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.

50 Comments on “Steve Jobs and Me”

  1. I never knew the man, but I make a living using his computers and have for 22 years. I entered into the brand new field of professional computer graphics after the combo of relatively inexpensive Macs, Adobe Post Script film printers, and Quark Express, laid waste to the paste-up work that came before. Of the thousand or so people I know in my industry, only a handful are older than me. Very few were able to paddle fast enough to catch the wave I rode in on. Eventually this wave will die too, but until then its been a very good one to me. I owe Steve, and Steve my heartfelt thanks, and also good old John Warnock at Adobe Systems for postscript and Photoshop.

  2. Here’s the difference between Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. I never buy the 1st version of anything from Microsoft, generally waiting for Service Pack 2 to ship. The day the first iPod Touch was announced I preordered one — it still works as a portable WiFi browser.

    Doesn’t mean Apple products are perfect, but you’re willing to live with their idiosyncrasies.

    The man had a vision and convinced his employees to deliver.

    Dr. Phil

  3. Let’s not forget that Jef Raskin created the Macintosh and eventually was driven out of Apple due to conflicts with Jobs, who favored the Lisa instead, but there is no doubt that Jobs could sell things to an audience. He truly understood what would make products interesting to a general audience. I wonder if Apple will ever find that visionary personality again; this could begin an interesting period in their future.

  4. I never became a fan of the Apple products. I last used one 24 years ago, an Apple IIe as a part of my elementary school’s first computer lab. We had the rudimentary lessons about the hardware and eventually progressed to writing basic programs that included simple interaction with the user or plotting pixels of color on the monitor. I had the advantage of having used my father’s Commodore computers and writing programs on them before taking part in the school’s classes. This gave me an insight that many of my peers hadn’t. It also provided the opportunity in which to wow my classmates who usually regarding me as an odd child and frequent target of humiliation.

    My eventual boycott of the Apple brand wasn’t deliberate as much as it was a circumstance of growing up, much as anyone favors any one brand over another. I followed my father’s footsteps through the technology curve by embracing the Commodore line of hardware. That led to the IBM PCs since that was my father used at work. Eventually when I had the ability to buy my own hardware, it was a PC with whatever the current Microsoft OS had been. I eventually left the Microsoft brand but retained the PC with Linux. But to this day, 24 years since, one of my fondest memories of childhood was the computer lab with the Apple IIe.

    I can’t agree with everything that was Steve Jobs and Apple, but I can’t deny his contributions to the world through his relentless ambition and vision. I am saddened at his passing and my thoughts go out to his family, friends and coworkers. The world is truly at a loss tonight.

    Thanks, Steve.

  5. I do not own and have never owned an Apple product. I regularly give my friends good natured ribbing over owning Apple products (I get the call whenever anything technology wise isn’t working, so I think it’s a fair trade). The only Apple products I’ve ever used were Apple IIes in elementary school. Still, I doubt there’s any technology I use on a daily basis (PCs, MP3 player, Android phone, various pieces of software, et cetera) that wasn’t influenced, at least indirectly, by Steve Jobs. The man was a genius and a visionary, and has a great deal to do with the current level of technology and its prevalence in today’s society.

    I may not use Apple products, but I believe I owe Steve Jobs. He will certainly be missed.

  6. I certainly did not know Steve Jobs personally, but, like most, only through what he created and inspired. I came to Apple products rather late in the day, having longed for a Mac for many years before finally acquiring one. My first (and second) computers were Atari STs back in the late 1980s, computers that attempted to copy the Mac OS. I simply could not afford the genuine article back then, as a married college student it was all I could do to drop $800 for an ST. When I finally did own a Mac–two in fact, a used iMac G4 and a new Macbook–the elegance of both the hardward, the OS, and interface the most. I had the same reaction when my wife and I finally bought our first cell phones only a year ago, iPhone 4s, and again when I bought my iPad 2. These were all devices and technologies shaped by Job’s vision and drive, leading teams of very talented, passionately committed and creative folks. He left quite a legacy.

    What impresses me the most, though is Jobs himself. Whatever the veracity of the stories and anecdotes about him as a CEO and a person may be, what stands out the most to me is his fierce intelligence, relentless determination and passion for what he did. I find that deeply inspiring.

  7. I am truly sad. I learned to program on an Apple ][+. I also wrote four books on it. I loved that damn machine, more than any since. It was on that computer that I tried out two careers, and chose one. I would eventually follow the money to PCs for a couple decades, but I never liked it.

