Thursday, August 25, 2011

Steve

My life with computers began in 1979, my first relationship was the TRS-80 Model I in my middle school science class. Elsewhere in the school there was a nascent computer lab with an Apple ][, but I found it loud, big, confusing, off-putting, with ugly fuzzy text. There was the possibility of color graphics, sure, but only via a convoluted scheme involving alternate pixels that Woz invented because it saved him, like a few bytes. The TRS-80's graphics were sensible lo-res black and white blocks, based on characters.

I ran to the library every month to read the latest issue of the awesome 80 Micro. I talked my grandparents into buying me a TRS-80 Color Computer. And I hated Steve Jobs, for selling the snake oil that was Apple computers.

I continued reading computer magazines, and became fascinated by Apple's Lisa. I regularly outlasted the patience of our local computer store as I sat and drew pictures on the screen using Lisa Draw. But it was clear from the start that the Lisa wasn't for regular people. I went home and wrote my own drawing program on my second computer, a BBC Micro, using a joystick instead of a mouse, and bided my time.

Then the Mac came out. And in about 60 seconds I became a Jobs fanboy for life. We got one in school, and I was hooked. They had to drag me away. A few months later I started at Carnegie Mellon University and became a proud Mac owner myself. From then on it was all Mac, all the time. My first job was programming a Mac II in Think C. The year I graduated from college Apple wasn't hiring, so I took a job at Microsoft, where I planned to develop Mac software (I didn't - but that's a different story).

I continued to watch Jobs do his thing at NeXT, and then celebrated his triumphant return to Apple. When the iPhone was announced I told my wife it was the perfect phone for her, then got one for myself too. This sealed the deal - when I finally left Microsoft for good, I went back to Mac. And, like the whole world, I happily fell hook, line, and sinker for all the wonder that Apple has bestowed upon us since.

I worked at a big company, and I know it takes many people to make a new product. But, perhaps because of the particular big company I worked at, I'm well aware that a single clear vision (or lack of same) can make all the difference in the end result. And this one man's vision has informed so much of my adult life that I honestly don't know what it will be like without him, when he's finally gone. I hope that our world will move in the direction of taste, of simplicity, of good design that permeates our lives. And, if it does, it will be in large part due to the efforts of this one man.

Thanks, Steve.