contributions put out by Steve Jobs.

Don’t forget, before the iPod/iPhone revolution, he and Steve Wozniak put out one of the first personal computers, the Apple II series. (I miss typing in “CATALOG”, by the way). Then iMacs. Then along comes the iPod and iTunes, and changed the way we consume and purchase music. The iTunes model and Apple TV helped informed digital distribution of video entertainment, and the iPhone ushered in the era of apps and smartphones.

And if you think that the inventive output of Apple was performed by the legions of talented professionals in Cupertino, you’re only partially correct. Apple has thousands of patents in its portfolio. But Jobs has his imprimatur on dozens of them. The New York times compiled an interactive piece on Jobs’ patents, ranging from iPhone packaging to computers, which had me feeling like Keanu Reeves all over again.

Like Hemingway, Jobs’ bravado, swagger, and boldness informs his work. His product decisions are brash and revolutionary. He took risks. Remember when the first iMac came out? No floppy drives.

Again and again Jobs looked at our needs and desires, left nothing assumed, and provided us with products that solved the problems that we had. And the things he omitted turned out to be left out for a reason, as we all figured out a long time after Steve.

Like Picasso, Jobs is an artist. The iPhone is so smooth and beautiful it looks like a miniature work of art. Its glassy surface with colorful app icons makes it impossible to put down. The packaging alone, which bears Jobs direct influence, is a thing of beauty.

His emphasis on design and user experience changed everyone’s expectations on how software should interact with humans. His philosophies influenced our company in our attempt to bring good design and experience to the rough-around-the-edges legal software business.

And don’t forget, Jobs also helped bring us Pixar and some of the most imaginative, visually stunning, and well told adventures in any genre, not just animation.

So I ask you: who, more than Steve Jobs has shaped the landscape of our daily lives? Certainly, there are political and legal realities, but when it comes down to how we live our lives on a day to day basis, what other person has had such an impact on how we consume information, produce content, communicate with others, and entertain ourselves?

I predict an updated version of Midnight in Paris will come out in eighty years. And I predict the protagonist will go back in time and look for Steve Jobs.