Lyle Newsroom 2011 Stories

Texan of the Year should be EPA chief Al Armendariz

Design Change

Is It Time to Rename the Texas Ratio?

Lasers Power Pentagon's Next-Gen Artificial Limbs

Weatherwatch - Can the intensity of a hurricane be predicted?

ABC's "Made in America" visits SMU

Lyle Team Places in National Competition

Technology and engineering to support work with refugees

My Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs: what we can learn from how he lived

SMU lab establishes research partnership with the U.N.

Hart Center partners with CCL to bring leadership development to all SMU engineering students

More Than Just Money

Moon and Back: Drake Frank

EEWeb Featured Engineer: Geoffrey Orsak

State Fined Company Named In FBI Search Warrants

Lyle School's Innovation Gym now supported by National Instruments and Lockheed Martin

Top Texas Engineering and Computer Science University Students Learn to Lead at Dallas Conference

California vs. Texas: Debating Their Economic Policies

Students Build Living Village for Math Credit

Acoustic Energy Harvesters Gaining Volume

Computer Science and Engineering Team Takes 2nd Place at Cyber Defense Competition

Engineering Students Debate the Risk/Rewards of Nuclear Power

Sustainable Village Comes to Life through Engineering

SMU Students Build Refugee Camp on Campus

Lyle Team Wins First Place in State Competition

Hunt Institute to Build Third World Village on SMU Campus

Humanitarian-Focused Engineering

SMU CSE Seniors Design and Sell SeekDroid App.

Talk To The Hand: A New Interface For Bionic Limbs

Texas Undergraduate Research Day

Dallas-area students envision and design tomorrow's personal entertainment wonders at Visioneering 2011

Hunt Institute representatives observe solar powered water systems in Kenya

Lyle Student Designs Surround Sound Fun in 3D

At the Lyle School of Engineering, Play is Hard Work

My Steve Jobs

Few in the history of technology defined our times like Jobs


October 11, 2011

Jeffery Orsak

I NEVER met Steve Jobs. Even so, my Steve Jobs story is a personal one.

Looking back, it seems that his footsteps were with me during so many critical junctures in my life.

Few others over the past three decades did more to define their time than Jobs. The swashbuckling captain of the technology ship confidently sailed us into the unknown tech future before ultimately staking out his claim to reshaping modern culture.

In 1979, I was a high school kid aimlessly sitting in a science class in San Antonio. Mr. Potter, our physics teacher, had somehow gotten his hands on an Apple II. During my free period, I hacked around on it and actually figured out how to program the game of blackjack with all the graphics to boot. Compared with anything I had done up to this point, I felt like I had really accomplished something significant.

Six years later, I was studying electrical engineering at Rice University. As I approached graduation in 1985, instead of a gold watch (which wasn’t going to happen), my father generously funded the purchase of a just released Macintosh. Now this was something: I actually wanted to show it off to my normal friends. The very first thing I did with my new Mac was to write out my resume for my first big job search. OK, yes I went font crazy — but who didn’t in those days? It all worked: I received an offer from HP in Santa Rosa, California.

After deciding to forgo industry and head to grad school, I became engrossed in what was then the new field of wireless communications. There were all sorts of amazing proclamations about what the future would hold. (That’s for another article.) My research focus was on developing the analytical models that would dramatically speed the simulation of complex communication systems.

But to make it all work, I needed access to a fast computational engine. There were these strange little cubes sitting idle in our computer lab that had gotten the computer engineers all excited. I jumped on one of them and was literally off to the races. At that time, I certainly didn’t know that Jobs was behind the Next computer, but given the elegant minimalist styling, I shouldn’t have been surprised.

In the early 2000s, it seemed as if my days playing with Macs and the Next computer were in the distant past. I had become deeply involved in the development of mobile phones and networks — Apple and Steve Jobs were nowhere to be found in this space, or so I thought.

In March 2005, I was speaking at an awards banquet in San Francisco with Walt Mossberg, the legendary tech writer from the Wall Street Journal. He had just been to Cupertino to visit the folks at Apple and was talking at full speed about what Steve Jobs was about to do to the wireless world. No trade secrets were exchanged, but I just knew something special was coming.

The iPhone rocked the handset world — in my view the crowning achievement of Steve Jobs’s career. Elegant, sexy, futuristic, simple, fun, timeless, accessible, and very cool!

Today, as I speak to students across the country about what is possible with engineering, I invariably use the iPhone as my go-to example. Suddenly I feel young again — and excited about what the future will bring.

Thank you Steve Jobs. DN

Geoffrey C. Orsak is Dean of the SMU Lyle School of Engineering. He can be reached at