Archive for October, 2011
Steve Jobs passed away yesterday and I’ve been struck by the outpouring of appreciation and remembrance from consumers and the industry alike.
For me, Apple products and culture have always been the pinnacle of why it’s cool to do the kind of work I do, and nobody embodied this better than Steve himself. As a bit of a fanatical perfectionist myself I love that Steve never settled for second best and pushed people hard not to drive them into the ground, but to hone them and their ideas into the very best they could possibly be. But even more importantly he wasn’t just the king of geeks as so many giants in the industry are, but a real consumer’s inventor building things that made computers, the internet, and portable music accessible not just to tech heads like me but to my friends, my parents, and now even my baby.
My connection to Apple and Steve is also a sentimental one. My family’s first computer was an Apple IIgs on which I wrote my first programs in elementary school (yes, in BASIC), and when I got my hands on a Mac Plus and eventually newer Macs I was consumed with tinkering with the Finder in ResEdit (replacing the Welcome to Macintosh dialog icon with my face was a favorite of my parents), building crazy apps with HyperCard, and generally being mesmerized by MultiFinder, AppleTalk, and so many other now-defunct Apple ideas that made things “just work” in an era when absolutely everything about computers and connectivity was a nightmare. I gained plenty of experience tweaking out Unix, later Linux, and Windows setups with friends, school, and work, but my heart was won by Apple. I became that guy who had to do everything just a little bit better on his Mac. When I finally managed to save up for my first computer that was “all mine” in middle school, it was a Mac (and the Mac price premium in the 90′s was still no joke!), and when I downloaded my first MP3 (New, if you must know) it was loving played on my very own Mac using Audion. I hauled my Mac around to LAN parties and then eventually off to college.
Not far into college, and already working at a company producing mainframe-esque software that had very little in common with Apple, I was lucky enough to get on board the Apple University Program and win a free tip to the Apple WWDC that year. While I couldn’t realize the significance at the time, this was a really pivotal time for Apple: Mac OS X had just gone beta and they were on the verge of iTunes and iPod taking the world by storm. We happily piled into our campus rep’s company van and trekked from Boulder to Cupertino, tinkering with our Apple-provided Blueberry, Lime, and Tangerine iBooks (back when this was a laptop not an eBook!) all the way. Once there we got to hear more about how Mac OS X was going to change the world, see the iTunes visualizer splashed across every projectable wall in site, and bask in the notorious “reality distortion field” from Steve himself. And if the trip wasn’t already enough, I was lucky enough to be the winner of a brand new white iBook from their random drawing! I proudly vowed to use it for all my ongoing Unix and Java development. Steve told us all that if we were serious we should really come back and work at Apple that summer, and while I didn’t take him up on it every hyped Apple product release since (which in retrospect, this one surely paled in comparison to), makes me smile and think of this trip right as Apple was on the verge of becoming the king of consumer computing.
Now, Apple products provide not just some elitist way I can do everything with my computer better and easier, but a complete transformation of how I live my day. Mac at work, Mac at school, iPod in the car, iPhone, iPad, Apple TV… there’s nothing I couldn’t do per se without any one of these, but replace them with the runner-up across the board and it would be a very mediocre experience indeed. Every day for me and millions of others is more productive, more enjoyable, and more wonderful because of these ideas that became products that became staples of how we relate to technology, and ultimately, each other.
Steve, you were the ultimate inventor who knew what the world wanted before we did and a model for accepting only the best for all of us who build hardware, software, and user experiences for a living. Thank you for making our world so much better and the brilliant legacy of Apple (and Pixar!) to continue to amaze us for many years to come.