Although it’s been more than a dozen years since I left my last Silicon Valley job, I still feel a sense of belonging and a relationship to the major players, like Steve Jobs. That’s why I was so distressed to hear that he was taking a leave of absence from Apple for health issues. He’s been battling pancreatic cancer for at least four years, and had claimed it was a less virulent strain. Seems like that part of it’s true, or he’d be already gone. But Jobs is known for his ability to stay in denial, and rumors about how thin he’s looking have been flying for a year.
Today, the Valley blogs are all abuzz about what this could mean. He is, after all, a longtime symbol of the Valley’s technological innovation.
And Apple has no real successor to the CEO throne.
I arrived in Silicon Valley back in 1984, at the start of Apple’s boom times, when Jobs was really little more than a kid. One of the companies I worked for was doing a deal with NeXt, and I was in constant contact with his longtime assistant, Susan. And a few times with him. It feels just like yesterday, so to see Jobs aging and ailing is more upsetting than I can explain.
When you drive around the Valley, just in the course of your normal day–to work, to the grocery, drycleaner –you can’t help but see all the household names. I lived in the next town over from Cupertino, Apple’s headquarters city, and the Apple campus was part of my greater neighborhood. Later I lived a couple blocks from Ebay.
To most of you, these are just brands and the execs are just figureheads. But we would be as likely to run into Jobs or Wozniak in Safeway or at the Good Earth as you would be to run into your next door neighbor.
This news gives me a sense of the inexorable passing of time, time that I don’t personally feel. But I can’t deny the calendar. I’m very upset to hear this news, and I pray for his quick recovery.