    Still have an Android phone though. :-P

    If all he’d ever done was help get that ][+ in my hands, I’d be saddened, but he’s done a lot more.

    (Not just at Apple, either. Pixar has put out some great movies, and they’d have died an early death without him.)

  8. I never owned an Apple product. I was still shocked at the news. The immortals aren’t supposed to die.

  9. I hardly touched an Apple product until they first announced OSX. A Unix variant with a pretty pretty interface? I bought myself a “Flower Power” iMac and never looked back.

    Don’t have an iPhone (yet), ’cause my minimal cell phone use doesn’t make the Apple tax worth it. But I did get one of the first gen iPod Touches to replace my last aging PalmOS gadget. The only reason my Touch isn’t still being used daily is because I splurged on an iPad 2, which is hands-down the sweetest, most useful, easiest-to-use piece of tech gear I’ve ever owned.

    The sourcing of Apple’s products is as … problematic as the products of most corporations, and I’m sure Steve Jobs was no saint, but the planet lost a brilliant person today.

  10. Like John, I started with a Mac SE back in ’88 and have been a Mac guy since then. Steve Jobs was a driving force in the tech industry for nearly 35 years. I fear for the direction it will take without him.

  11. I haven’t used an Apple product since I had a ][e. I cut my programming teeth on Applesoft Basic and 6502 machine language. Man, I miss being a teen. Thank you Steve,

  12. Not just Apple. Without Steve Jobs’ acquisition and nurturing of a small company cast off by George Lucas, we would have neither Woody nor Nemo, would never have flown a house under a canopy of balloons to South America nor discovered why capes are such a bad fashion choice for a superhero. My sorrow at his passing is only exceeded by my gratitude for his life.

  13. “Death is very likely the single best invention of life. It’s life’s change agent; it clears out the old to make way for the new.” – Steve Jobs

    Mr. Jobs had a tremendous impact on the way most of us conduct our daily lives. However, I believe his biggest achievement will be inspiring the next generation to also strive for innovation, and to never settle for less than spectacular.

  14. Yup, same here. I now make a living supporting super computer users, after dropping out of art school years ago, because I found I was good at fixing Macs. Still have my first Mac; a Quadra 650. That machine’s never broke so I can’t get rid of it.

  15. Very sorry to hear of Steve Jobs’ passing. I’ve never owned or used Apple products, but I can see his mark in the tech that I do use. I doubt that my Android smartphone would even exist without the iPhone leading the way, ditto the Android-based NookColor without the iPad, and Windows 7 would certainly look a lot different (and not for the better) without the influence of Macintosh. RIP, Steve.

  16. When I started using Scrivener, I set up the full screen display so it was green text on black, just like it was on the Apple IIc+ that I used in high school to write my my first stories. The man changed the world and gave others to tools to do the same.

  17. I was sitting at my Mac Pro at work, listening to my iPod, when I got the news. I came home and used Safari on my iMac to read about it. There hasn’t been a single day since 1998 that I haven’t used an Apple product. And most days, I use them all day long.
    I just went to the Apple site to see what was there. Just a picture.
    I burst into tears.

  18. I remember doing the same thing in high school that John did. We learned how to program on a TRS-80 and “learned” word processing on an Apple. To this day, I don’t know why the computer teacher only let us use the Apple for word processing.
    I love, love my iPod and iPad. Never owned an iPhone because it used to be that only AT&T had those, but I live in what we call a “black hole”. I always thought that business decision wasn’t the best in the world for Apple. Now we can get an iPhone from almost anywhere for any service. Jobs may have had some missteps, but he certainly knew how to run a company. He will be missed.

  19. it affected me by helping me to become me

    I think I can say, with some degree of confidence, that that’s the kind of thing he liked to see. Thank you.

  20. Right above this post in my RSS feed was Wil’s post about his very similar relationship to Apple. This made me very happy. Thanks, John, for a moving post.

    I’ve been an Apple girl since my first hand-me-down Macintosh SE/30 in 1991. I’ve always felt like Apple fits with the way my brain works.

    While I don’t care what other people want to use for their computing needs (how boring would it be if everyone wanted the same thing?), and while I agree with John, Wil, and everyone else commenting here that Apple is not perfect, I know I’ll always be happiest using Apple products.

    For all the ways that Apple has contributed to my productivity and creativity, I say Thank You, Steve!


    Sent from my iPhone :P

  21. Not directly related, but Rev. Fred L. Shuttlesworth also died yesterday. Rev. Shuttlesworth was, in a very different way, even more of a revolutionary than Jobs.

