I want to take this opportunity, before time and our common mortality rob me of the chance to do so, to thank you, Steve Jobs, for all that you have done for me. No, I never had the privilege of meeting you, or had a chance to get yelled at by you in a business meeting, or even watch your charisma transform an audience into acolytes. But I feel as if I know you well enough to express, as you ascend to your new role as chairman, the sadness I feel and my gratitude for so many of the good things that you have brought to my life. It’s not business. It’s personal.
I want to thank you for my graphical interface. There were computers, of course, before you made that first Mac. They could run only one program at a time. They had no graphics. You knew that was lame. You imagined the alternative—multiple programs, launched by clicks, running concurrently in a windowed field. Last night I watched a movie, printed photos, harvested e-mail, and bought a bunch of business socks, all at the same time. So thanks for my GUI.
I want to thank you for my mouse. Can you imagine a world without mouses? I can’t. Before you bred them for commercial use, a person needed a host of keyboard commands to get anything done, and a lot of programming code to produce words and numbers on paper. I read somewhere that you got the vision after you visited Xerox’s PARC. They showed you what they were up to, but they sort of didn’t know what they had. You ran with it. Because that’s the way you did everything. All in. Feet first.
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I want to thank you for all Macs, great and small. I went to your Apple Store (AAPL) the other day and saw a tidy row of new machines, from the slender new Airs to the massive towers of power. I wanted every one. They’re pretty and shiny, unlike my big old black rubberized clunker the corporation gave me, and the last time I got a virus was just before I put my Windows PC into the closet. That was when I sent the phrase “I love you” to 22,000 fellow employees and the CEO. “I love you too, Bing, but let’s not let anybody know,” he e-mailed back.
I want to thank you for my Airport Extreme, the small white box through which I get my Internet. Before it, I used to have to plug in and configure this horrible router. It never worked. I often ended up screaming and crying and throwing hardware at the wall. This thing? You just plug it in and use it. Sometimes as I fall asleep I watch the little fellow, with its round eye glowing green in the darkness, a beacon of easy functionality.
Thanks for my iPod, which pretty much defined how I listen to music now. And for iTunes, which you made too easy not to understand. And for my iPad too, which despite all protestations is really nothing more than an Angry Birds machine. No, you can’t work on it. So what? Work isn’t everything.
And thanks for my new iPhone, which channels a million apps and does everything well except the phone part. A pompous Silicon Valley dude I know used to say, with a weary grin, “Every year is the year for mobile.” Until you decided it was, Steve. And so I never have to generate a single unaided thought for the rest of my life. What a relief!
And oh, yeah. Thanks for Toy Story too. And Up. Really loved Up.
It’s been your world, Steve. And we’ve been lucky enough to run along behind you, picking up goodies as you dropped them in our path. It’s a little scary to think that one day you’ll go off to your famous mountaintop and not return with the next big thing. But at least we can all say we lived in a time when there was a person with such an imagination, and offer thanks in whatever digital or analog format we choose, wherever on earth we may be. We can do that now.
This article is from the September 26, 2011 issue of Fortune with the headline “Thanks, Steve.”