James, Thomas, Henry, and Steve

History books are mostly filled with the doings of kings and presidents and generals, and we often think that’s what history is. But the everyday lives of people are more profoundly and permanently changed by technology than they are by laws and wars and palace intrigue. Technological changes usually get overlooked because they tend to move slowly and pass through many hands. There are, however, exceptions.

There’s the steam engine and James Watt, electric power and Thomas Edison, and the automobile and Henry Ford. Our lives today are scarcely imaginable without them.

So it is with the personal computer and Steve Jobs. He didn’t invent the computer any more than Watt invented the steam engine or Ford invented the car, but he created the personal computer industry and is, more than anyone else, responsible for the way we use our many digital devices. As I said when he retired, “the entire personal computing industry is aligned with his vision… [Y]ou’re using a Steve Jobs product whether it has an Apple logo or not.”