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American Cool: Steve Jobs Rides into Smithsonian, History

9 February 2014 492 views No Comment

Many people can be credited with changing how the world perceives and uses technology, though no one did it with the style and panache of Steve Jobs

Many people can be credited with changing how the world perceives and uses technology, though no one did it with anything close to the style and panache of Steve Jobs. America’s leading arbiter of meaning, the Smithsonian, is paying homage to the man and his impact.

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was whip smart, extremely persuasive and, of course, GQ handsome. A display in the Smithsonian’s “American Cool” exhibit explicitly recognizes Jobs influence and appeal

Steve Jobs 1955 – 2011

“Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish” — the concluding thought in The Whole Earth Catalog — served as Steve Job’s unofficial motto. Drawing inspiration from that bible of the counterculture, Jobs recast how people think about and use technology. As the cofounder of Apple, he worked in the shadow of such behemoths as IBM and Microsoft. Yet, with great nimbleness and much brashness he led an upstart company that transformed the consumer electronics industry with revolutionary products such as the Apple II and Macintosh computers, iPod, iPhone, and the iPad. Jobs was always the face of Apple, and his much-publicized ambition to create more elegant and “user-friendly” devices made him part of a national tradition of inventor-heros dating back to to Thomas Edison. “Think Different,” Apple’s highly successful advertising campaign introduced in 1997, was not only a shrewd marketing slogan but also exemplified Jobs’ relationship with the larger industry. Channeling his inner Steve McQueen, the jeans-wearing executive often raced his motorcycle between meetings during Apple’s early years.

Charles O’Rear (born 1941)
Reproduction print from 1981 original
National Geographic Image Collection, Washington, D.C.

Of course, Steve Jobs is shown riding a motorcycle, wearing jeans. Though not the most-famous photo of the man, it’s one that encapsulates many two of his most memorable traits — good looks and an ineffable sense of American Cool…

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Many people can be credited with changing how the world perceives and uses technology, though no one did it with the style and panache of Steve Jobs

Top Image: National Geographic, Via Byte Cellar

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