    Washington Post: “The Rev. Fred L. Shuttlesworth, 89, one of the bravest and most dynamic leaders of the civil rights movement, who survived bombings, beatings and dozens of arrests in his efforts to end segregation in Birmingham, Ala., and throughout the South, died Oct. 5 at a Birmingham hospital.”.

  22. My best friend in high school had an Apple II, and we played games on it and did rudimentary programming in the 1980s. Then my best friend as an adult always used Macs.
    So yes, even though I prefer Linux, and never bought an Apple product, I recognize that Steve Jobs was a powerful force for innovation and consumer tech, and I respect him for that. I’ll miss him, too.
    – TomG

  23. The first computers I remember using (at school) were macs. They had tiny little screens, but they also had Tetris! I remember floppy discs and the brightly colored Apple logo on the side.

    Now, I can’t imagine my life without itunes and my ipod. I remember when the ipod first came out. I couldn’t believe it. It didn’t seem like it should be real, but it was. It changed the way we listen to music.

    He was a brilliant man, and I’m sorry that he’s gone.

  24. Steve Jobs makes me think of Henry Ford. Someone who altered society through technology, and someone who with a tyrannical strain to their personality that Ford would say ‘you can have any color you want as long as its black” and Jobs would refuse to use software from some other company bacause of some personal interactiin he had with the ceo of that company a decade or more ago. and so macs dont run Flash(?) because Jobs can hold a grudge against them even though mac users would like to use that software.

    my guess is with Jobs dead, apple computers will soon start allowing that software to run on its platform.

    My attempts to use a mac were like Scotty trying to use a computer on Star Trek ‘Save The Whales’ episode. My purchase of an iPod was the most maddening experience and disappointimg experiences I have had around technology. The iPod software acted like a warlord tyrant and tried to take over the way my PC used music. I didnt want to change my existing library and I didnt want iTunes to be my default music player, but it ended up trying to reformat my music library at least three times and it would alwas fight for the right to play my music on my desktop.

    Jobs reminds me a bit of Richard Stallman’s approach to the design of emacs. I hate emacs. it is completely nonintuitive to me, and stallmans response to requests for changes was reminding me of the ‘any color you want as long as its black’ attitude.

    Jobs had a huge impact on technology and and his impact will echo for years after his death like Ford had a huge impact on the auto industry. but now that he is dead, i imagine it wont be terribly long before macs start running flash and opefully iPods will stop teying to take over my computer.

  25. I spent 4 years supporting HP printers on Macintosh computers. While the company I worked for sucked, the people I worked with were great and I met my 3 best friends there. I own an iMac at home and plan on getting a Macbook Air when I need one for portable writing (and if I get into Clarion next year), but I am far from an Apple Fanboy. I just like having a computer that works without a lot of hassle.

    Thank you Steve, you will be missed.

  26. Steve Jobs makes me think of Henry Ford.” I’d recommend reading Greg Grandin’s ‘Fordlandia’ for an examination of Ford. While they are cosmetically similar, they were also radically different. Jobs was a wholly different animal in many ways. When you are referring to Adobe Flash, I think you might mean the iPhone/iPad, not Macintosh? Jobs gave a lot of reasons behind that, but I highly doubt it was a personal grudge, so much as Apple not being beholden to another company’s programming standard. Time has shown that many designers are working around Flash to accommodate those devices.

    I see wholesale deification occurring for Jobs now, which I find mildly troubling. Job WAS a visionary and his impact is unquestionable. But his true skills lie in seeing opportunity and capitalizing on it. I mean, his gambles paid off sometimes and failed sometimes. Seeing the success in Pixar? Win. Gambing on the Apple Lisa? Not so much. Realizing that the mouse would be the future of inputs? Win. Thinking that the NeXT computer would be the future of computing? Debatable. (Yes, some of NeXT’s concepts filtered in the Apple OS, but NeXT was a pretty big failure as a platform and company). When I heard an obit on the radio this morning and they said that Jobs started Apple with his friend, it kind of ticked me off that the implication was kind of rewrite of history, with Jobs being elevated to creator status and Steve Wozniak as the also-ran. I know that wasn’t actually intended, but I’d hate to see Jobs elevated to a status for things he didn’t do…he did enough that we should focus on what he actually DID do. (Some people seem to think the Macintosh was his idea, for example, or that he invented the mouse).

    I am bummed that he’s dead. Jobs was the kind of American visionary that we need more of and his loss is keenly felt. His work and the products he’s shepherded have had a profound affect on the world…an improvement, IMHO. His clever marketing and sharp insights (and later maturity) brought us Toy Story, the iPhone and the feeling that the rebels could succeed without sacrificing their ideals. I’ll miss that.

