Josh Newman, with Mac. Not shown: entire coffeeshop: also filled with people, and Macs.Photo by Helene Goupil

In the Mission, where every coffee shop is a panorama of Apple laptops and the streets are filled with people gazing soulfully into the depths of iPhones and iPods, the death of Steve Jobs is big news. Jobs, and Apple, made computers fun — or rather, made computers into a complicated blend of work and fun that has come to feel less like owning a tool and more like being in a relationship.

Of the people Mission Loc@l interviewed, only one hadn’t heard the news yet. “Well, Apple is dead,” he said before handing Mission Loc@l a business card with a QR code and text identifying him as Fabrice Armisen, CTO of a company called Appalicious, LLC. “The guy was a genius.”

“Think about it,” he continued. “Apple. NeXT Computing. Pixar. Apple again. The iPod. One thousand songs in your pocket.”

“He was passionate about industrial design, and knew how to spot it and push it forward,” said Mike North, who was sitting across from Armisen at a cafe table outside of the laptop-heavy coffee shop Coffee Bar. North turns out to be, perhaps unsurprisingly, an industrial designer. Steve Jobs was one of the forces behind the transformation of the Bay Area into an industrial design mecca, North said. Those companies will continue what he started.

Armisen snorted in disagreement. “Like the latest iPod? That was a big disappointment. It looks so the same. You’re not going to be able to brag about it. I’m not saying it’s a good attitude, but from a design perspective….”

Alex Zaphiris, also with Mac. Photo by Helene Goupil.

“I had the first Mac,” said Alex Zaphiris, a Mission doctor who has built her practice around trying to incorporate technology into basic care. “It was $2,000. I was 14. My dad thought he was never going to have to buy me another computer.”

“Will there be another Steve Jobs?” asked Mark Straub, a tech investor sitting at a large table inside the shop. He was accompanied by a Mac laptop. As was everyone else at the table. And everyone at the next table. “Can someone else be Thomas Edison? There are always more entrepreneurs.”

“We were just talking about this,” said Wendy Weiden, who was simultaneously interacting with an Apple laptop, a macroeconomics textbook and an environmental economics student named Josh Newman.

Weiden, like several other people in Coffee Bar, grew up using Apple products. “We had the cube — the original one,” she said. “It was my brother’s bar mitzvah present. But I did get to use it eventually. I played Lode Runner on it. Left-handed, because my brother was left-handed.”

“It’s like Disney,” said Weiden, with the air of someone finally arriving at a conclusion. “It’s an emotional bond. There’s that comparison with Bill Gates — in their own ways, they’ve had a profound impact, but with Gates or Ray Kroc, or the guy who invented WalMart, you don’t have that visceral reaction. Like I love my phone. I love my iPod.”

Also among the mourners: the Dolores Park Facebook page that announced an “iPhone vigil” tonight in the park at 9 p.m.

“Is this a joke?” was the first comment.

“This is not a joke,” was the response. “Out of respect, please hold all cynicism for another day.”

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Heather Smith covers a beat that spans health, food, and the environment, as well as shootings, stabbings, various small fires, and shouting matches at public meetings. She is a 2007 Middlebury Fellow in Environmental Journalism and a contributor to the book Infinite City.

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7 Comments

  1. Visionaries like Steve Jobs reveal the true secret to the Universe in that nothing is impossible with time, perseverance, and positive visualization. Such a passion for furthering human communication inspires. His legacy will survive generations with names like Edison, Tesla as the greatest inventors and visionaries of all time. As an artist, I draw from these inspirations and advancements in my work and you may enjoy my recent portrait of Mr. Jobs, now In Memoriam at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2011/08/end-of-era-steve-jobs.html

  2. What makes me truly sad about this story is this: Yes, he was a visionary. And yes, he was an extraordinary talent who will be missed.

    But he was also a husband and a Father, and retired just six weeks ago. So I have to wonder, was his passion for his brand worth it? Were the hours, days, months and years spent away from his kids and his family worth it? Or in the end did he regret his decision to work up until the month before he died?

    My guess? If he had to do it all over again he’d do it a bit differently.

    Because Ipods don’t f*cking matter. But the children who will miss you sure do.

    So safe travels on your next journey, Steve Jobs. May you continue to shine your bright, ispirational light on all of us.

    And to the family: I’m sorry for your tragic loss.

  3. Well, “Everything has changed. Again.” I have used Apple products since the late 80s; for the most part they work (truly exceptional in late American capitalist culture). Not one of them has ever changed my life, nor have they contributed to the overall intelligence, morality, spirituality or civility of this society. During the last Depression, Will Rogers remarked that America was the only country that ever went to the poorhouse in an automobile. Today, we can find the way to the poorhouse on our iphone (with an app to help us find a place to park)

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