Thursday, October 06, 2011

RIP Steve Jobs

Just have to join the cavalcade of reaction to Steve Jobs' death.  While I am generally very much against this weird public mourning that our society seems to feel it has to do every time somebody famous dies, I do appreciate the recognition that society is giving to Steve Jobs' impact on our society.

We got our first computer in 1984 and it was a Mac.  My dad was a longtime computer hobbyist, but highly critical of the mainstream trends of computing and it was a running joke in our family about how my dad kept putting off buying a computer.  The whole family stood around the kitchen table as we opened the box and took out all the smaller boxes.  Looking back on it now, I realize that it was one of the earliest times that I would see a product where the packaging was all part of a total product experience.  Not sure if that is such a good thing, but it is certainly ubiquitous today (though still nobody is able to do it as well as Apple).

Man, did I ever get into that thing.  Happily, the computer was kept in the guest room right across from my bedroom.  I used to spend hours with MacPaint, playing Infocom games, just monkeying around.  I still find it a bit hard to believe that you used to have to actually load the programs into RAM via the disk drive.  I got amazingly fast at swapping 3.5" floppies in and out.  The joke (that I only learned about during the best man speech at my wedding) was that when I invited people over to come play with our Mac, it meant inviting people over to come and watch me play with the Mac. Sorry guys!  For my sister's birthday,  I made a birthday card with MacPaint and signed it "From the family and Macie" and then I had the voice synthesizer say happy birthday to her.

I got way out of computers when I went to college (even though, Ironically, I went to Reed, whose computer lab was one of the first all Mac college labs in the country).  I sort of regret that, as I lost some learning.  When I did get into the workforce, my first corporate job was in a Mac environment and all of a sudden I was the only guy who knew how to really make them sing.  From then on in, in my varied career, my computer skills have always been a fundamental part of whatever job I've been doing.  I actually went back to school a few years ago and got a diploma in Computer Science.  I just didn't have the focus or the nerdy patience to tinker with UNIX when I was a kid.  The interface of the Mac stimulated my imagination and got me into computers.  Today, I'm working in a mostly Windows office  and have made my peace with that ugly but functional OS.  It helps that I don't have to live in fear of never using a decent interface again.  Thanks to Apple (and Google and a lot of other factors), competition is fierce in the computer market.

Today, the Apple haters are in the minority and on the run.  And even they have to recognize Apple's impact on technology.  But it didn't used to be like that.  Back in the day, Mac users were a real minority, sneered at and dismissed by more "serious" computer users.  I can't tell you how many times I had to listen to people argue with this sort of pedantic, superior tone about how Macs weren't a real business computer, how it was totally correct for game companies to not design games for them, how you couldn't actually control them (yeah, like DOS was somehow really getting at the guts of the system).  Where are those sysadmins and businessmen today?  Desperately waiting in line for their iPhone 4S, that's where.  Suck it bitches!  Sorry, I know that's petty during this sad time, but I just can't help myself.  You were wrong and I was right.

Oh yes, and a special shout-out to all you losers who used the Macs are too expensive argument.  Yes, for a certain percentage of the North American population, a Mac is out of their price range and they can get a fine Windows laptop for a lot cheaper.  But the ones who were making that argument were also usually owners of tricked out 6K gaming boxes who would run out to line up and buy the latest videogame at $100 a pop every month.

I have many criticisms with Apple as a company and the direction they are taking their software, but I am so grateful that Apple exists.  Can you imagine a world where Microsoft was the only interface?  Where Blackberry dominated the cell phone market?  We got pretty close, and it was freaking scary.  Today, it's a truism that the user experience is the most important factor in selling computers to people.  That is thanks to Steve Jobs and all the people behind the Macintosh.  We are going to hell in handbasket, destroying our planet and letting the fascists back into power, but at least we have some awesome technology to play with while it all goes down.  Oh yeah, and good animated movies as well.  Thanks Steve and rest in peace.

1 comment:

Jason L said...

Nice tribute. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on where Apple seems to be going and what might happen with them post-Jobs.

Clearly, because of the fact that more than half their money is coming from iProducts now the focus seems to be shifting away from the Mac computing platform. I think we see this now in the general reduction in control the user has with their products and OS.