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Michael Buckelew: Steve Jobs' impact on the world...and me

The world will not be the same without Steve Jobs.

Such a statement about any given person is usually hard to back up. But as I have thought about this the past few days since Jobs' death, it's not that hard to defend his place in history.

I was born two years after Apple was founded. It was a long time between the Apple IIe computer my parents bought and my next Apple computer, but I sit here now able to easily reflect on the life of one extraordinary man.

The plain truth of it is: Almost everybody's life has been made better by Steve Jobs. The first Macintosh computer introduced us to the graphical user interface, allowing a much larger percentage of people to grasp the power of computing. Microsoft released its Windows operating system afterward, and since then most of us have gotten by with our computers, not having to know many special words to type into a command line.

I have valued technology personally a great deal in my life. Most of it has helped me do things easier or better. I never did learn to write very quickly or neatly. This caused trouble taking notes in classes, writing papers and taking notes when writing news articles. Now, I almost don't have to write a thing on paper. Ever.

With my full stash of iProducts -- iMac, iPhone and iPad -- I could probably never use another piece of paper if I wanted.

With any of those devices I can type notes on either the on-screen keyboard or a small portable keyboard, jumping from maybe 10 or 15 words per minute writing to a blazing 80 words per minute typing. I'm able to use my iPhone to record interviews and later transcribe them. After seeing the demo of Siri, one of the new features of the iPhone 4S, I may not have to even transcribe much longer.

The last real innovation that Steve Jobs gave us was the iPad. It has literally defined the tablet market as well as the iPod defined the portable music player market. I know I could probably get by without mine, but it sure is simpler to have one.

Digital books? Check. The internet on an easily readable screen? Check. Digital magazines? Check. Music, movies, photos, documents, apps, email -- they're all on there. That's very important when you're the type of person who would lose his head if it wasn't attached to his neck.

But even as important as all of that is, I tend to get inspired even more by Steve Jobs' words. His 2005 commencement speech at Stanford is something about which I had never heard before Wednesday. I have no idea how.

"Your time is limited. So don't waste it living someone else's life. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary."

Looking back at Jobs' keynote speeches from the past five years, I can see that he lived his life that way. He was convinced that Apple's products were going to make our lives better. The iPhone has made most everybody want a smartphone, even if they don't end up with an iPhone. Macs have made my live better by reducing the amount of time I have to spend figuring out how to do something on a computer. The three I have owned just worked.

Perhaps the easiest indicator of how much better Jobs made our lives better through his products is my nephews. A 5-year-old and 2-year-old, they probably have no clue who Steve Jobs is. But both of them are excited to use my iPad when I see them.

Tyler, the older boy, likes reading some books turned into enhanced apps. One of his favorites is "The Monster at the End of This Book." That was one of my favorite books when I was his age, so it's great to offer him an even better way of enjoying it. And like many others, he has developed an affinity for Angry Birds.

Jackson, the younger one, gets thrilled to death with this $2 app I bought that makes certain noises when he touches a picture. When he taps a guitar, he hears strumming. When he taps a plane, he hears a jet flying. This kid, all of 2 years old, knows exactly what he's doing on a device way more powerful than the big box I used at college in the 1990s.

And one more thing.

I don't think Jobs is done giving to us just because his life is over. Barack Obama was inspired by Abraham Lincoln and became the nation's first black president. Countless others are inspired by figures from the past, such as Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, William Shakespeare and Ludwig van Beethoven.

As time marches on after Jobs' death, I know I will remember him for his greatness. Our world changes every minute, it seems, and it takes people who think differently for us to evolve as a species. Even with all the challenges we face, the reaction to Steve Jobs' death has made me confident that we have a lot of people in the world who will heed his words and not be afraid to use their talents and to live their own lives, not those of others.

Michael Buckelew is a digital content coordinator for Southern Community Newspapers Inc., parent company of the Gwinnett Daily Post. Email him at michael.buckelew@scompapers.com.