I never knew you. I never really even liked you, to be honest. I thought you were arrogant and controlling, a genius of consumer psychology who turned everything we know about technology adoption on its head, but a sort of evil genius – or at least a selfish one – who did it all for his own legacy (you never struck me as financially greedy), and who did not hesitate to trample on anyone who stood in his way.
It took your death to let me see you for who you really were: an intensely focused man who cared deeply about bringing beauty and elegance to the digital world; who wanted the benefit of computing to be not just available but attractive and even exciting to the majority of society that just wants to enjoy their tools and toys and could care less about hacking them. I was ripping MP3s in 1997 using Winamp; why did I need iTunes? I knew how to install programs (not "apps") on my color, touch-screen, 3G smartphone six months before the first iPhone and 18 months before the App Store. Why were people so stupid and simple-minded that they needed Apple to hold their hand on the way to these already self-evident technologies?
As I grew up I started to realize that life was too busy and complex to master everything, and that it was nice to rely on experts in fields that I couldn’t be bothered with learning. I don’t want to be an electric engineer or a literary critic – I want my electricity to just work and I want other people to review books for me so that I can easily find the ones I want. Slowly I came to understand that most people look at technology the same way – they just want it to work so that they could focus on their own lives. Yet it took your death to let me see that that was your raison d'être, the thing that drove you to do all that you did: making peoples' lives simpler, not self-promotion.
And yet the greatest insight you gave me in death was not the greatness of your life but how I had blinded myself to it. The gnawing, empty pit I felt on hearing the news forced me to ask the uncomfortable question: why was I mourning for a man I had no great fondness for during his life?
For two days I wrestled with this question. It wasn't until last night, on Yom Kippur - the Jewish holiday of fasting and asking for forgiveness from God and ones fellow man - that I found the answer as I drifted off into sleep.