Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Steve Jobs - A Personal Perspective

Today, October 5th, Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Computer, passed away. A lot of major media outlets are going to spend a lot of time on this over the next few days or weeks. Steve was not only an innovator, he was the innovator of our time. He set out to change the world and succeeded.

I could tell you about all the products, the Mac, the iMac, the iPod, iPhone, and iPad. But the truth is that there are lots of sites that can (and will) run though all those things. Instead I want to tell you about how Steve affected me, and not in a small way.

In 1996 my wife and I were looking for a computer. We didn't know anything about computers, Windows or Macs, but we knew we didn't want to spend a lot of money. A friend visiting from northern California had an answer for us. He brought us a Macintosh II.

It was a bit of a kludge, a bit of a wreck. When it was new it was a $10,000 computer but when it came to me it was a junker. "It's not much" he told me. "But if you can get it working it's yours." I was elated, and intimidated too. I didn't know anything about computers, but I knew my way to the public library and that was enough.

One of the few nice things about getting an old computer is that everything you need to know about it is at the library. I prowled the stacks for hours, looking for the right books, and I found them. I checked out the ones I thought would help me most and went home to work on my new computer. In a couple of days the Mac II was up and running. A few days later I got an AoL disk and suddenly we were on the Internet.

What a revelation! Within a few weeks were were getting complaints from our friends; the phone was always busy because we were on line. The Mac II was a window into a new world.

Before 1996 was over I was going to the local community college, learning to work on computers. My experience with the Mac II had given me a new perspective, and new ideas about what I could do for a living. Computers were something I was good at. No one was more surprised than me.

By late '97 I'd gotten a job as the Mac technician at the junior college I'd attended. I'd applied for the job to hone my PC skills (I was still using the MacII at home and though I'd gotten a certification on PC computer repair I didn't actually own a PC) but I was the only one on the team that knew about Macs. I was fine with that. I loved the Mac and I loved working with people on the Mac.

In '99 I decided I needed to make more money than the college was willing to pay and I took my first job in the private sector. They liked my resume well enough but it was my Mac background that got me the job. Soon I was supporting the Macs in the company testing lab.

Since then I've had a number of jobs, and there have been times when I didn't have a Mac to use, but not many and not for long. All along the way I've been amazed and delighted by new generations of Apple products.

I had a Creative Labs Nomad mp3 player that I used to take on car trips. It was a pain in the butt to use, so much so that unless I expected to be in a car for hours I never used it. Then one day I saw an iPod, and everything changed.

My wife can be a bit "time challenged", she is often late. For years I tried to get her to take a cell phone, but she was having none of it. When she did finally consent to having a cell phone she hated it. She hated everything about it. She's leave it at home, she'd leave it at work, she'd leave it in the car, she'd forget to charge it. All that changed the day I gave her an iPhone. She loves her iPhone, she uses it all the time. She plays games, reads email, surfs the web, and of course calls when she's running late.

And last year I bought an iPad. I love that thing. I read books on it, I listen to music and watch movies on it. I write on it, plan and schedule on it, keep track of my life on it.

Steve Jobs changed the world and that's a pretty big deal. But he also changed my life. I make my living in an industry that would not exist as we see it today without him.

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