Farewell, Mr. Jobs

By Harley Liu

Translated by Daniel Youd.

On October 5, 2011, the founder of Apple Computers, Mr. Steve Jobs, departed this world.  The cause: cancer.  He was 56 years old.

I must cast my thoughts back to 2008 to recall the first time I became aware of the Apple brand.  At that time I was a first-year student at Beijing No. 4 High School.  One evening, while I was studying on my own, I suddenly caught sight of my friend Sicong holding an MP3 player and listening to some music.  Although I knew it was an MP3 player, it was like none other I had seen before.  It was so elegant.  As soon as I touched it, it gave me a gratifying sense of its quality.  Most importantly, when I saw Sicong using his thumb to move the round control button to select songs, I was utterly mesmerized:  “So this is how an MP3 player should be!” Curiosity rippled through my heart.  When I asked Sicong about it, he told me that it was an Apple nano.  I didn’t know what “nano” meant; I only knew what an MP3 was.  Nevertheless, I thought the brand name was fascinating: why should an MP3 player be called “apple”?  But what really arrested my attention was on the back: when I turned the MP3 player over, I saw the icon, and I was immediately won over by it.  It was an imperfect apple – one that, in the upper right corner, someone had already taken a bite out of.  But, precisely because it was an imperfect apple, I was able to sense its beauty.  It was just like the armless Venus di Milo, whose imperfection gives such a deep impression of beauty.

You can guess what happened next. I constantly urged my mom to buy me this thing called a nano MP3, and I constantly praised the Apple brand to her.  Finally, my mom yielded to my relentless requests.  We went to the Sanlitun Village in the Chaoyang district of the city, where there is a huge Apple Store.  I remember that, when I saw the Apple icon, it was as if I were drunk with happiness.  The fashionableness of the Apple Store attracted the attention of a lot of visitors, who just wanted to take a look.  On display in the store were so many computers, tablets, cell phones, and MP3s, which visitors could explore on their own.  I really admired this kind of store.  Who wouldn’t?  Because of this visit, I learned that there weren’t just Apple brand MP3s, there were all kinds of Apple electronics.  So, I pushed my way into the crowd in order to try an Apple “cell phone.”  To my surprise, the “phone” only had two buttons: an on-off button and a menu button.  Everything else was done through touch.  I could use my hand to change the screen, and I could use two of my fingers to make things bigger or smaller.  The “phone” had many other humanized functions, but the most important thing about it was that it seemed so comfortable.  Then, I discovered a problem:  Why couldn’t you send a text message or make a phone call using this “cell phone”?  So I asked one of the workers in the store; only then did I discover that this was a “Touch” – something like a computer that you could hold in the palm of your hand.  Although I thought that many of these products were quite amusing, all I could really think about at that time was buying the nano, going home, and using it.  But who would have thought that a nano was more than 1200 yuan?  My mom had to steel her nerves before she could buy it for me.  Even I couldn’t think of a reason why an MP3 player should be that expensive.  There was a question mark floating in my mind: was it worth all this money?

Yes! That was the answer I arrived at. I need not mention all the functions it had: you could listen to music, use it as a radio, play games on it, take photographs, and record with it.  The most important thing, however, was how comfortable it was to use, how natural, how elegant.  Nowadays many electronic devices make our lives easier, but most of them are too inflexible, and we get fed up with them.   But Apple products make us feel like we are eating a nice fresh piece of fruit.  It is almost as if the electronic device is no longer a lifeless machine but, rather, has become a real natural product.   With this feeling, I can really let my mind relax and appreciate music.

After buying the nano, things seemed to follow a natural course of development.  One by one, more Apple products entered our household: the iPhone 3, iPad 1, the iPhone 4 (which we bought for my brother-in-law), the iPad 2, and the iMac (one notebook and one desktop computer).  Although they were expensive, I always thought: They’re worth it!  I can’t live without my Apple products now.  When I make a video call to my mom and dad, I don’t need an external camcorder; every day, when I write my diary, I use the incomparably comfortable Apple keyboard, which seems to fit my hands just right; I use the nano to listen to music; and, to study, I use my iPad or my notebook computer.  Apple electronics have become the leading melody of my life.  But am I alone in feeling this way?  Once, while riding the subway in Beijing, I made a casual calculation:  during a certain regular interval, I saw in every subway car at least four different Apple products being used.  After I got to the US, I had the feeling that there were more Apple computers than any other brand.  Previously, although I thought Apple products were good, I didn’t think that most people were capable of truly appreciating them.  But once I got to America, people told me that Apple has surpassed Windows in terms of number of users.  What is more, all of the new cell phones appearing in the Chinese market are imitations of the Apple iPhone.  Although one might suspect that they infringe upon Apple’s copyright, there is no denying that this tide of imitation indicates that, in this electronic age, Apple has taken the role of undisputed leader.

