Steve Jobs’ Impact on Atomic Learning
Atomic Learning wouldn’t be here without Jim Norwood, and his inspiration from Steve Jobs. Grab a cup of java, and enjoy these emotional words as he reflects on Steve Jobs’ death and the impact he had on the ed tech world.
It is not an overstatement to say that if not for Steve Jobs, there would not have been an Atomic Learning. I’ve tried to postulate ways that Atomic Learning could have happened anyway...but I just can’t come up with a plausible scenario.
The idea of empowering “the rest of us” to use computers was a novel idea. Do you remember when there was a “rest of us”? Now we just all use computers. We distribute them en masse to our children at school. Pretty soon we won’t even have to do that, because kids will just come to school with them, having picked them up as part of their school supply list. Or carry them in their pocket as part of the family cell phone plan.
Atomic Learning’s mission, of course, has been evolving and will continue to evolve to best serve the changing face/landscape of education.
Atomic Learning was initially built on QuickTime, and on teachers with Macs. Quicktime, of course, allowed us to serve to PC users as well. Steve was away from Apple during QuickTime’s birth, but his later support for an elegant way to present full motion video-with-audio allowed QuickTime to grow into a natural conduit for educational applications, and my obsession with it was enough to have Apple QuickTime engineers eventually call me and say “Now...how *exactly* are you able to do that?” when they saw we could serve large-format videos with narration that could be played back to users who only had a modem connection.
I remember getting an e-mail from a user in the Australian outback. “Mate, I don’t know how you do it...but I’m streaming you over 33.6. Good on ya!”
On January 7, 2002, I ran into Steve. Literally.
Greg Beck, another of the Atomic Learning founders, and I had gone to the MacWorld conference in San Francisco. We sat at an “Internet Cafe” on Fisherman’s Wharf and watched the Keynote (to which we did not have tickets) and saw the introduction of the iMac G4 (the model that followed the “gumdrop” iMacs, and looked a little bit like “Luxo, Jr.” character that is part of Pixar’s logo). After the keynote, we hopped a trolley to Moscone Center and cruised the Apple booth to check out the new hardware.
I was in the Apple booth talking to an Apple Education rep, when the rep’s eyes suddenly got big and he began to back up. I immediately thought "Steve Jobs is right behind me." I turned around just as he (Steve) was turning around, and I literally ran right into him. We shook hands, and I said "hi" as he scoped out my name tag and started to ask me who I was with and what I did. I started to say a few words . . . when a shell-shocked fan ran up with a camera and asked Steve "can I get my picture taken with you?" At which point, Steve Jobs and Jony Ive (the famous Apple design guy) turned on their heels and left the booth. We saw him and Jony walking outside Moscone center later, also. No entourage. No security. Just walking around, hanging out. So...I had a brush with greatness, but Steve Jobs wouldn't have been able to pick me out of a lineup. I’m still glad I got to see him.
Exactly one year later, again at the MacWorld conference, Apple released Keynote 1.0, which for the previous year or two had been extensively tested and used by Steve Jobs himself to give presentations. Everyone at the keynote speech got to leave with a boxed copy of Keynote 1.0. I still have the original install CD, and I still use Keynote all the time.
Steve Jobs, and the accomplishments of Apple under his leadership are part of the soundtrack of my life, just as much as my favorite Tom Petty or Rolling Stones albums. From Oregon Trail on the Apple IIe, IIc, and IIGS, to the original Mac 128k, to HyperCard, to QuickTime, to iTunes and the iPod, to the MacBook, to the iPhone and iPad, my life has been bookmarked by the results of Steve’s vision and leadership, and my life’s work guided and enabled by those products.
Most of all, his rare combination of artistry, business acumen, and vision have been a source of constant inspiration. I am lucky to have lived in a world and in a time where a Steve Jobs was possible.
Even Steve’s references to death, and to the transient nature of life, were educational: “Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”
Rest in peace, Steve.
Jim Norwood is a lifelong educator, learner and innovator. Norwood has worked as a Technology Coordinator, Tech Integrationist, and was the creative mastermind behind Atomic Learning, Inc.