With his death this week, they’re saying Steve Jobs was an inventor and innovator on par with Henry Ford, Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison. I’m not sure if that’s true or not but I’ve got to say every Apple product I’ve sat down in front of or picked up has worked really well.
Going through my teen years in the 1970s, we all eagerly awaited the coming computer age. Science fiction told us it was coming but punching data cards to feed into a computer that occupied a complete room at the university didn’t trigger my imagination.
Later, I knew a few people that bought the early Apple computers; they were really expensive and great for playing arcade type games. I wasn’t all that into arcade games and cars and music were more interesting places to spend my money.
When I decided that I might want to pursue my knack for writing at the newspaper I figured the hunt and peck system I typed by in college wasn’t going to cut it. That led me to the community college where I took a typing class that utilized a typing tutor on the Apple II computer. Steve Job’s landmark invention accomplished what my high school typing teacher couldn’t and my writing career was launched. So, I guess Jobs is responsible for what you’re reading today.
It was the beginning of an on-again, off-again relationship with Apple products that left me happier at the end of the day if I had been using an Apple. The VDT screens of the day integrated into newspaper typesetting systems were no fun at all with monochromatic characters that you couldn’t do anything with other than insert codes you hoped would be right to change fonts and point size. The IBM computers of the day weren’t any more exciting.
Then everything changed in 1984 when Jobs and Apple introduced Macintosh. It was the first home computer system with a mouse, icons to click when launching programs, the ability to bring artwork onto the screen and simple ways to manipulate text right onscreen using the mouse and those icons. They called it WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) and it made a lot of sense to me. Finally a computer interface that got me excited.
In the late 1980s, at the Quay County Sun, I oversaw the purchase of a fleet of Macintosh computers that helped our newspapers become only the second newspaper in the state to adopt what they were calling desktop publishing. We could produce and layout the newspaper on the computer and print the pages on a printer eliminating costly, smelly photographic processes that took a long time.
After a stint remaking George Lucas of Star Wars fame’s computer graphics company into what we know today as Pixar, Jobs came back to Apple and the dreams were reborn.
The iMac line started things in the right direction and then the iPod and iTunes kicked the company’s stocks into the stratosphere. IPhones and iPads have turned the company into the biggest technology company on the planet.
Apple and Jobs success has come through their co-founder’s drive to refine ideas to the point where people quickly and eagerly embrace new technology. When something does wonderful things and we can figure it out quickly our imaginations run wild.
Lets hope Jobs was able to transfer that ideal to the next generation of innovators.