The screens simply said: Steve Jobs, 1955-2011.
The assistant at a Washington suburb Apple store was sure it was not what the screens of displayed devices said when he had last checked. He looked lost fleetingly, and then snapped back.
All business, "How can I help you, sir?"
Jobs, Apple founder, inventor, marketer and visionary, died Wednesday evening. He was 56.
"Steve's brilliance, passion and energy were the source of countless innovations that enrich and improve all of our lives," said the Apple Inc board announcing the death.
It added, "The world is immeasurably better because of Steve."
Jobs stepped down as Apple CEO late August saying he was unable to carry on. The announcement didn't give reasons, but he was losing the battle against pancreatic cancer, which was first diagnosed in 2003.
The top job passed on to his deputy Tim Cook, who made his first product launch on Monday: an upgrade of iPhone 4, the iconic device that, as Jobs promised, has changed the way people use phone.
"Apple has lost a visionary and creative genius, and the world has lost an amazing human being," Cook said in an email to Apple employees, adding, "Steve leaves behind a company that only he could have built."
Jobs was 21 when he founded Apple with Steve Wozniak in 1976, working out of that greatest of American launch venues: a garage. That company became the world's most valued company in 2011, beating Exxon.
Along the way Apple had ceased to be merely a computer company as it had started. It was now a company making an entire range of lifestyle products, each more popular than the previous: Mac, iPod, iPhone and iPad.
Jobs created one of the planet's most successful companies, said President Obama.
And he became an immensely rich man. Forbes magazine estimated his personal fortune was $8.3 billion in 2011, mostly the value of his 5.5 million Apple shares. His annual salary has been $1 since 1997.
Jobs leaves behind wife Laurene Powell Jobs and four children, one of them Lisa, was born out of wedlock and had an early version of the Macintosh computer named after her. Jobs was a Buddhist and a committed vegan.
"It's really the passing of an era," said the Apple store assistant, who refused to give his name, using a cliché to describe a man he couldn't easily describe.
He struggled and then gave up: "What a great man."