I am not a fan of Steve Jobs the person but after listening to "Leadership Lessons of Steve Jobs" (unabridged, Harvard Business Review) I have new found respect for Steve Jobs the craftsman. His passion for design and perfection is well known but I've mistakenly assumed it was only external. No, Jobs was a true craftsman. Not only did he care about the external visual design, the what we can see, touch and hold; he was also passionate about the internal, the little things we cannot see and frankly don't even care about.
As a young boy helping his father build a fence, Jobs was told he must take equal care in building the front and back of the fence. Jobs asked why, since no will know how the back of the fence was built. His father responded, but you will. Years later, while building the first Macintosh computers, Jobs had engineers redo the circuit boards so the embedded chips would neatly align. Consumers may never see the board or care whether the chips aligned, but a true craftsman strives for perfection even in the unseen.
It is easy for software engineers to disregard craftsmanship. Too often the only questions engineers ask are: does the code run, are there any bugs, are the tests passing. Who cares about the tests! What about the code itself? Is it simple and clean or complex and messy? Is it well commented and documented? Are there unused variables, duplicate declarations or non-idiomatic usage? In other words, are the chips neatly aligned. This is the lesson software engineers can learn from Steve Jobs, to be craftsmen.