As tributes pour in from around the world about the passing of Apple's visionary leader Steve Jobs yesterday at the age of 56, architects, engineers and construction professionals were also offering their appreciation of his influence. (Here is one by Sir Norman Foster in Architecture Recordtoday and my colleague Andy Wright's take.)
Although architects were early adopters of Apple computers and technology, along with design professionals who marveled at the ease of working with fonts on a Mac, construction and engineering firms also marvel at the sheer simplicity of design with all its products: iMacs, Powerbooks, G4s, iPods, iPhones, iTunes and iPads.
He could be just as stubborn about design he didn't like. Take the tussle over his desire to demolish the historic Jackling mansion in Woodside, Calif. after he purchased the home. ENR's sister publication Architecture Record reported that Jobs eventually won his battle totear the house down.
The iPad, perhaps more than any recent Apple product, is a game-changer for the construction industry, especially for punchlisting and field management. Not bad for a device that barely hit the market 18 months ago.
At a recent conference about construction software, tech/construction execs noted that the elegance of the iPad's design and ease of use, helped by an ever-expanding list of field management construction apps to download from the iTunes App store, have pushed the device into use on more and more jobsites.
One construction executive from Balfour Beatty noted how his toddler son picked up the iPad and just started using it. You would never see that with PC-based tablets, he added. That was the relentless discipline and attention to design detail of Steve Jobs.
ENR's Tudor Van Hampton wrote acover story on tablets recently ("Tablets Take Off in Construction"). After the story went online, comments poured in from users, most of them talking about the ease with which they have adopted the tablet into their field work. That's just the way it is with Apple products. They inspire a kind of reverie with users.
As a journalist who covered tech for 16 years before joining ENR as integrated media editor, I often watched, with a mixture of awe and disblief, the utter devotion and reverance that Apple fans would show for Jobs during his public appearances. It sometimes bordered on religious devotion, like when he appeared atMacWorldconferences.
Striding across a conference stage, wearing his trademark black turtleneck, jeans and sneakers, Jobs would be at the end of yet another impressive product announcement. With the audience in a kind of rapture, he would pause as though some extra thought had just popped in his head, turn back to the audience and say, "one more thing" before revealing some blockbuster feature. The crowd would go wild. That was the Steve Jobs influence. That surprise factor was also thanks to a disciplined team that observed the secrecy that meant so much to him ahead of product launches.
The tech industry would eventually describe that influence as the Steve Jobs' Reality Distortion Field (RDF) as this Wikipedia entry explains. Coined by one of Apple's early innovators back in 1981 to describe Jobs' charisma and cult-like devotion that he inspired in Apple employees as well as developers and end-users, the term also described a kind of "untouchable," even teflon quality that he had. Bad news just slipped right off him, such as the stock back-dating scandal that brought so many other CEOs low in the early 2000s but appeared to blow past him and other Apple executives.
Apple has become one of the most valuable public companies in the U.S., valued at about $350 billion, thanks to Jobs' leadership and vision, which helped save it from its darkest days during the late 1990s when no one thought the company could survive.
Today, like so many other business sectors, A/E/C is also reflecting on his impact, passion, influence and excellence.
Reuters'"Breaking Views" commentaryperhaps put it best:"It's a rare entrepreneur who leaves that legacy— and a company that can thrive without him."
Photo credit: AP