From Steve Jobs to Tim Cook

News of Steve Jobs’s resignation as CEO from Apple began trickling down Twitter, then the regular news outlets yesterday evening. You know you’re an integral part of ongoing history when the major newspapers can’t decide whether to lead with “4.5 Aftershock in Virginia” or “Steve Jobs resigns as CEO from Apple”. That’s how much of an impact Steve Jobs has made not only on the IT industry, but on society as a whole. I’m not exaggerating: the man has become an icon, Apple products have become the machines to have if you’re serious about your tech (and if you’d like your equipment to make your life easier rather than harder, and your IT-experience more smooth and enjoyable).

The man is a visionary, and has been a CEO that has demonstrated remarkable insight into not only product development, but also into marketing. Of course, the products that come from Apple work, and they work well; they’re innovative; they’re beautiful. But while much has been made of Jobs’s “reality distortion field” when he is up on stage launching new products or a new line of an existing product, what the RDF really is is a man who is genuinely and unabashedly excited about the product he is selling. He doesn’t hide his enthusiasm, he radiates it and transfers it to his audience. Of course, credit where credit is due, few people have the charisma to do this as effectively as Steve Jobs has done. That’s half of what makes people go out and buy every single new Apple gadget and computer that is released. The other half, the half that ultimately matters, is quality.

And that is why it is important to remember that while Apple in its current configuration is Steve Jobs’s baby, in addition to having been its CEO, he has also been a figurehead. The essence of Apple’s performance has been in the hands of a team and Tim Cook has been an integral part of that team since 1998. He has stepped up as acting CEO three times before, while Steve Jobs was on sick leave. The company didn’t suffer at all during those periods, and it wasn’t because Steve Jobs was secretly still running the whole show after all – he couldn’t; the man was seriously ill. The fact is that Tim Cook is more than capable of running Apple successfully. One of the qualities most associated with the now former CEO of Apple is his tendency to personally control every aspect of his company: Jobs is viewed as a perfectionist and a control freak. It’s what makes Apple’s products so successful. People in general, and the market specifically, would do well to remember that fact, since it is extremely unlikely that detail-driven Jobs would have been negligent in paying attention to the massively important detail of transferring leadership of Apple when the time came.

The time has come, and Tim Cook is ready; Apple will maintain its quality standards; Steve Jobs’s vision will be continued. I have no doubts about that.

Apple is entering a new phase, and in my mind I can almost hear Steve Jobs saying it: “We’re really excited about this!”*

*Just to be clear, this is my opinion of these developments and not actually Steve Jobs’s statement upon transferring leadership to Tim Cook.

Digging through boxes and finding books and memories

This past week, I’ve been helping my mother sort through some boxes of my grandmother’s things. There’s a lot in there: old books, magazines, photographs, documents, letters, and almost everything brings back a memory – for her as well as for me – or carries a story with it.
We started out easy (or so we thought): books first. We figured: how hard can it be? Clean them, catalogue them, then on to the more time-consuming boxes of photographs, documents, letters, etc.
I should have known better, of course. Very few things evoke so many memories and stories as old books.
There were the books my mother had read to her when she was young. And those books bring back other memories as well. My mother was born just before WW II broke out in the Netherlands, so those memories aren’t just the usual “oh I remember my father read this to me when I was just a little girl”, but rather “this book used to make me feel better when there was an air raid”.
Then there were the books my mother passed on to me to read when I was a little girl, books whose covers instantly transport me back to the warmth of my bedroom when I was 5 years old – not unlike Ego’s reaction to the ratatouille in Ratatouille, really.
There were the translated (into Dutch) works of literary fiction: Louise Alcott’s “Good Wives”, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”, Jean Webster’s “Jerry”, all of which had been hidden away in moving boxes for years. These were books I would have loved to read when I was younger, but I never knew they were there.
But there were other discoveries as well – some of them simply delightful – such as the box of cookbooks (I abducted a few of those) and tips for domestic bliss, most of which was apparently dependent on the cleaning and cooking capabilities of the good housewife. One such title, and its cover illustration, I don’t want to withhold from you:


(“Wat zullen we morgen eten..?”, Uitgave NV Universum A’dam, Onder redactie van G. G. C. Beumer, gediplomeerd vleesexpert, H. Elsbeth, S. V. O., bak- en braadspecialist, P. J. Kers Jr., voormalig radio-kok)
(“What shall we eat tomorrow..?”, Publication NV Universum A’dam, Ed. G. G. C. Beumer, certified meat expert, H. Eksteen, S. V. O., baking and roasting specialist, P. J. Kers Jr., former radio chef)

This book just made me smile: its cover so very 50s, as was the sentiment! The illustration shows the woman cooking, and her family just waiting for dinner to be served, and with the help of this essential guide that dinner will undoubtedly be excellent indeed! Such a practical instruction manual for the perfect homemaker…

But on a more serious note, this sorting, cleaning and cataloguing is giving me an opportunity I have been looking for for years: a chance to delve into my mother’s life before she married my father and had my sister and me. I’m finally getting to see and hear a far more complete history of her childhood and early adolescence than I have ever heard before. There was the odd story here and there, of course, but these documents and letters and photographs trigger a much more comprehensive telling of her memories of her parents, and of their parents and siblings. I’m getting some very enlightening glimpses into family traits and talents, tragedies and triumphs, love stories and their happy – and occasionally sad – endings.
I am also learning about my grandfather, my mother’s father, a man I remember loving very much, but whom I barely remember otherwise. A man who survived not one but two world wars, suffered a devastating blow to his health when he was in his early twenties and never fully recovered from it, but still went on to live an active and fairly long life (he died aged 73).
I was so young during visits to my mother’s aunts and uncles that I barely remember them at all, and we stopped going when I was older – most if not all of them had died by then and we never stayed in touch with their children; no connection, I guess.

As I find out more, I know I’ll feel compelled to write down some of what I’ve discovered. I hope to understand my mother’s ‘building’ blocks, to know about my granddad’s life, and to get a better idea of the fabric of what has always seemed to me an oddly fragmented family. But then, perhaps it wasn’t as fragmented as it seemed to me; I just don’t know yet how the pieces fit together.