Realigning the Stars

I got to know Steve Jobs during a period when success eluded him. When he’d left Apple, and founded NeXT Computer, Inc. In 1989, a few friends and I started a software company, Lighthouse Design, that devoted itself to the NeXT platform. Whether any of us admitted it at the time, Lighthouse was built by a group of people for whom Steve Jobs was the gravitational center of the universe.

At Carnegie Mellon University in 1984, we’d all drained our savings (in my case, my parents’) to buy the first Macintoshes available. We followed every product launch, Steve’s departure from Apple, the founding of NeXT, the Pixar purchase. Two years out of college, I remember being at a friend’s house planning our startup, looking at the early NeXT product collateral – like the machines he’d just unveiled, the printed collateral was exquisite. The blackest black you can imagine, a perfect square. Like the engineering, it was artwork.

Where Steve went, we, and a small legion of others – employees at NeXT, as well as software developers and a very patient Japanese investor – would follow. He had an ease about him, his self-confidence was captivating. Quit your job and join the future? Why not.

When Steve made his first call to my office, I figured it was my friend Ray, pulling a prank. It wasn’t. Once Steve had my direct line (and then my home number), he freely dispensed opinions about everything we did, from product features to naming and pricing. He was a passionate user. At all hours of the day and night.

Not all the calls were pleasant. I remember one in particular, when Steve learned how we were going to price a new presentation product, $995/user. He barked that we were blowing it, we’d never get to millions of copies sold at that price. I agreed, but the problem wasn’t Lighthouse reaching millions of copies, it was NeXT’s – if you weren’t running NeXTSTEP, we couldn’t sell to you. And NeXTSTEP was selling in the thousands of units, so perhaps he should lower his pricing. We didn’t always agree.

He was remarkably loyal and supportive. I remember the day he told me how proud he was of his friend Larry, whose company had just eclipsed a billion dollars in revenue. On our walks around NeXT’s offices, Steve dispensed personal advice as freely as pricing strategy. He demonstrated the same confident ease in his personal reflections as he did in his professional perspectives. I have never met a more principled man.

Principled people are often difficult.

When the internet bubble began inflating, Lighthouse was approached by acquirers, and Steve didn’t hesitate to offer his guidance. I was disappointed we weren’t going to be joining NeXT – he wasn’t certain whether NeXT would survive. He was frustrated, but understood our choice. We spoke only seldomly thereafter.

Perhaps I’m biased by age or experience, but I don’t think my social graph is the only one to see Steve as a gravitational force. Every startup aspires to be an Apple of their field.

And every CEO I know aspires to so effectively captivate their audience -and their shareholders (and board).

For Silicon Valley, he has, in many ways, been the star around which we all orbit. His absence is disorienting. I can’t think of a better way of describing it.

Rest in peace, Steve, thank you from the bottom of our hearts.


Filed under General

56 responses to “Realigning the Stars

  1. The NeXT days, and days at Lighthouse too, were indeed the gravitational center of my career in the 1990’s. Today, I’m wearing my NeXTStep 3.0 prerelease team shirt to honor the man.

  2. Thank you very much for sharing. Disorienting indeed 😦

  3. I included a quote from your blog article in my “In Memory of Steve Jobs” video that I made this evening. I truly hope you don’t mind. I felt making such a video is the least I could do in Steve’s memory. If you’d like to view:

  4. Pingback: The World Reacts To Steve Jobs’s Passing [Updated] | Gizmodo Australia

  5. The more I read about this visionary and genius of a man – and today I have read a lot – the more there is to respect and be impressed by.


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  10. like this post..

    Hi, nice to see your blog.. 🙂
    i’m from indonesia..

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  12. Arief Interiores Mueble: For R.I.P Steve Jobs. we are pray for Job’s Family.

    Arief Interiores manager

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  14. These thoughts have encouraged me to continue to be bold and entrepreneurial in a world that has and will continue to have ‘tall poppy syndrome’. Thanks Steve for leaving a legacy that we can learn from.

  15. coachrahul

    He was the gravitational center of my adult life as well, though I have nothing to do with tech start ups.

  16. Thank you for sharing. Steve Jobs really inspired me to think outside of the box and come up with new ideas and entrepreneurial business models. He is a role model for many people, and always will be. Congrats on being freshly pressed, by the way!

  17. Dean Bowman

    Thanks for sharing!

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  19. Will the Apple survive its founder? Thank you for this very inspiring post. Fridendly thoughts from Madagascar

  20. bloodywhitby

    There is not a person on the planet whose life has not been touched by Steve Jobs’ vision, even though not all of those people will ever realise it. Every piece of current technology, and much of the past, is in some way derivative of one of Jobs’ concepts or creations. Including the PlayBook that I’m typing this on. For a while, technology will continue to derive itself from the Steve Jobs legacy but I, for one, now wonder if another man exists that can shape the future with the innovation, the confidence, the vision and the passion that this man had. Will Silicon Valley ever find another Guru?

