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.
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:
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.