I’m not one to get caught up in the death of a celebrity. I didn’t know the man, I only know what I’ve read and seen in cheesey made-for-TV movies. I can’t say if he was a “nice” guy or a shrewd business tyrant. I didn’t follow the man, Steve Jobs, that closely.
But I do know his product. And I know how his product changed the world.
Back in 1996 I won $5000 in a bingo hall while on a weekend trip to Vancouver. I came home with a promise that I would use that money to make my life better. I decided that I was going to go back to school and finish getting my Graphic Design diploma and start working in this “new media” that was touted as the future of how we did things, how we entertained ourselves. The internet was starting to explode.
The first thing I did was purchase an Apple Performa 530. I loved that one piece. I remember being all excited about the 68040 CPU chip inside and how strong it was. I learned as much as I could about how it worked, it’s limitations and it’s strengths and started to create “things” with it… digital files, images, sounds, funny movies.
Speaking of movies… that Performa was my first window to the internet. My first video I ever saw not sourced by TV was The Exploding Whale – a 3:30 minute video that took over 5 hours to download. I started to download it in the morning and then came back to it after a day at work – hit play and pissed myself laughing.
I also got my first internet date from that little box. It went horribly but I can remember telling a friend that I just had sex by picking someone up off the internet. I literally was shaking with excitement. I had successfully bypassed the bars and got laid without drinking or sorry excuses!
The future was going to be awesome.
I traded it up for a stronger PowerPC Performa (a tower) and continued to stay with Apple through some pretty rough times for that company. After years with the Tower, I fell in love with the colourful Mac line up. I had a Blueberry ‘Tosh, the one with the funny puck mouse, which I shared with my boyfriend at the time. I can still remember tearing a strip off the Bell customer service rep when they told me that the “guy who handles Mac calls was out for the night” and that no one could help me with my internet connectivity. Thus was the bane of Mac ownership back in 1999.
I left Mac for a while there, convinced by a (now ex) friend that PCs were cheaper and much more modular. Yes they were. Still are. But when I think back to the number of times I had issues with the damn beige box, compared to the number of times I’ve contacted AppleCare (twice in all the years of ownership), I’m reminded of this quote from Steve Jobs:
When you’re a carpenter making a beautiful chest of drawers, you’re not going to use a piece of plywood on the back, even though it faces the wall and nobody will ever see it. You’ll know it’s there, so you’re going to use a beautiful piece of wood on the back. For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, has to be carried all the way through.
I got the iPhone a solid year before it was released in Canada, thanks to a man I do truly love. That lead me down a dangerously obsessive road of hacking and ultimately questioning Apple’s closed mentality towards their hardware and software – when the hackers broke open the phone, allowing it to be used on any network, Apple would release a patch, along with insanely great new features. You’d have to re-lock your phone if you wanted to be part of the fun. After a year of jailbreaking and reinstalling dubious code downloaded from mysterious strangers off the web, when the iPhone finally did come to Canada, I stopped cold turkey and embraced the concept of a “Walled Garden”. I now chant “it just works” and like it.
I came back to Apple 2 years ago after a 7 year hiatus. It was a great day when I transferred what I could from that Frankenstein PC over to the PowerMac I bought second hand. And even better when I upgraded to my current iMac 21.5, which I’m using right now to type this. To my left is my iPad, my iPhone and down there in the junk drawer is my Newton 130. Awesome products that allowed me to make some awesome things.
I tear up every time I see or hear that scratchy video of Walt Disney dedicating the opening of Disneyland, back in July 1955. But those are tears of happiness. I know the strength behind those simple words, spoken in a barely contained supernova of pride. Now, tonight, I had a good cry over the loss of a man who was a visionary, just like Disney who loved bringing the “next insanely great thing” to the masses. I can’t help compare the two.
I never knew Mr Jobs, but have enormous respect for him and his accomplishments. I must thank him for the tools that shaped my life.
Steve Jobs – 1955 to 2011.