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Jobs and me

In roughly 1982, my youngest sister got onto the family Apple II+ computer and wrote out the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears using the word processing software program Bank Street Writer. Liv could barely read at that point, and her writing and spelling skills were still developing. She was at most four years old. She figured out how to do it all by her self. My mom still has the print out of Liv's story kept in wherever it is she keeps the priceless family artifacts.

As kids, we made countless dot matrix cards and banners and signs with the Print Shop program and the dot matrix printer. We also played Summer Games for hours and hours and hours.

In roughly 1991, I got my first--and it turns out, only--Macintosh computer. It was a Mac Classic, and it got me through college. I wrote countless papers on it. I played countless hours of tetris on it. The spring of 1994, I spent more time with it than I did with any living human being while I was writing my undergraduate thesis. I got my first e-mail address in 1993 using that computer. The fall of 1994, I got a friend of mine to carry it across the Atlantic Ocean with me so I could have it when I was at Oxford. My across the hall neighbor would use it to write his papers. I hauled it back to the States when I came back from Oxford, and around that time, the World Wide Web was beginning to take off, and my little black and grey Mac Classic wasn't capable of handleing the graphic interfaces. Would that more people be influential in such a positive way.

When I went to law school in 1995, I switched over to a PC. I did this mainly to interface with Lexis and Westlaw, but also because it seemed that Mac was dying and wouldn't make it through to the millennium. Whispers, though, were circulating that Mac's weren't as susceptible to the dreaded Y2K. And everyone knew that Macs were less likely to be hit by viruses. And creative types kept on talking about how much more awesome the Macs were for music and image manipulation and pretty much everything they did. I went through a series of desktops and laptops from 1995 to the present. None of them were particularly beloved.

In 2004, I got my first iPod. I still have it around somewhere, though I'm sure the battery has long since died. It was a thing of wonder and beauty and good. I took it everywhere with me. In 2006, I got an iPod nano, and I don't think I've run a single step since I got it without one. It was accidentally left in the Midway airport in 2009, and I quickly replaced it as soon as I discovered its loss. I got an iPad in March of 2011, and another in May of 2011 because the first was severely injured in the wreck and the Apple store people are the most awesome people in the world. In August 2011, I got an iPhone.

Each of these acquisitions changed the way I approach life in a pretty remarkable way. My music collection was vast and organized in CDs before iTunes. In 2006, over the course of several months, I downloaded and ripped every single CD I owned, well over 1000, onto my slow, slow, slow computer. I can't remember the number, but it's upwards of 40 days of songs on my hard drive (and various backups). I can't remember the last time I played a CD, and when we redid the fireplace last year, I put all of the CDs away and out of view. Now, I don't buy CDs either. I download music from iTunes or Amazon, and the music is seamlessly integrated into my iTunes. We have an extra computer sitting on our stereo system that only runs iTunes. The CD player collects dust, and the CD towers are in the attic. I consider the CDs themselves to be backups.

When I got the iPad, my approach to reading blogs and other items on my reader changed dramatically. Google Reader integrates in a lovely way with the Flipboard application, and I can sit on the couch and read comfortably rather than sitting at a computer. The weather applications are generally what I use in the morning instead of the radio. I love the way that u-stream's video works on the iPad, so I can launch a live stream, expand the screen, and set the iPad up on a coffee table or something. This make it so much easier for streaming animals or Burning Man or other live cams where you don't really have to pay attention to the whole thing, but you do want to see when something interesting happens. I can take my iPad to bed with me.

My iPhone is also a game changer. I resisted a smart phone for years, in part because I preferred being out of contract, in part because everyone I knew on AT&T had connectivity issues and I wanted to stay on Verizon, and in part because I was reluctant to have my life change so dramatically. I knew that when I finally did replace my phone it would be an iPhone, but I held out for awhile. But to be able to look something up from anywhere is absolutely amazing. To know exactly where you are, and what is around you, at all times is remarkable. I'm used to having gobs of data available to me, but I had no idea until I got my iPhone how elegant information delivery could be.

I was really shocked at how sad I was when I heard that Steve Jobs had died last night. We'd come home from an art opening where Graham had been DJing (using a program that interfaces with his iTunes library). When we got home, I picked up my iPad to check e-mail and Facebook. And there were dozens and dozens of posts from friends expressing their sadness at Steve Jobs's death. Though I was unsurprised--I mean, his heath had to be pretty bad if he'd resigned from Apple--I added my voice to the mourners.

The man, as far as I could see, did more good than bad. His ideas changed people's lives in very positive ways. He was an innovator and a man of ideas. And anyone involved in Pixar couldn't be bad. His impact on the world is a lasting one on a large global level, but also on a very personal level for those of us who use his products and ideas daily. Thousands of businesses run off of his ideas. Hundreds of ideas flourish because of the way he designed technology.

And small children today can pick up an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch, find the icon for their favorite application, click on the right buttons or swipe at a few icons, and make their imaginations come to life.


Oct. 6th, 2011 11:09 pm (UTC)
i've not ever been a mac user. my first taste of computing had to be in...1985? 1986? on a texas instruments thing, which was a keyboard with integrated chips that plugged into a television. not much of anything, to be honest. (probably 1986, i remember fooling around on it when the challenger disaster was announced.)

i love my shuffle and my iphone and i love TheEngineer for forcing them on me. :) pixar is indeed a very good thing, and for all people bitching about his lack of philanthropy, steve jobs did do some very good things for mankind.