The simplicity of design and user-oriented experience that defined Steve Jobs’ tenure at Apple also marked the reaction to his death.
“My Twitter blew up with sad-faced emoticons followed by the Apple symbol,” said Chris Van Pelt, chief technology officer at CrowdFlower. And then they all stared blankly at the obituary on Apple’s homepage.
“It was a company-wide event,” added a co-worker, referring to the gaping looks at the black screen.
In the Mission, at start-ups and equally tech-heavy cafes, locals weighed in on Wednesday’s news that Steve Jobs had died of complications from pancreatic cancer. While the outpouring of sympathy was shared among many residents, perhaps it was felt most in the local start-up scene that Apple helped inspire.
“It went very quiet,” said Laurie Voss, the tech leader at awe.sm, referring to the moment the news broke yesterday afternoon.
Added Jeremiah Cohick, a front-end engineer: “Quiet in a normally very social office.”
Even at start-ups that depend on Adobe Flash, a third-party program that Jobs dismissed, reverence trumped rivalry.
“Even if you are not the biggest fan of his ideas, he still changed the way we do stuff,” said Natalie Shell, the product manager at Wix, a company best known for building websites with Adobe Flash. Shell described the scene yesterday as somber and serious. “It is sad to lose someone so visionary.”
And at local cafes that often double as workspaces and sites for tech business meetings, people shared their feelings.
“As big of an impact as he’s had on the world, it was probably most felt here,” said Jason Metzler, sitting at the Summit Cafe and I/O Ventures incubation space on Valencia Street. “Every coffee shop you go into, there’s an Apple after an Apple, after an Apple.”
A few tables down, Nick Maroulis, an Android and iPhone developer who just moved here from Greece, said of Jobs, “He’s a visionary. A pioneer. I believe he made the base for the next step of computing.”
“He gave me guidance,” Maroulis added.
North on Valencia, at Four Barrel Coffee, John Novell, a senior firmware engineer for Sinoev Technologies, acknowledged that he isn’t the biggest Apple fan.
“Apple made it harder for people to customize their technology experience because everything is so closed.” Still, he added, “It’s very sad.”
“We’ve lost one of the big pioneers of our time, especially for people in SF,” said Will Tidman, sitting a few tables away. He added that among some, Jobs had a reputation for often being difficult to work with.
But, “In the end it doesn’t matter,” he said. “You have to respect what he did.”
Melinda Cezarez, a make-up artist, said that up until a year ago, she didn’t have a computer. Now she happily uses a Mac.
For Jeremiah E. Cushing, who sat on a couch reading a book at Coffee Bar on Bryant Street, the reaction was baffling. He owns no Apple products, but every piece of tech equipment his 14-year-old daughter has was created by Jobs and the Apple team.
“She’s part of the culture,” he said. It was, in fact, his daughter who gave him the news. “She said she was sad and I asked her why. On the one hand, it’s in her nature — that’s a good thing — but….”
At the cafe across the street from Dolores Park, where a vigil took place on Wednesday night, a few patrons said they understood why.
“It’s crazy,” said Scott Liapis, a dog walker, referring to his iPod. “It’s amazing. It’s sort of like the way Facebook changed my social life.”
The vigil, he said, was understandable, given that Jobs was a Bay Area icon.
Dana Gleim, a 37-year-old who runs Q Bar on Castro, agreed.
“I know people who work for Pixar who are just devastated,” she said.
She called the vigil “pretty awesome.”
“I think he affected our world a lot more than people think about day to day, and now that he’s gone, people are kind of freaking out,” she said. “It’s almost worse than losing the president.”
Or, according to Lukas Biewald, founder and chairman of CrowdFlower, “It’s kind of like Tupac all over again.”