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October 5, 2011

We will miss you Steve

Filed under: Commentary — Bob @ 6:47 pm

Steve Jobs died today.

This was quite interesting news; neither unexpected nor expected. It just happened, exactly as you’d think it might.

I read an article that compared him to Edison and Einstein. This seemed quite appropriate. He will be remembered as an innovator who had dramatic impact on technology and business in ways no other single person has in a long time, or will have, at least for some time to come.

My life was changed by Apple Computer, Inc. in the early 1980s when I was exposed to the Apple IIe. This was not the first computer I ever used: I used a Commodore Pet at school, and my father had a Commodore CBM at the office. I dreamed of being able to have a Radio Shack TRS-80 for my very own. But the IIe was different in the sense that it opened my eyes. It wasn’t that the IIe was so innovative – I didn’t know much about electronics at the time so couldn’t appreciate the renowned design. The software wasn’t that different from what you might find in those other systems. In fact my first programming experience wasn’t for an Apple computer at all (I taught myself to write BASIC on a Commodore machine by reading programming magazines). The difference was that my mother ended up working at an Apple reseller, and so I got the chance to play with all sorts of machines I wouldn’t otherwise have access to. I also worked in the repair department, which meant I had to learn a bit of electronics. In those days the most common repair was to replace a driver chip in the floppy disk drive controller board that would burn up (literally) when connected wrong – the connector could be attached in either orientation but only work correctly in one.

I was working at this store in 1993 when the Apple Lisa was launched. I spent as many hours as I could playing with that machine. I was totally amazed with the things that you could do with it. The technology was fantastic: double-sided high density floppy drives, graphics printers, and of course the bitmap display and mouse. The first hard drive I ever used, a magnificent 5 megabytes, was attached to this Lisa system. Amazing. The story behind the development of the system was also quite something, compelling in a way that I can’t quite describe. But there was more to come.

I was still working at that store in 1984 when the Macintosh was launched. My parents purchased one for me, a gift meant to be both inspiring and utilitarian. I played with that machine for hours and hours and hours. The story behind the creation of the Macintosh, by Steve Jobs and his team, was so fantastic and wonderful that I dreamed of doing those grand things and many other grand things in my life. This event, the launch of the Macintosh and its story of its creation and my eventual ownership of one, changed my life forever. The many things I learned in life about design and software and commitment and accountability can all be traced, to some degree or another, to this.

And because of this, I’m eternally gratefully to Steve Jobs and Apple.

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