Steve Jobs and Me

The Macintosh was not the very first computer I remember working and playing on — that honor would go to the Radio Shack TRS-80 — but I wrote my very first story ever on a Macintosh. In fact, I wrote it on the very first generation of the Macintosh. My friend Ezra Chowaiki had one when we were in high school, and as a result, I think I spent more of my freshman year in high school in his room than I spent in my own, banging out stories (in eight page chunks, as that was the file size limit at the time) and playing with the paint program. Occasionally I would have to borrow someone else’s computer (I didn’t have my own), and then I would end up being confused and frustrated that whatever PC I was on was not nearly as simple to write on. I was spoiled by the Macintosh at the very beginning of my writing career; simply put, it was the way writing was supposed to have been. It would be wrong to say I would not be a writer if the Macintosh did not exist; it is accurate to say that the Macintosh made it so much easier for me to be a writer that I never seriously entertained being anything else.

I didn’t own a computer of my own until just before my senior year of college, when I bought a surplus Macintosh SE from my college newspaper. It was with this computer that I first went online outside of a business setting — I got myself a modem and a disc with the Prodigy online service and I was off to the races. With my next computer — a Mac Quadra — I logged onto the Internet proper, got myself Mosaic, went to Yahoo, hit its “random site” button and kept hitting it for just about 72 hours straight. Very shortly thereafter my I coded my very first personal Web Site on a local internet provider. The very first iteration of my Web presence was made on a Mac.

Which is not to say I am a card-carrying member of the Cult of Apple; indeed, there is some evidence to the contrary. But I am an admirer of technology that gets it right, and say what you will about Apple as a corporate entity and Apple products as fetish objects, the fact is the company makes some really excellent things. I’ve owned non-Apple mp3 players and I’ve owned iPods; iPods have generally been better. I’ve owned tablet computers and an iPad; the iPad is better. I’ve owned several laptops; the Mac Air I’m writing this on is hands down the best laptop I’ve ever owned. To admire the technology is to in some way admire the ethos behind it, which is even more indirectly to admire the man who inspired the ethos.

Which brings us to Steve Jobs, who I am sure almost all of you know passed away earlier today. Jobs was the man behind the Mac, the computer which made it easy for me to be a writer and to find my way online, two things which have shaped my life so significantly that I would literally be a different person without them. The Mac works the way it does because Jobs made it his business to make it work like that. For that, I owe him a rather large debt of gratitude. The iPods and iPads and ginchy thin laptops are all just icing on that substantial slice of cake.

I cannot of course speak of Jobs as a human; I didn’t know him, never interacted with him, and most of what I knew of him came through the technology press, with which he seemed to have contentious relationship at best. All that I can speak about is how what he did affected me. Simply put, it affected me by helping me to become me — to express myself easily, fluidly and to people all over the world, and in doing so, end up as the person I am today. This is important. I won’t forget it.

For it, and for everything that’s come because of it, I say: Thanks, Steve. You will be missed.


It Sucks to Be a Jedi

Yes, if you’re a Jedi, you get cool Force powers. But you know what? That hardly compensates for all the other things about the job that kinda suck. I give up six reasons why it sucks to be a Jedi over in my column today. There are probably more than six reasons, but these are the six that leapt immediately to mind. And yes, I’m poking at Star Wars fans a bit. But, come on, guys. Search your heart. You know it to be true. And anyway, you can leave your forceful (get it? Get it? Hah!) comments and messages over at the site.

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