- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 5, 2011

CUPERTINO, CALIF. (AP) - In dark suit and bowtie, he is a computing-era carnival barker _ eyebrows bouncing, hands gesturing, smile seductive and coy and a bit annoying. It’s as if he’s on his first date with an entire generation of consumers. And, in a way, he is.

It is Jan. 24, 1984, and a young Steve Jobs is standing at center stage, introducing to shareholders of Apple Computer Inc. the “insanely great” machine that he’s certain will change the world: a beige plastic box called the Macintosh.

Here is the Wizard of Cupertino at the threshold of it all, years before the black mock turtleneck and blue jeans. He is utterly in command _ of his audience and of his performance. All of the Jobs storytelling staples are emerging.

The hyperbole: “You have to see this display to believe it. It’s incredible.”


The villain: “And all of this power fits in a box that is one-third the size and weight of an IBM PC.”

The tease: “Now I’d like to show you Macintosh in person. All of the images you are about to see on the large screen will be generated by what’s in that bag.”

He retreats into the shadows, pulls the inaugural Mac out of its satchel. He inserts a disk and boots up. Suddenly, on the screen _ roughly pixelated by today’s standards but, for 1984, stunning _ a typeface rolls by to the theme from “Chariots of Fire.” A picture of a geisha appears. Then a spreadsheet. Architectural renderings. A game of video chess. A bitmapped drawing of Steve Jobs dreaming of a Mac.

The computer speaks. “Hello. I’m Macintosh. It sure is great to get out of that bag,” it says. “It is with considerable pride that I introduce a man who’s been like a father to me: Steve Jobs.”

Applause shakes the place. Steven Paul Jobs, basking in it, tries not to grin. He fails. The future, at this moment, is his.

___

It is 27 years later now, and Steve Jobs has exited the stage he managed so well. We are left with the talismans of his talent, a tech diaspora: the descendants of that original Mac. The iPod and iTunes, Nanos and Shuffles and Classics and Touches. The Apple Store. The iPhone and the App Store and the iPad 2. They are part of the cultural fabric _ tools that make our lives easier and, some insist, sexier and more streamlined.

But taken together, what do they mean? Are they merely gadgets and services that sold well, that answered the market’s needs for humans of the late 20th and early 21st centuries? Did Jobs’ prickly perfectionism _ born, some said, of outsized ego _ merely create a whole run of really useful tools? Or is something more elemental at play here?

Jobs the CEO, Jobs the technologist and futurist, Jobs the inventor and innovator and refiner of others’ ideas: All of them, in the end, relied upon another Steve Jobs who sewed the others together and bottled their lightning: Steve Jobs the storyteller, spinning the tale of our age and of his own success, and making it happen as he went.

From his earliest days with Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, he was a half step ahead of the rest of us, innovating and inventing and creating and doggedly marketing it all by building a lifestyle around it. From Apple’s personal computers, he harnessed the new and repackaged the existing to create something fresh, something more.

Beyond his measurable successes, though, Steve Jobs claims one spot in history above all others: He realized what we wanted before we understood it ourselves.

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