Cause and Effect: My Long Journey with Apple and Steve Jobs
Apple computers have been in my life as far back as I can remember. Having been born in 1987, that’s probably not saying too much, but it’s fair to say I’ve seen a large chunk of the evolution of computing, going from a DOS prompt to iOS, in my 24 short years. But I wasn’t always an Apple fan. Here’s a short recollection on how Apple and Steve Jobs affected my life growing up, and helped make me who I am today …
I grew up with a DOS prompt, memorizing the commands my father typed away furiously on his big home computer. But when I wasn’t at home on the PC, I was at school using a Mac. My elementary school had deployed a fleet of Macs, and during computer lab times, a PC was nary to be found. We had disk-based games booting up on old Apple IIs, but the prize to play on was the Macintosh Performa all-in-one units. They played everything from KidPix to Warcraft II and gave me my first taste of multiplayer gaming.
Back at home, I still maintained a loyalty to all things Microsoft. So when the first batch of iMacs came out and our school district, populated the schools with them, naturally my friends and I mocked them for being sluggish and slow. OS X wasn’t quite ready for primetime and Mac OS 9 couldn’t multitask as easily fluidly as those new Windows 98 machines.
But by high school I had come around a bit. I had an iPod and I started to take notice of Mac OS X, especially version 10.4 Tiger. I took a fondness to the entire GUI. I liked the bubbles and glass, the blue aqua outlines and the candy bar-fill of the loading bars. I even liked the spinning beach ball. I installed themes on my Windows machine to make it look like OS X. Why shouldn’t the desktop be pleasing? The Mac I used every day in my first foray into digital design was an iMac G4 with the swivel screen, and I was enamored with the shape. By my senior year in high school, thanks to our town tax dollars at work, we had a new electronic music lab with a full fleet of 20 G5 PowerMacs, electronic keyboards and a suite of production software at our disposal. It was the first time I ever used Garage Band, the first time I “produced” a song, and the first time I found out that iTunes runs a heck of a lot better on the Mac than it ever did on my PC gaming rig at home. I realized how sexy industrial design could be. Nothing at the time looked even close to the gorgeous metal cage that the PowerMac G5 sat inside. It was also the first time I realized how easy and fast it could be to do things that were complicated or simply unintuitive on a PC. I couldn’t fathom how MIDI cables just worked without a lengthy driver installation process.
But when I left for college, I spent a considerable amount of my savings on buying a beefy gaming laptop computer instead of a Mac. I cared about games more than I cared about Garage Band and Photoshop, but I maintained my lingering love for the Mac and the OS X platform. As I spent more time in college working than playing, I found more than anything my computer was actually getting in the way of my work (it weighed 5 pounds and had a battery that lasted only 45 minutes). By end of my sophomore year in college, my gaming laptop died a painful, overheated Pentium-4 death. I lived the rest of the semester inside the Mac lab at the Fordham University library, which had gorgeous, 24-inch, white Intel iMacs. At that point, Apple had made the transition to Intel CPUs, which subsequently started the OSx86 hacking scene. I wasted no time, and by the summer of 2007 my PCs at home were running OS X. I was hooked. That was it. I was never going back to Windows. And suddenly, I wanted to know everything I could about the amazing man who made it all possible, Steve Jobs.
In the fall of 2007 I got my first MacBook and the first-ever iPod Touch. I was officially part of new world of computing — drinking the Apple Kool-Aid, so to speak. Steve Jobs’ vision for Apple and the recent launch of the iPhone changed my productive lifestyle in college forever. My iPod Touch became the computer I used every day for class notes or goofing off, frequently the envy of other classmates who thumbed around clumsily on their BlackBerry devices. My MacBook was home base for all sorts of creative things. I wrote music, I produced digital artwork, I got As in class. OS X felt so darn refreshing from the drudgery of Windows that I couldn’t believe anyone was still using it as an operating system. I went from a gamer focused on GHz and 3D technology to a productivity-focused individual, obsessed with technology that worked for me.
Now, it’s 2011, and I’m sitting here typing this on a MacBook Air. I read The New Yorker magazine every week on my iPad. My iPhone is my lifeline at all times and has saved my bacon more times than I can count. OS X and Apple products are part of the reason I love my job. It’s why my life is rich with knowledge, communication and intellectual pursuits. It’s part of why I am who I am today. And I’ve never wanted to throw any of these devices at the wall, bang on the keys or sob in frustration.
But I never forget the reason they’re like that. It’s because of Steve Jobs’ unwavering vision of what computing should be. It’s why I’ll miss Steve so much. Because as much as people can guess and ask what Steve would do, there was only one Steve Jobs, He will live on in his products. He’ll live on in the way that he popularized industrial design. He’ll live on in hearts and minds across the world. But there will only be one Steve.
Ever the geek, I own and use a fully functional Core 2 Quad “hackintosh” computer for my desktop machine. I have a feeling Jobs wouldn’t approve of OS X running on unauthorized computers, but I always believed that in the back of his mind, Jobs honored the spirit of hackers around the world who so loved OS X that they wanted to run it on anything they could. I believe that because that sentiment — the sort of grass-roots love for computing paired with pushing the envelope — is what started Apple in a garage just 35 years ago.
Thanks for sharing your vision and passion with the world, Steve. You will be eternally missed.