I just lost a friend I never met. Steve Jobs died on October 6, 2011 at the young age of 56. As eulogies pour in from around the world, I wonder what I possibly have to add, yet feel the need to say something.
My relationship with Steve and Apple, the company he started with a with a high school friend, began in March 1984 when I purchased my first Macintosh computer, just two months after it made its famous Super Bowl premier.
I was preparing to enter grad school and was searching for a computer. I‘d looked at the IBMs and a “portable” computer called a Kaypro II – it weighed 29 pounds and sported a 5” green screen that greeted you with a -> when it booted up. Then I heard rumors that a little company that made the Apple II was on the verge of announcing a totally different kind of computer.
The first time I saw the little Macintosh with its then revolutionary single button mouse, I knew it was the computer for me. It had 128K of RAM (consider to be huge at the time and double that of the Kaypros) but what captured my attention was what was on the black and white screen, instead of the blinking -> there were little pictures of the things you’d use on a desktop, they called them “icons” just like the images on the right side of this blog and instead of typing move c:\windows\temp\*.* c:\temp to move a file, you just clicked on the icon of a document and dragged it to the icon of a folder. As a photographer and a “visual” person, it was clear that my search for a computer was over, even though it cost $2,000 (about $5,200 in 2010 dollars).
As I sit here typing this blog on my iPhone and PowerBook Pro, it’s amazing to think back to those first days when there were only two programs, MacPaint and MacWrite. Slowly new programs trickled out and before long I bought a spell checker. All of a sudden, a whole new world opened up for me. I’d always been afraid to write because I was embarrassed about my TERRIBLE spelling but the spell checker set me free.
I bought a backpack for my Mac and carried it to work and used it to prepare our newsroom’s budget. Mine was the first computer in the station, other than a few IBMs in the accounting department. When the News Director returned from the budget talks in New York, he said the corporate big boys wanted to know why our budget looked so much better than anyone else’s. The answer was my Mac and the Apple ImageWriter printer. Hard as it may be to believe, the concepts of fonts and kerning was totally alien to computers at the time. Most computers only printed letters that had the same space for each character.
In the masters journalism program, I had to write a lot of papers and to my amazement, I found I had something to say and that I could communicate with words. For a photographer who communicated primarily with pictures, this was a life changing breakthrough. Before long I was writing a monthly magazine column about TV photography.
Over the years that first Mac transitioned to a Macintosh Plus, then a color Mac 7500, then a dual core Power Mac tower and finally to my current laptop Powerbook Pro. Just as the hardware evolved, so too did the software. After the spell checker, Microsoft Word was my next piece of software – a full blown word processor with the capability to easily insert footnotes which was essential for my long grad school papers.
I now have over a hundred programs on my Mac. One of the advantages to being an “early adopter” is that I could learn programs gradually as they came out, so the learning curve wasn’t overwhelming. The two most important things I discovered about new programs and the Mac were:
- The Mac wasn’t going to break if I did something wrong. This set me free to try things just to see what would happen.
- There is this neat menu option called Help.
For me, the most amazing program from Apple was Final Cut Pro, introduced in 1999. It was a full featured video editing program and it was the real deal. People were using it to cut network shows and the movie, Cold Mountain was cut on Final Cut. Gone were the days of shlepping into the station on the weekends to edit my home movies, I could do them at home on my PowerMac.Fast forward to 2011 and the latest incarnation of the program is Final Cut X. And, in true Steve Jobs’s style, it’s totally different than any other editing program. Rather than looking at editing the way it’s been done since the advent of non-linear editing, Apple started from scratch and designed a program they claim is faster and more powerful than anything we’ve seen before. And, like so many of Steve’s other ideas, it’s not being welcomed with open arms. The pushback has been so great that Apple was forced to put the old Final Cut Suite back on the market and they are offering a 30 day free trial period to check out the program. I’m betting on Steve and Apple and am struggling to master the program. I’ll buy it as soon as I scrape together a few hundred dollars.
Somewhere along this journey, Steve realized that computers didn’t just have to sit on our desks, and Apple started making small, portable, special use computers. We all know their names. The first (not counting the Newton) was the iPod, then the iPhone and the iPad. Of course, along the way iTunes and the Apps Storemade it painless to purchase music and apps and keep them up to date.Think about it, when the iPod debuted, there were other MP3 players on the market but it took the combination of the iPod’s ease of use and the ninety-nine-cents-a-song simplicity of iTunes to make it a phenomenal success. There were “smart phones” before the iPhone but it became a phenomenal hit when paired with the Apps Store and all those amazing little programs that did things we didn’t know we needed a phone to do. The same for the iPad; there were other tablets on the market but the iPad tied all the loose ends together.
For example, while lying in bed with my iPad last night, reading articles in Flipboard (a news aggregator that creates an online magazine of articles based on my Facebook friends and the accounts I follow on Twitter), I came across an article about a show that airs on the National Geographic channel. In less than a minute, I’d clicked on my AT&T U-verse app, found the show and programed my DVR to record it; all this in less than two minutes, without leaving bed or switching to some other device.
As I write, we are days away from the launch of the iPhone 4S (yes I’ll get one) and a new operating system, iOS5 for the iPad and iPhone.For the first time, Steve wasn’t there to announce their debut.Many writers have noted that other entrepreneurs would be satisfied with creating any one of Steve’s amazing products. But, as Steve explained, he didn’t waste time basking in the limelight of success because he was already moving on to the next “insanely great invention.”
Steve, the world will miss you. I miss you.