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  22. Thanks for sharing. It’s great hearing about the time in between Apple.

  23. I think people are really overmistifying him. Ok he is an strategic designer, but not more than any other multimillion dollar company. For God’s sake, he is just a businessman. Ok, a very good one, but a good part of his world revolution comes from his team, especially Wozniak. He was the face of the company, not the spirit. What has put the world upside down is this company’s innovations, from all its team, along with innovations from another dozen of companies

  24. Cannot beleive that he just left.And the more I know about him,the more we admire him!

  25. Steve Jobs really was a remarkable man. I am honored that we had him in my generation. My life is so much easier with his gadgets. May he rest in peace.

  26. He was my in Inspiration
    Its a big loss for the world 😦

  27. He was truly a gifted and remarkable man, strangely his presence is going stronger with each passing day. We will talk and remember him very many “light” years to come.

  28. The world is an easier place to live in, thanks to Steve jobs!

  29. Beautifully written. Thanks for sharing.

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  31. It’s funny that a lot of non-techy people really don’t understand the effect he had on the industry, and that his death is being felt worldwide for good reason. I find myself repeatedly trying to explain to people that inventing the iPod was not his major contribution. Long live all his achievements and those inspired by him.

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  33. Thank you very much for sharing. Disorienting indeed

  34. Thank you very much for this, so sad.

  35. Wow that was monumental. It adds up to the thousands who believes in Steve Jobs. 😉 Very well done. Thanks for writing! 😉

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  37. tjharrisdesigns

    Steve put his heart and soul in to his products and they have changed our culture and the world immensely. A person of his success only come around every blue moon. This is why we have injoyed what he has done for us and can respect someone of his status. We will miss you Steve.

  38. Many of us so called crazy people are down to earth, kind, generous, and gentle spirts when away from the “arena of business competition”. You have to have this support in place or you’ll go nuts. Steve Jobs family life is seldom discussed. Probably the best thing. People might not want to know he was just a regular guy and neighbor and citizen outside of the spotlight of fame. On that my sincere condolences to the Jobs family during this difficult time.

  39. Thanks for a lovely post. I didn’t know Steve personally, but it’s clear he made an indelible impact on the world.

    I’m glad I stumbled onto your blog. Good stuff.

  40. Very well written and a nice look back about your time with him. It’s very strange how so many of us never knew Steve Jobs personally but feel so connected to him in one way or another. Thanks for sharing.

  41. Thank you for sharing,the world lost a great genius,what a great loss!

  42. A. S. Ellis

    Excellently put. It is astonishing to think about how one person, with one idea, can transform the world. And it only seems natural that consumers and visionaries alike would gravitate toward the mind, the vision, and the will that executed with genuine purpose.

  43. many thx for sharing…it’s a BIG LOSS for the world…

  44. like your article. after reading it, i put my hat off for steve jobs for a job very well done! ;p

  45. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.
    I always had the feeling that Steve Jobs was a great man. Through his death (and all that I have read about him on devices designed by him!) I am learning how much the life of this visionary has shaped our present and our future.

  46. Nice to get personal insights into Steve Jobs life. For such a private, enigmatic man he’s left a legacy few others will equal.

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  49. Thank you for writing that. Like so many others I never met him and always wanted to. Definitely someone who made me feel like it was okay to love tech. I’ve really been enjoying the stories and again, thank you for sharing yours.

  50. Jonathan, I offer my condolences to you. I met you and the folks from Lighthouse during your Chevy Chase days. At a developer conference for NeXT, you once offered to introduce me to Steve Jobs.

    Curiously, you were one of the persons I thought of after hearing of his passing. His death is such a palpable loss for so many of us who only knew him through the media and Apple’s products — I can’t imagine what it is like for those who had more personal contact with him, if even for a limited time.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  51. We obviously swim in different circles you and I, but I felt as if I knew you and your mentor after reading this. A superb tribute to a friend, you did well.



  52. Joyce Rose-Harris

    Very well said…we truly had the innovator of our time. Steve Jobs was our Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Benjamin Franklin, Sir Isaac Newton, or Albert Einstein. He changed the world.

  53. He definitely inspires everyone in his orbit.

  54. Ruthann

    That was a nice tribute, Jonathan.

  55. Mr. Schwartz – I’m a long time reader who’s followed both your career and Steve Jobs very closely. It’s very interesting to hear about the contact between the two of you. I thought your tribute was perfect, thanks for sharing.

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