  27. I had a Tandy Color Computer at home to play with. But when I took data processing at USD in 1980 or 81 they had Apples in the computer labs (I was in the very first class that actually got to touch a computer in dp class, previously you used punched cards and hoped for the best) My workplaces have always been PC centric (once we stopped using the chisels and stone tablets) so the next interaction I had with apples was the ipod, a strange and wondrous little beast. Then the Ipod touch, which I really really like.

    Jobs was really a trail blazer and it’s sad to see him gone so soon.

  28. My wonderful compassionate intelligent college daughter heard about Jobs passing and immediately came up with the next app, which she posted on Facebook. the IDie.
    After I groaned, we were sad. ANd worried about what will happen to Apple without Jobs available. A man smart enough to be willing to hire people smarter than himself.

  29. Most companies would be very happy to see Flash die. It is a proprietary barnacle on the open system of the web, and it leaves anyone with a new device reliant on Adobe for ports and dependent on Adobe to make those ports well. Jobs’ refusal to allow Flash on iOS is something that many companies wish they were brave enough to do.

    One of the driving forces of HTML5 (Video/Canvas), strongly pushed by a number of companies including Google, is to make Flash irrelevant.

  30. When my sister and I bought a newspaper back in the late 1980s, it came with two Mac Plus units. We had never done much computer work before that time, but we (eventually) got out two newspapers the first week, figuring out what we were doing as we went along. My first computer was a Mac Classic. Because of money issues, I went over to the Dark Side in 2001, and I enjoyed my PCs, but I don’t know that I’ve ever been more relieved than when my wife said: “Let’s go to the Apple Store,” while I was reformatting a PC hard drive for the third time because of viral infestations. I admired the hell out of Mr. Jobs, and in my experience, his computers have been worth every penny I’ve paid for them.

  31. I own 10 Apple products starting with the first iPod mini and including a Mac Pro. They all still work great. I attribute that functionality and the beauty of the products to Jobs. I appreciate his ability to connect form with function and push technology further for everyone. I don’t really care about Apple as a company and think if they can’t find someone with the same design aesthetic to carry the torch then they deserve to go down. To me Apple is Steve Jobs, so no matter what happens with the company going forward, it’s not really the same company to me anyway.

  32. Steven “see Flash die. It is a proprietary barnacle”

    mac osx is proprietary too. and it uses open source code to create that proprietary OS. not that open source is perfect either.

    somewhere I read some study that did fMRI’s on people and found that pro mac users brains lit upon seeing the apple logo in a way similar to a religious person seeing their religious symbol.

    There are religious adherents to open source too and Richard Stallman is their prophet.

    but if you are going to use “proprietary” as your measure of goodness, then apple doesnt measure up..

  33. Sitting down and playing with the original Macintosh was like getting stoned for the first time.

  34. I was shocked when I heard about Steve Job’s death on the late new last night. What a loss, his genius will be missed.

    At this moment in time I own 2 Apple products – and iPod and my iPhone. Both are marvelous and I just don’t have enought time to explore all they can do for me. Need to do something about that.

    However, what struck me the hardest is the Mr. Jobs is my age, just a couple months older than me. Hard it of mortality reality there. We’re not supposed to go yet.

  35. His pet products always baffled people who make price/feature-list comparisons. “Why are people buying this stuff? They’re paying more money to get less product!” But Jobs always understood that it was as much about what you left out as what you put in. If the feature wasn’t up to his standards, he’d cut it. If it didn’t harmonize simply with everything else in the product, he’d ship without it. If the product itself couldn’t be made to hang together well enough, he wouldn’t do it at all; he’d wait years, a decade if he needed to, until the technology got to the point that he could.

    It made things with no novel features seem revolutionary, because when Apple got around to making one, you’d know anyone could figure out how to work it.

    I think about that every single day.

  36. With his faults, cancer and death at a young age, he reminds us that we are all too fragile creatures.

    Steve Jobs reminds us that as long as we can dream, even the most fragile creatures can change the world.

  37. Greg, not to discuss Flash, but where did you get the idea that Macs don’t run Flash? They do. Its the iPhone and iPad that don’t.

