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Inspire Awards 2012 Honorees

Steve Jobs, Game Changer

Steve Jobs, AARP The Magazine Inspire Awards 2012 Honoree

Steve Jobs — Photo by Art Streiber/August

Amid the outpourings of grief and gratitude that followed the death of Apple's legendary cofounder Steve Jobs, I remembered my own first encounter with this remarkable man. The year was 1984, and I had been assigned to cover the launch of Apple's breakthrough Macintosh computer for Fortune magazine. For five days I shadowed Jobs as he introduced the Macintosh to software developers and others. His routine was always the same: At first his head would be down, dark hair falling over his baby face. Then he would look up and start his spiel slowly, almost reluctantly. Soon, like an evangelist, he would pick up the pace, charging the room with electricity as he demonstrated the Mac's "insanely great" new features — one of which was the now-familiar mouse.

It was clear from those early days — Jobs was just 28 — that this man was going to change the world. I'd met dozens of CEOs. But I was bowled over by Jobs's charisma, design sense, and passion to make his newest device "friendlier" than anything that had gone before. Over the next three decades, Jobs continued to develop wildly inventive products that merged art with technology. The Macintosh gave way to the iMac, iPod, iTunes, iPhone, and iPad. Even the sleek, chrome-and-glass Apple stores reflect Jobs's obsession with transforming every user experience into something sublime. And transform it he did: In the weeks following his death, more than 1 million people posted tributes, most of them recalling how Jobs changed their lives.

Steve changed my life, too. My kids are iPhone and iPad addicts — and after my first Macintosh experience, I've never gone back.

I do go back — in my memory — to those early days and my front seat in history. Toward the end of my trip, Jobs and I had dinner at a modest Silicon Valley bistro, where we both ordered salads. I can't recall much of the conversation, but I do remember that it was friendly and relaxed — not another Steve Jobs sales pitch. The bill came to less than $15. Instead of putting that paltry amount on my expense report, I saved the receipt in my wallet as a souvenir until it disintegrated many years later.

I wish I still had it.

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