There’s a very understandable temptation to lead any Steve Jobs article with the wondering observation that right this second you are writing on a machine he created. It has a dogmatic sort of appeal: “Our Inventor, on Whose machine I write, hallowed be His name.”
Celebrity deaths are always a little weird. There’s a subspecies of Ordinary Person that reliably takes every famous person’s death as a personal loss. They make good sound bites, so the media encourages the frenzy and overcovers the hell out of the initial death, the life retrospectives, the memorial ceremonies and funeral, and so on and so forth. We’ve been here before, so the news of impromptu shrines and wreath-layings at Apple stores around the world (to say nothing of the #iSad outpouring on Twitter) is in one sense just business as usual.
But in another sense there’s something very eerie about the immediately-trending grief. The wave of slightly overwrought grief actually preceded the news cycle this time, in part because word of Jobs’s death broke late in the day on Wednesday — by Thursday morning you were behind the times if all you had was word that Steve Jobs was dead. He was out; coverage of the reaction was in.
So there’s something William Gibson-esque about the speed and ubiquitousness of people’s Steve-Jobs-related grief. The impact of his death rippled outward from cyberspace — much of it on Apple products — rather than happening on TV and in newsprint first and being regurgitated later by online sources. By the time the news got there the story was already what people were doing with the information their iPhones had given them.
It’s a very ghost-in-the-machine sort of feeling, all these reactions to the omnipresent, electronic grief around us. The original architect and visionary of digital wish-fulfillment — the man who wanted you to have everything you wanted in your hand, instantly — is now there as long as you want to wail and gnash your teeth about him, beamed live and ad nauseum to your iPhone or iPad or boring old desktop iMac.
The king is dead. Long live the king, at least until you run out of batteries.