  38. When Steve Jobs announced in August that he was stepping down as CEO of Apple, I said to my partner, “He’s dying”. Nevertheless, it was still a shock to get her text last night stating that he had died. Yes, I am a big Apple fan (got my IIc in 1984 and have never looked back), but even if I were not, I know that Jobs would have affected my life, simply by being a visionary. NPR’s story this afternoon closed with a piece from Job’s 2005 commencement address at Stanford. He talked very clearly about the importance of knowing that we are all dying. Yes, he wanted to live for many more years, but he lived knowing that life is a terminal condition. His message was simple: Don’t live for others, live in a way that makes you happy. Life is too short to live someone else’s life. I hope my 15 year old understood that. It’s a great lesson.

  39. I’ve owned 21 Macintoshes. Except for a brief time when my first drafts were written on a typewriter, everything I’ve written was written on one of those. (While my sf/f output isn’t huge, I’ve sold over a million words in other genres.)

    I went to his house this morning to drop off a condolences card for the family. There were about 15 people there, and I was surprised (then surprised I was surprised) to see apple trees in the front yard.

    Namaste, Steve. We’ll miss you.

  40. Never owned an Apple product; I started in the computer industry when computers were made of transistors and diodes, not integrated circuits, and my intuitive behavior with keyboard and mouse are not the Mac way. That doesn’t matter much.

    Steve Jobs changed that industry, and several others, and gave millions and millions ways to use computers that they didn’t have, and changed other industries as well. He made the world a better place, and for that he is rightly mourned.

    Fair winds and following seas, Mr. Jobs. Rest in well-deserved peace.

  41. I’ve said to Evil Rob several times that the amazing thing about Apple in the last decade is not the products they put out but the fact that those products change the rules. Other companies may come out with better products, but they’re playing by Apple’s rules. Apple’s design choices have rippled through the industry and other companies have either followed them or taken a stance in opposition to them.

    Doing that for more than a decade is a reflection of something powerful.

    RIP, Steve Jobs. Hope your redesign of the afterlife goes well.

  42. The front page is really touching.

    I heard in the car, being driven to a job interview by my ex-boss, who was delivering a talk there, while crossing the Vine street expressway to get onto route 95. He had been about to tell me but the radio had it before he could finish.

  43. Steve Jobs RIP

    “My candle burns at both ends
    It will not last the night
    But oh, my foes, and ah, my friends
    It gives a cheery light”

    (Edna St Vincent Millay)

    I’ve never owned a Mac, or used an Apple computer. I don’t own an iPod or an iPad. The one time I tried to access iTunes, it attempted to transform my entire music library to match its preferred format (and wound up causing my PC to hang) so I deleted it.

    But Steve Jobs’ influence still shows up in my life.

    I’m working on a PC with a GUI. I’m not going to pretend that Jobs invented the GUI – he didn’t. He wasn’t the only person to have seen the potential in it as an interface for computers. What he was, was the first person to push for the GUI to be the default interface on a personal computing system. The WIMP (Windows, Icons, Mice, Pointers) system I’m using now is largely as advanced as it is because Steve Jobs decided to sell computers to people who didn’t want to type in commands to do everything – and the GUI was tried out, and widely adopted by Apple’s competitors.

    My current mobile phone isn’t an iPhone, or an Android phone. But my next one probably will be – and I’ll probably be looking into that decision some time in the next six to eight months, because my current phone is reaching the end of its usable lifetime. So my next phone will benefit from design decisions and system choices made by people working for Steve Jobs, as a way of making his vision of how mobile telephony should work in the internet age (and isn’t it interesting that paradigm-shifting major change in the way mobile telephony works isn’t made by a telephone network exec, but rather by an executive of what’s effectively a computer hardware manufacturer? Just as interesting as the way that same exec pioneered one of the biggest shifts in the way music is distributed online, rather than it being the brainchild of the music industry).

    Steve Jobs genius was in seeing the potential of new ways of doing things, in putting the force of his considerable personality behind his visions, and in his willingness to take risks, and push outside his field of “expertise”. He wasn’t a creator himself, but he potentiated the creativity of other people, gave them the space to play in.

    He also knew he wasn’t an “immortal”. Indeed, he was very aware of his own mortality. He knew he was going to die. He chose to burn the candle at both ends, knowing this.

    He wasn’t perfect. He wasn’t the ideal person. But he had a big impact on the world, and now he’s gone.

    May he look on the face of his god, and know peace.

  44. I personally hate the whole ‘cult of mac’ or ‘religion pf Mac’ load of BS. I just like Macs because they let me DO stuff with a minimum of hassle.

    I’ve been around computers since punch-cards, learned COBOL on a Prime system, used DEC Vax’s for years, now work on Windows based machines at my job. HATE every deleted one of them. I get home, sit down with my Mac lap-top and get stuff done. It’s what a computer should be, a *useful* tool.