In Memory of Steve Jobs

The following article was posted by Nigel Hall, President, Appweavers, Inc. on October 6, 2011, not long after Steve Jobs passed away. Nigel is the developer of Peterson Birds of North AmericaNigel worked with me in the early half of 2010 and went on to develop the Peterson app for the iPhone. He blogged what I believe is a beautiful tribute to Steve Jobs. It shows how much further Steve’s genius reached than simply the world of digital electronics. See if you agree.

In Memory of Steve Jobs by Nigel Hall

I suspect everyone who has used an Apple product over the past few years will be touched by the death of Steve Jobs, but for those of us who’ve had the pleasure of working with Apple devices day-in-day-out, it’s especially affecting. The outpuring of condolences and memories on Twitter and blogs across the Internet and across the world is something you don’t see everyday. Steve Jobs found a way to touch many people’s lives, but I want to focus on the way he has specifically touched birders.

A few years ago I had the privelege of working alongside Mitch Waite, developer of the iBird apps. Mitch and Steve Jobs’ lives have curiously intersected in different ways over the years, but if it wasn’t for Steve, there would be no iBird. And if it wasn’t for iBird, there’s a good chance you might not be walking around with an electronic bird guide in your pocket.

The first incarnation of iBird was called Winged Explorer and Mitch developed it for Windows Mobile computers. It was something of a hobby, but an inordinately expensive one. And it failed miserably. People didn’t take to Windows Mobile and very few copies of Winged Explorer were sold.

Enter the iPhone.

As soon as the iPhone hit retail stores, Mitch started to get requests from birders to rewrite Winged Explorer as an iPhone app. Having spent several years and untold amounts of money developing the app for Windows, Mitch was in no mood to go off and spend more money converting the software to work on an untried device. But, birders persisted in calling him and he eventually relented.

iBird Explorer took off like a rocket and was used by Apple in their early iPhone TV ads. Apple liked iBird because it was a perfect example of the kind of innovative new application that the iPhone made possible.

It’s fair to say that if iBird Explorer had not been rewritten to run on the iPhone, birders would not have the amazing choice of apps that they have today. Publishers of paper field guides, like Peterson, Sibley, Audubon, and National Geographic, have always resisted technology and it’s difficult to imagine them taking the risk to invest in putting their works out as apps, had iBird not lead the way and shown that it could be done. And iBird would never have happened if it wasn’t for Steve Jobs and the iPhone.

So, whether you use one of Apple’s mobile devices or an Android or Blackberry phone, if you’re a birder, give a moments thought to Steve Jobs and his remarkable acheivments. He changed birding.

Nigel Hall

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