EDMONTON – In the 25-year-old photo, a grinning Greg Gazin stands beside a young Steve Jobs.
Gazin was a 26-year-old University of Alberta student when he met Jobs in February 1986 at the Young Entrepreneurs Organization conference near Los Angeles, where Jobs was honoured as the top entrepreneur of 1985.
Nearly 31, Jobs was already approaching rock star status when Gazin handed him a brochure for the U of A’s Young Executives Club. In the photo, the Apple icon gazes down with his notorious eye for script.
“It wasn’t really the content, it was the fonts that were being used,” Gazin said. “I have no idea what the fonts were, it was so long ago.”
When Jobs died Wednesday, he left Edmontonians with more than the iPads, iPods, and iPhones for sale at Apple stores, where the logo was left unlit on Thursday. At Southgate Mall, flowers and a thank you note marked his passing.
Gazin’s life was altered by his brief encounter. He squeezed in one more conversation with Jobs that trip, though apart from entrepreneurship and fonts, he doesn’t entirely remember what it was about.
“I was sort of in awe of him,” Gazin said. “I was interested in entrepreneurship and I think hearing him speak, being part of that convention… everything was just the right recipe.”
Two months later, Gazin was the owner of a new MacPlus computer and a commerce degree. He began a basement business, Parallel 2000, slinging Apple cables and floppy disks from a source he met that trip in California. That led to a downtown Edmonton computer store featuring Macs, PCs, even his own line of computers. He sold the store in 2000, changing the focus of his business to become a technology writer, blogger, and speaker.
The influence of Jobs in Edmonton is as ubiquitous as white earbuds and iPhones are on the LRT. Looking around his office, Gazin sees three Mac computers, two iPods, and iPhone and an iPad.
Those innovations represent opportunity for Pieter Parker, another young entrepreneur who credits Jobs for his career.
The 23-year-old director of Edmonton’s Bitshift Games stayed up until 4 a.m. Thursday, watching old video clips of Jobs.
Bitshift began in April, a month after a team of Edmonton students from NAIT, the U of A, and MacEwan University students won the Great Canadian Appathon, a national 48-hour coding contest. Their game Super Punch, in which a hero attempts to punch villanous Dr. Competent all the way into space,- took home a $25,000 prize. The game will soon be for sale on a variety of smartphone formats.
Without Jobs, Parker doubts he would be where he is or where he might be in the future.
“The mobile market for games before the iPhone wasn’t exactly the happiest market to be in,” he said.
“They created the world of opportunities for people like me to step up and bring our innovation and creativity to the world.”
Parker marvels that Jobs, a college dropout with no business training, changed the world. Under his direction, Apple became synonymous with exceeding expectations, whether it was revolutionizing how we listen to music or communicate.
“It was like getting everything you wanted for Christmas and then an extra gift or two you didn’t expect,” Parker said. “I don’t think I’ll ever see that again.”
Parker hopes to shape his own life on the goal of exceeding expectations.
To Gazin, Jobs was more than a tech guru, entrepreneur, and master communicator; he inspired people to “take the next step.” At the time of Jobs’ death, Gazin was working on a speech for a Business Link meeting next week, entitled “If Apple can, so can you.”
“He always had this positive attitude, very encouraging positive attitude,” Gazin said of Jobs. “He went through good times, he went through bad times, but he continued to excel.”
Last September, Gazin had one last encounter with Jobs when the newest iPods were unveiled in San Francisco. Once again, Jobs worked his way through an admiring crowd. This time, however, he had an entourage hurrying him through the room.
“I managed to make my way through the group of people,” said Gazin. “I kind of blurted out, ‘Steve, I met you at a conference 25 years ago and I just wanted to say thank you.’”
Jobs turned around and asked, “Which conference?” Gazin blanked, but finally managed to find the words.
The Apple CEO was being ushered out, but turned, grinned and nodded his head.
“I couldn’t physically hear him, but what looked like what came out of his mouth was ‘I’m glad,’” Gazin said. “To me, that was an acknowledgement. That brought closure to almost 25 years.”