Time magazine was almost finished closing its latest issue, which will hit stands Friday, when the news of Steve Jobs’ death broke. So for the first time in what AdWeek says may have been three decades, the magazine stopped the presses. Mr. Jobs’ image now graces the front cover for the eighth and perhaps final time. Its entire ‘feature well’ will also be devoted to covering his legacy.
Businessweek and Newsweek also have special issues planned, the former an ad-free tribute. Wired.com‘s striking black homepage is also still ad-fee–featuring only an image of Mr. Jobs and quotes mourning his passing–just as it did last night. But Time‘s issue is of particular note because it will feature an essay from Walter Issacson, Mr. Jobs’ biographer, who just had his deadline pushed up by Simon & Schuster.
In the early summer of 2004, I got a phone call from him. He had been scattershot friendly to me over the years, with occasional bursts of intensity, especially when he was launching a new product that he wanted on the cover of Time or featured on CNN, places where I’d worked. But now that I was no longer at either of those places, I hadn’t heard from him much. We talked a bit about the Aspen Institute, which I had recently joined, and I invited him to speak at our summer campus in Colorado. He’d be happy to come, he said, but not to be onstage. He wanted, instead, to take a walk so we could talk.
That seemed a bit odd. I didn’t yet know that taking a long walk was his preferred way to have a serious conversation. It turned out that he wanted me to write a biography of him. I had recently published one on Benjamin Franklin and was writing one about Albert Einstein, and my initial reaction was to wonder, half jokingly, whether he saw himself as the natural successor in that sequence. Because I assumed that he was still in the middle of an oscillating career that had many more ups and downs left, I demurred. Not now, I said. Maybe in a decade or two, when you retire.
But I later realized that he had called me just before he was going to be operated on for cancer for the first time. As I watched him battle that disease, with an awesome intensity combined with an astonishing emotional romanticism, I came to find him deeply compelling, and I realized how much his personality was ingrained in the products he created. His passions, demons, desires, artistry, devilry and obsession for control were integrally connected to his approach to business, so I decided to try to write his tale as a case study in creativity.
It seems Mr. Jobs’ love of walking was a constant. As Daring Fireball’s John Gruber noted poignantly in this tribute, even four months ago at Apple’s WWDC conference, Mr. Gruber noticed “fresh bright green grass stains all over the heels” of Mr. Jobs’ uniform gray New Balance 993s.