All about Steve Jobs

The one and only time I saw Steve Jobs was from the sixth row of the giant San Francisco convention centre auditorium where he delivered the keynote address to Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference. I was a Beatles fan and had seen Paul McCartney in concert, but this was different. As a 31-year-old neuroscience graduate student who had won a scholarship to this conference (really just a way for Apple to get their pick of students as recruits), I found my fellow awardees much younger than me — all either college or high school students — and rather blasé. I, on the other hand, was shaking with excitement. I had started using Macs in 1996, during the "bad period", the time when Steve (like God, or Madonna, he was known by one name) was away from Apple. I had watched how Apple had nearly gone bankrupt but was now showing signs of recovery. I knew from Apple's rumour mill that a new chip from IBM, the G5, might be announced at this conference and that was going to take their computers to new heights in performance. Most of all, I was excited because I was going to see Steve.

The lights went down and he bounded up the three steps to the stage in his black turtleneck, jeans and sneakers and the crowd rose to applaud him for what seemed like 10 minutes. I thought he looked quite spry for someone who was ancient (48). As he talked, he bent forward at the waist at what seemed an uncomfortable angle, taking strides that seemed too long, and looked down while gesturing with one hand. He paused and looked up only to emphasise a point (and garner more applause), his talk honed to sound effortless, perfectly spontaneous, only breaking stride when he introduced a well-rehearsed but plainly terrified Apple employee to demonstrate a new software feature. The feeling was of someone urgently and uncomfortably focused and his manner made the crowd uneasy — why were we not as hard-driving and insanely great as him? — and when Phil Schiller, his frequent keynote co-presenter, appeared, his jovial and easygoing manner seemed designed to calm the crowd. Steve's presentation climaxed with "Whole Lotta Love", the Led Zeppelin tune blaring out while a shiny steel-cased new computer bathed in spotlights appeared automatically from a rotating platform on the floor. We must have been about 6,000 people in the auditorium: each of us was clapping, shouting, whistling, jumping our adulation. The head of IBM (whose name I don't remember) came on stage and made noises about Apple and IBM's partnership. The lights came up, the keynote was done and Steve walked off the side of the stage; it was pretty close to a religious experience.

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