From one coast to the other, ordinary men and women bowed their heads in tribute to a man who changed the technology world in extraordinary ways.
Not long after hearing the, people at Apple stores stopped to share their reactions.
"He was kind of like this generation's John Lennon," said Frank Arico, 58, a software developer visiting San Francisco for the Oracle OpenWorld conference this week.
It was a theme that got repeated in conversations with people who knew Jobs as a larger-than-life pop culture icon but felt the loss on a deeper, surprisingly personal level. "Everything that I've made that is important to me was made on some sort of Apple product," said Doc Pop, a 34-year-old iPhone developer who makes camera applications standing near the downtown San Francisco Apple outlet. "I don't think (Apple) will have someone who has had so much direct influence. I'm sort of nervous. He's been such a part of my life."
Nearby, Molly Haksdoyle , a 35-year-old clothing store owner from Palo Alto, Calif., added that she started crying when the news hit the transom.
"It's really sad. He's affected our lives in many ways. I hope his family is doing OK," she said, dabbing her eyes.
"The people who think they are crazy enough to change the world are the ones who do," said Cory Moll, a 29-year-old employee at Apple's downtown San Francisco store. "He's really someone special. To hear that he is gone--he's going to be missed."
Ryan Armstrong, a 31-year-old marketer from Orange County, Calif., walked over to Apple's flagship store on Manhattan's Fifth Avenue after hearing the news. Saying he was heartbroken, he paid homage to Jobs as a professional inspiration, someone who "made gorgeous products that were like carrying art with you" and changed the world with those products.
Asked how much he has spent on Apple products over his lifetime, Armstrong laughed and said, "You know what, today it doesn't even matter. It doesn't matter. I loved them."
A vase of white lilies and a small votive candle were left outside the Apple store on New York's Upper West Side. It was unclear who left the vase and candle. But it appeared to be a memorial to Jobs. As the store closed at its usual time of 9 p.m., a small crowd started forming, mostly prompted by the news trucks, cameramen, and reporters standing outside the glass storefront.
A graphic-designer turned law-student named Katherine (she didn't want to give her last name) didn't realize what had happened when she showed up for her 8:30 p.m. Genius Bar appointment inside the Apple store. The Genius helping her with her iPod told her the news.
"I was devastated," she said. "But I had a funny feeling that something was up when he didn't even make an appearance at yesterday's iPhone launch."
Others outside the Apple store hadn't heard the news either. They saw the TV trucks and cameras and came to see what was happening. A couple vacationing in New York from the Ukraine had been shopping at the newly opened Century21 department store a block away. They crossed the street and stood outside the store because they saw the TV trucks. They said they didn't even know who Steve Jobs was.
Bobby Korah, 32, and Farzana Ramzan, 33, who live in Manhattan on the Upper West Side near the Apple store, also saw the cameras and TV crews as they walked home, and they stopped to see what was happening.
Ramzan, who said her first computer was an AppleIIGS, said she was shocked to hear the news.
"It seems like it happened to so quickly," she said. "He just resigned from the company. I really didn't expect this. It's incredibly sad."
Back in California, a gentle wind accompanied the arrival of dusk, and someone laid out flowers in front of the San Francisco Apple store. Fred Valez, a 27 year-old librarian holding an iPhone, approached the store and stopped. "I came to pay respects to this creator who changed our lives," he said. "I feel overwhelmed."
CNET reporters Marguerite Reardon, Laura Locke, Greg Sandoval, and Boonsri Dickinson contributed to this story.