When I sat down to write my Virtual Realities column for October (“Suc­cess(ion)”), I was fairly certain the end was near for Apple cofounder Steve Jobs.  I had privately told some friends (and fellow Apple stockholders) a few months earlier that I thought he would not make it to the end of the year.  His final public appearances had clearly been as painful for him as they were to watch.

Still, I did not expect his life to draw to a close so quickly—a mere six weeks—after his resignation as CEO of Apple.  Looking back, I realize I should not have been surprised.  Jobs was a man who was driven by any number of passions—one might even say demons (or rather daemons)—that made it impossible for him to slow down, until he no longer had a choice.

Jobs drew a bright line between his public and private lives, and most profiles pointed to that fact as evidence that he was (in the inevitable phrase) “an intensely private man.”  He was that, and yet there seems to have been more to this division of public and private.  It was his way of trying to ensure (in that quintessential 1980’s phrase) that he spent “quality time” with his family, even if they missed out on “quantity time.”

Yet one of the most poignant stories to emerge in the wake of Jobs’ death vividly illustrates the problem with “quality time.”  In an article for the October 17 issue of Time, Jobs’ authorized biographer, Walter Isaacson, described his last meeting with his subject:

As a writer, I was used to being detached, but I was hit by a wave of sadness as I tried to say goodbye.  In order to mask my emotion, I asked the one question that was still puzzling me: Why had he been so eager, during close to 50 interviews and conversations over the course of two years, to open up so much for a book when he was usually so private?  “I wanted my kids to know me,” he said.  “I wasn’t always there for them, and I wanted them to know why and to understand what I did.”

I wonder how many fathers can read those words without a (perhaps inchoate) sense of dread, and not just of sadness.  Those who are honest with themselves will always have to grapple with the fact that “quality” really means very little when it comes to the hours we spend with our children; in the end, there is simply never enough time.

In my October column, I tried to give a sense of the extent of the technological revolution that Jobs drove through his work at Apple and NeXT.  Everyone knows about iMacs and iPods and iPhones and iPads, but fewer understand how very different so many professions and occupations are today because of Jobs’ efforts.  Even in the field of computers and information technology itself, the presence of Microsoft and Google hides the fact that neither of those companies would be what they are—or, for that matter, likely even exist—today if not for Apple.

But perceptive readers have already sensed that, for lack of space, I left something out—namely, the downside of this technological revolution.  The same technology that makes it possible to put out Chronicles every month with a fraction of the staff and budget of 25 years ago binds that smaller staff very tightly to itself.  Just because two full-time editors can put out a 52-page magazine month after month does not mean that it is ideal to do so, especially when they have many young children between them.  Saving labor in the aggregate does not necessarily translate into saving time in the particular.  Indeed, it may mean quite the opposite.  Machines may replace a certain number of people, but someone still has to man the keyboards, and over the course of each month, there are many keys to strike.

In a famous ad in Scientific American over 30 years ago, Steve Jobs referred to computers as “bicycles for the mind.”  There are any number of animals that can outrun even the fastest man, the ad proclaimed, but a man on a bicycle, or at least the right man on the right bicycle, can outrun them all.  What nobody seemed to remember, however, is that even the most fit man can only ride a bicycle so far and so fast before he needs to stop and take a rest.  And when that time comes, quality is no substitute for quantity.

It is possible to read that last interview with Isaacson as Jobs belatedly coming to realize that technology had ridden him as much as he had ridden it.  But it is also possible to read it as the words of a man who never quite knew when to stop, and who rode his bicycle a mile too far.

The first logo of Apple Computer—Sir Isaac Newton sitting under the apple tree—was soon replaced with the now-iconic apple with a bite missing from its side.  Thirty-five years later, that logo, with all that it implies, seems more fitting than ever.