If you haven't read Mona Simpson's eulogy for her brother Steve yet, you should do it now, but have some tissues handy. She delivered the eulogy at his Oct. 16 memorial service, but it was printed in Sunday's New York Times. It's sad and beautiful. While we hate to spoil the ending, you ought to know that Steve Job's last words were, "OH WOW. OH WOW. OH WOW."
There's something markedly Apple about how Simpson's words entered the news economy. Simpson delivered her eulogy at the memorial service for Jobs, whom she didn't realize was her brother until her late 20s, at Stanford two weeks ago, a star-studded service for which few people knew the agenda. When The Times published the address in full, people rushed to Twitter with emotional reactions; bloggers sifted through the revelations, looking for meaning; and at least person spun-off Jobs's last words into a fan site, ohwowohwowohwow.com. We have a sneaking suspicion this won't be the last time you see the phrase "OH WOW" tripled and turned into a tribute.
Google is immediately crowded with coverage. Based on a restricted search, nearly 175,000 pages with the phrase "Oh wow, oh wow, oh wow" have been indexed by the search engine in the past 24 hours. A similar search in Google Shopping reveals that the mad rush to print the quote on things you can sell hasn't yet happened. For now, it's just a lot of posters of Rosario Dawson.
Adrianne Jeffries at The Observer flagged ohwowohwowohwow.com and makes a strong point about how the tendency for others spin-off one of Jobs's ideas into a cottage industry is something Apple's founder probably wouldn't have loved:
Will this stop the meme-ification of Jobs's final words from making tracks on the information superhighway? After all, as Ms. Simpson wrote, "he didn't favor trends or gimmicks." (Although Jobs would probably rather be remembered for a cryptic and fascinating quote than for his final conversation with Rupert Murdoch.) Our guess is … not. Taking bets on when the vintage hipster tee comes out: today, or tomorrow?
Christopher Noble, the British guy who registered ohwowohwowohwow.com, pointed readers to Simpson's "very moving eulogy" and flagged this Jobs quote on his new site's only page: "Death is very likely to be the single best invention of life because death is life's change agent."
Christopher John Farley at The Wall Street Journal riffed about what they mean, like many others, by comparing Jobs's last words to other famous last words in history:
According to various sources, including the book Edison: Inventing the Century by Neil Baldwin, hours before his death, Edison emerged from a coma, opened his eyes, looked upwards and said "It is very beautiful over there."
Which may be another way of saying "Oh wow."
Kara Swisher at AllThingsD offered a shrewd if somewhat obvious Apple reference in blogging about her favorite parts of Simpson's eulogy: "It's lovely that his sister would be the one to give everyone that one more thing."
Apple released the new television commercials for the iPhone 4S and Siri on the same day that Simpson's eulogy was published in The Times. While the timing was probably coincidental, you really can't help but say "Oh wow" when you hear the melancholy music and watch Siri, the last disruptive product launch Steve Jobs saw, do the amazing things that Siri does.
But mostly, people told their friends, "You have to read this." If you latch on to one sentence in the lengthy tribute beyond the last one, where Simpson reveals her brother's last words, it ought to be this one:
This is what I learned: he was working at this, too. Death didn't happen to Steve, he achieved it.