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RIP Steve Jobs

RIP Steve Jobs

I can still bring the vision of it to mind, $1,595 on the price tag (that's $6,350 in today's dollars). The new Apple II computer. That was 1976 and there I was, a teenager barely able to contain my excitement at what I was seeing.

Oh, how I wanted that machine but it simply wasn't possible. I had just spent a year saving $100 ($400 today) to buy a new bicycle (one that would be stolen the following year offering another important lesson on impermanence). Buying a new Apple II would require parental assistance but at a third the price of a new car, it was too much to ask for. I couldn't and I didn't do it.

The original Apple II computer with a small black and white monitor and single 5 1/4" floppy disk drive on top.

I found another way, developing my electronics and computer skills at my local Heathkit electronics store. Only a few years later, not only did I have unlimited access to that Apple II, I was a repair technician responsible for fixing them. I saw Apple grow through its early years. I invested early, then sold foolishly having become nervous about falling stock prices around the time Steve Jobs left in 1985. Little did I suspect that he'd be back and doing what he had always done at Apple before, innovate.

The Apple Macintosh, clearly showing Steve Jobs' penchant for usability, style, and beauty, was the revolution that sparked the computer as we know it. Building on technology developed at Xerox's PARC research facility, Jobs built the first commercially viable windows and mouse-based personal computer.

I can still remember having customers come into the computer store and sit down to use this new machine. There was the 82 year old woman who had never used a computer before but wanted to track her family's genealogy. I comfortably sold her a Macintosh with never a support question afterwards. And then there was the 6 year old girl, tagging along with her dad buying a PC for his business, she just sat down and started using it. It was such an intuitive design, such an innovation.

It did not win against the IBM PC but for one reason alone: the PC was easy and cheap to program. Apple limited the programming choices, limited the access by hobbyists and one-man-show programmers, and limited the details of the inner workings. Had Apple been more open and encouraging, we'd all be using Apple products today and Microsoft might not even exist.

My relationship with Apple ended about the same time that Steve Jobs' did, in 1985. I moved on, so did he. And while he returned, I never have. Still, how can I not admire a man who had such vision? The products he designed are amazing. He continued to do what he had done with the Macintosh, over, and over again. The iPod, iMac, and iPhones are not only financial successes, they are innovations that touch all of our lives.

Steve Jobs changed my world and he changed your world.

Steve Jobs, soon after having been diagnosed with the rare form of pancreatic cancer that would ultimately take his life, said this at the 2005 commencement address to Stanford University:

Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.

Because almost everything -- all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure -- these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.

Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

I may not have ever met the man personally and that is my loss but his death yesterday touched me unexpectedly deeply.

Steve, although I did not call you friend, I wish I could have. You will be missed.

Sometimes you don't know what you have until it's gone.

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How did Steve Jobs death touch you?

3 comments
edward.borland
edward.borland

His enthusiasm and vision were insanely great! I couldn't help but be swept up and in awe during the early days. I was working with Commodore Amiga then, so the machines that interested me were the Amiga, the Mac and the Atari. The PC and Windows weren't really on the menu. Every Apple2 / Mac I saw filled me with a sense of wonder and excitement! It was all deluxe and a journey filled with so many things to discover.

I have mixed feelings about Apple and preferred them as underdogs when they needed to work with others. I had mixed feelings about Microsoft in the past too and I can't help but feel Jobs is partly responsible for the way some developers and smaller businesses were badly treated. I have problems with the inflexibility of the iTunes walled garden ecosystem and would prefer an open model where the end user has control. Jobs was a control freak and his close ties with Larry Ellison from Oracle isn't a plus. His manic, secretive nature was unsettling, but it's clear he was a master creator and a genius.

Hearing him talk was an experience. Also his ability to communicate was amazing. He was a significant person for me and his passing marks the end of an era. When I heard the news I was emotional, he had been a small part of my life.

Kenneth Benjamin
Kenneth Benjamin moderator

@edward.borland I agree, he was certainly not perfect.

His saving grace was, I think, a mixture of stubbornness and vision. Without either, Apple wouldn't be what it has become and neither would Pixar.

LIke I said, if the Macintosh had been more open and inexpensively programmable, it would have beat the PC hands down in the early 80's. Windows would never have got off the ground.

I was selling both Mac and PC at the time of each of their introductions and the Mac was far superior in user experience and ease of use. And it was far inferior in the available software library. Programming for the Mac was only in Pascal, nothing so easy as BASIC on the PC and the cost to get started programming for the Mac was something like $2K vs. $35 for DOS including BASIC. That one difference was the opening Microsoft needed and why Windows, once they got to version 3.1, took off.

Apple needn't of been an underdog and the province of graphic artists. It could have been THE computer company, had they even started to get what business needed. They still have that blind spot for business, one that Blackberry capitalized on to the iPhone's disadvantage. There is a reason that Barack Obama has a Blackberry and not an iPhone and it's not because it's cool.

edward.borland
edward.borland

In some ways his inflexibility and stubbornness worked so well for him., in other ways it didn't. His creations and design will be a legacy for him, along with his company's exploitation of poor workers and ruthless approach.

Apple's pricing and reluctance to give the end user control made their products less attractive for business. "A bit propellor head, not really a business machine"

Microsoft really went at it creating tools for software development, combining that with the growth of Windows they were successful at cementing their place in the business marketplace.

I found it remarkable that Apple survived on graphic designers, schools and hobbyists for so long. Now their popularity and dominance in some markets means businesses are the ones thinking about compromise.

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