Yesterday, Joe Biden praised Steve Jobs with a simple line: he democratised technology. He did, but he did so in a very specific way.
While writing an article on Google and Apple for Intelligent Life, I knew little about design. So I called someone who did, my former colleague Cliff Kuang, now the editor of Fast Company's award-winning design blog. He put Apple's great achievement better than anyone I've heard, and so I paraphrase it here: it used to be that when you got a computer or a gadget, you had to read a long manual or spend forever fiddling with it to learn how to use it. One person in the family might take the time to do so, and then spend the rest of the Christmas holiday teaching everyone else how to do the things they wanted to do.
Apple changed all that. Take the iPad: an extremely expensive bit of high-tech kit, it comes with no instruction manual. You open a luxuriously thick cardboard box and behold what looks like a piece of art. What next? You press the one big button on the front. The iPad jumps to life and starts setting itself up to work for you. Then you start playing with it. How many people have ever downloaded, printed or read a bit of the instruction manual? After using an iPhone, there are few things more complicated than figuring out how to work a Blackberry.
This ethos did more than just sell iPads, iPods and iPhones. Everyone else had to follow along. The Wii game system has made Nintendo a fortune in recent years. How did Nintendo know it would be a hit? Elderly members of the company's board delighted in picking up the controller and simply moving it around to play the simple, intuitive games. I've never heard someone from Nintendo say they got this from Apple, but the influence is clear enough. These days whether you're a Mac or a PC, an Android or an iPhone, you play by the delightful rules Steve Jobs set for us all. In the many personal tributes I saw on Twitter last night, one phrase recurred again and again: "changed my life."
Considering how many people have said it, how many competitors chased behind, it is fair to say: Steve Jobs simply changed life.