Steve Jobs 1955 - 2011
He built "a computer for the rest of us." Steve Jobs was talking about people like me when he coined that slogan describing the Macintosh computer.
Steve Jobs' death has reminded me of just how much my life has been affected by the computers he created. All my adult life I've known and loved these simple computers, designed for those of us who don't want to waste our time figuring out how the damn things work. We just want to get on with what we're doing. And I've managed to do quite a few things with the Macs I've had, things I'd never had done otherwise.
I first used a Macintosh when my husband picked up a small Mac Plus for my sister-in-law in Honduras. For a few weeks I toyed with it, my memories of tedious computer science classes fading as I explored its small screen. This sweet little desktop computer had no stacks of cards to punch, no code to memorize, no insistent blinking characters taunting me from a dark expanse. It didn't have a hard drive, either, but this was early days yet.
A year later we'd bought our own Mac SE, and soon I was publishing a newsletter using PageMaker. I'd never taken a DTP class, never had formal training, yet I could make a great looking newsletter in a few hours. I got a lot of praise for that two-page, two-column, 11-pt Palatino newsletter, and was soon asked to be assistant editor of a magazine published for the wives of Air Force officers at a large military base.
That's when I realized just how clever my little Mac was. The publication's editor, who owned a quite advanced and expensive PC, struggled to even copy an article on to a disk. I remember staring at her PC screen, wondering what the heck a C drive was. The next year I took over the publication, and soon I was doing all the layout and editing with my little SE. The magazine had never looked so professional (by this time I'd discovered Garamond), yet I made it look easy—because it was.
A year later, some of us decided to raise money for the organization's charity efforts by holding an art auction. We didn't know what we were doing, so we made it up as we went along. As the artists brought their art into the building, I checked it in on my little SE, which I'd brought from home and set up on a table. That afternoon, I designed a catalog using a simple database application, and by that night had printed copies ready to hand out to our attendees.
I felt as if I'd performed a small miracle.
When I wasn't using the Mac for my work, my children were playing games on the little SE. I remember Daughter Number Two as a toddler, moving the mouse around, singing along with the music—long before iTunes and iPods made Apple the go-to music application.
Daughter Number Two plays on a Mac SE.
Throughout the years our Macs got bigger, faster, slimmer, and then smaller again, when the iPad joined our house last Christmas. Software technology has long surpassed my skills—I can barely make my way through the new Word—but I still use a Mac every single day.
I import photos into iPhoto. I watch movies imported from iTunes through Apple TV. I listen to my iPod at the gym, and now can play its music in my car. My iPad is the last thing I touch at night, the first thing I touch in the morning. But I'm old fashioned when it comes to computing: my iMac sits on my desk, its screen much larger and colorful than that old 9-inch black and white SE.
I have no doubt that if Steve Jobs had not invented that first Macintosh, my life would have been drastically different. I would never have taken to computing, not for work and certainly not for pleasure. I have a fear of gadgets—a strange interface intimidates me. But Apple products are different.
"Think different," Steve Jobs said. I am most fortunate that he did just that.