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Parsing the genius of Steve Jobs

Today is a sad but provocative day as so many people try to articulate precisely why Steve Jobs (who died yesterday at age 56) was a genius and a visionary. We know that Steve and Apple (one and the same for the past several decades) revolutionized the technology and computer industries. We know that he changed forever how we consume and share music, news, books, video and more.

But I was reminded by Self-Publishing Review of a phenomenon that I haven’t thought about in a while: the desktop publishing craze of the mid-1980s. Apple’s first point-and-click Macs made desktop publishing, defined as the use of page layout software on a personal computer, possible.

And for many of us, that opened up giant vistas of what you could do professionally with a computer, beyond typing a document. For a while, I styled myself (someone with no design credentials but with plenty of content experience as a journalist) as a desktop publisher. I had three young children and had left the crazed environment of a newsroom for a more flexible schedule in a home office.

Desktop publishing on the earliest Macs cracked open the door for knowledge workers to become solopreneurs, outside a corporate cubicle. Author Dan Pink later called us an army of free agents in his groundbreaking Free Agent Nation: the Future of Working for Yourself.

However you want to parse it, Steve is responsible in so many ways for the redefinition of work, as well as play. Thanks, Steve. We will miss you.


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