So, as I’ve been talking about my own relation to Apple, I’ve lost sight of my main topic:  Mr. Steve Jobs.  Today, on the front page of the The New York Times, Jobs’ death was the lead item, with a classic photograph of Jobs in the most important position.  The New York Times is the most famous and one of the most widely read newspapers in the US, so you can easily imagine Jobs’ importance.  After I read the retrospective article on Jobs’ life, I felt rather good.  Like Bill Gates, he left school before graduating from college.  But, he surpasses Gates in that he only studied at college for a semester for a very simple and down-to-earth reason:  he realized that his school expenses were the sum total of his parents’ savings.  Jobs’ early life was rather sad, since he was abandoned by his birth parents and adopted by another couple.  But Jobs never let his family background interfere with the manifestation of his genius.  His love of computers and his genius was no less than Gates’ – that other grand master of computers.  In fact, in high school he so impressed the boss of a big company that he was taken on by them as an intern.  Although Jobs was a computer genius, he wasn’t just a software engineer or a hardware engineer.  His real genius was in how to use people – i.e. he understood how to bring talented people together to create a new product, and he knew how to create an invincible organization.  This is the principal reason he was able to lead his team to create Apple.  When it came time for him to name his company, he thought about how in this electronic age all the products are mechanical and inflexible.  That was when he came up with the idea of naming his company after a fruit.  This simple idea made a deep impression on the minds of consumers.  Later, offering a critical evaluation of Steve Jobs, someone said: “Mr. Jobs, you touched the dark area of electronics and brought it back to life.”  Yes, that is what he did.  To understand this, all we have to do is look at the current sales figures for Apple products.  Recently, I saw an item on the internet that said, although the iPhone 5 has not yet been released, there are already people how have paid 100,000 yuan to pre-order it.

On the day that Mr. Jobs died, President Obama made a public statement in the evening expressing his sorrow at the news.  He also said: “The world has lost a visionary.”  This presidential commendation, I believe, serves as the perfect summation of Jobs’ life’s struggles.

I’d like to conclude my diary entry today with this sentence from Jobs’ autobiography:  “Stay hungry, stay foolish.”

Farewell, Mr. Jobs.  Safe travels!

Chinese Version:

2011年10月5日          星期三           晴







不知不觉说了好多有关苹果和我自己的亲身联系,都忘了我的主题是乔布斯先生了。今天在New York Times的主页上,乔布斯去世的消息成为了头版新闻,一张大大的乔布斯的经典照片出现在新闻主页的最重要位置上。New York Times是美国最著名且最畅销的报刊,可想而知乔布斯的影响力有多大。我认真读完了这篇关于乔布斯一生回顾的新闻,感受颇丰。它和比尔盖茨一样,大学没毕业就辍学了,并且他比比尔盖茨更牛的是,他只在大学上了一个学期就不念了,原因很简单也很实际,就是他认为他上学的费用是他父母的所有资金储备。乔布斯的出生经历十分可怜,他被亲身父母抛弃,是被养父养母养大的。但这样的出生背景并不能影响到他才华横溢的流露。他对电脑方面的喜爱和才华丝毫不亚于另一个电脑大师——比尔盖茨。他还是高中生的时候,就被一个大公司的老板给看上去做实习了。虽然乔布斯在电脑方面才华横溢,但他既不是软件工程师,也不是硬件工程师,相比之下,他最有才华的地方是会用人,会把电脑人才整合起来去创造一个新产品,去组建一个战无不胜的团队。这也是他带领团队创建苹果的一个很重要的原因。在给这个品牌起名的时候,他正是想到当今时代电器产品的刻板和生硬,才想到了一个用水果的名字来作为这个品牌的名字的想法。正是这个想法,让苹果这个名字深深的印在了消费者心中。后来有人评价乔布斯说道:“乔布斯先生,你触摸到了如今最黑暗的电器领域,但你却让这个领域重新焕发了生机。是的,他做到了。不用说别的,看看苹果在当今市场上的销量我们就能明白一切了。我之前在网上甚至看到一则消息,虽然苹果手机第五代还没有出来,但已经有一部分人花一万人民币预订了。


最后,我想用乔布斯自传中的一句话也是他最喜欢的一句话来结束今天的日记:“Stay Hungry, stay foolish”。




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