October 06, 2011

Dreams deferred, and realized.

I dreamt all last night, as I have many previous nights, about hanging out with Steve Jobs. As usual it was fascinating, combative, funny, and enlightening. As usual I wish I could remember more details.  And as usual, I woke up, and it was just a dream.

I never did get to meet Steve. I’d see him in the grocery store or at a conference, but I never wanted to bother him. I thought I might meet him at the D3 conference, but no joy, and I made this little self-deprecating graphic to amuse my wife & friend (click to enlarge):

So it goes.

To all us perfectionists–would-be “unreasonable men”–Steve’s example was a beacon: it said that sweating “the tissue-thin difference between a thing done well and a thing done ill [1]” would matter. People would care.

When OS X 10.4 was announced, some Mac engineers visited Adobe to show the new features.  One pointed at Dashboard’s analog-style clock: “Do you have any idea how hard it was,” he asked, “to make the quartz movement of the second hand measure up to Steve’s standard??”

Ironically, it was Steve’s example that caused me to pass on joining Apple. Back in ’06 Intel-based Macs had just shipped, and Mac customers were stuck with Photoshop running slowly in emulation mode. I spent all summer waging a crazy, unreasonable battle to launch the first (and so far only) public beta of Photoshop, bringing native performance to hundreds of thousands of Mac customers six months earlier than we could have otherwise. Yeah, working at Apple sounded great, but nothing was more important than seeing our mission through. The Photoshop team was willing to be crazy ones, and I couldn’t walk away from them. It remains my proudest achievement here.

I’ll close with the one mail I ever got from Steve. During the whole Flash/iPad controversy last year, many at Adobe questioned the wisdom of building iPad apps, or whether we’d even be allowed to ship them. I opted to bypass the bureaucracy & just ask the man himself. He replied,

“We’d love some kick-ass Adobe apps on the iPad… Hope this helps.”

It very much did, and I promised we would. The best tribute, the best thank-you I can devise for a great creator is to go out and create.

And so, back to that work.

Posted by John Nack at 2:12 PM on October 06, 2011

Comments

  • Julian Kussman — 3:15 PM on October 06, 2011

    https://twitter.com/#!/search/realtime/meet%20steve your sentiments are echoed

  • Eduardo Moura — 3:25 PM on October 06, 2011

    Great post, John. I wish I had the chance to meet him in person, too.
    I’m not an Apple fan myself, but I can’t help feeling sad about the demise of a great man like Steve Jobs. He was and will always be a model to everyone who aspire to do something meaningful in the world.

  • Brett — 3:47 PM on October 06, 2011

    And that Photoshop beta is one of those “dings in the universe” that affect so many people and that those affected people (like me) remember. It seems to me that Steve would have been equally as honored to meet you.

  • Northwolf — 6:11 PM on October 06, 2011

    I miss Steve too..

  • Craig Beyers — 6:43 PM on October 06, 2011

    Great column/post John, thanks. I never met Steve Jobs but I did see him introduce the Mac at a Washington Apple Pie club meeting the week after he introduced the Mac at BCS. Took my oldest daughter and watched the hardware demo of my life. I wanted one, finally used one more than a year later, but haven’t owned one yet.

    Let’s honor Steve’s memory by creating elegant works and by striving to be unreasonable men and women.

  • Paul Johnson — 6:49 PM on October 06, 2011

    Too bad your company couldn’t have expressed its love for Steve more clearly back when it decided to deprecate the Mac OS and promote the Windows version of the Creative Suite and Flash specifically.

    [I don't have a lot of time to debate this nonsense, but I'll point out that Adobe stuck with Apple through its darkest times. Had creative people & their software left the platform, that'd have been the end of the show. I could say more, but it's not the right tone to strike right now. --J.]

    • John Eakin — 2:18 PM on October 07, 2011

      Paul Johnson-
      You could have gone forever without submitting this churlish and thoroughly lame poke at Adobe.
      To say the least your timing sucks even if have a genuine complaint.
      -John Eakin

  • Robert Prins — 7:26 PM on October 06, 2011

    Great, great post John! – thanks for that

    Rob

  • Gayle Clement — 8:14 PM on October 06, 2011

    Wonderful post, John, and a great tribute to Steve Jobs.

  • Ken — 10:41 PM on October 06, 2011

    John,

    I was in my so called office (my attic) when I bought my first Apple, a flat thing, with tow floppy disk drives attached by a a ribbon type thing. The year, hum…1984 or 85. I bought Apple stock in its early years. Somehow I knew, Technology was the future. I did not not have very much capital to invest, but my percentage return was nice. I was an Apple fan boy in those days, later I had to abandon it for the PC area, because my company went PC way. When that guy from Pepsi took over Apple that was a sad day. I know he how to run a company, but not an apple company. I am 65 now, big conglomerates today, have no idea how “gear heads”, those nutty software engineers, who’s brains go to their feet, and who like the absent minded professor, finds a week old tuna fish sandwich in the lunch pale. Mr Jobs understood those “knuckleheads”, and show them how to untangle the wires.

    My hope, never let a Wharton business graduate run a tech company. Make them the janitor, and let the Janitor be the HR Head.

    Kindly in Kentucky
    Ken

  • Phil Brown — 4:28 AM on October 07, 2011

    Eloquent, John.

  • Derek — 10:44 AM on October 07, 2011

    Hey J…tell Adobe to update the copyright year on your blog.

  • 3434343 — 2:45 AM on October 08, 2011

    give me a break with these jobs stuff.

    he supportes slave labor.
    he stole money from wozniak.
    he was easy to upset and unfair to his employees.
    he was a narcissist.
    a billionair wo do not want to support is illegitimate daughter.
    he shut down all apple philantrophy projects
    i could go one for hours…

    so please spare me the glorification crap of a greedy billionaio who did not spend a cent for others.

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