I am sad that Steve Jobs is gone. I didn’t know him, but like many other people, he changed my life. There have been many tributes to Mr. Jobs in the past week and it is easy to see how widespread his influence was. There is also some negative sentiment in which people are furious that so much attention and honor is given to the death of a corporate billionaire while the deaths of race scholar Derrick Bell and civil rights leader Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, who died on the same day, were much less prominently noted. I definitely agree that the deaths of Derrick Bell and Rev. Shuttlesworth deserve at least as much attention as the death of Steve Jobs, but it is Steve Jobs’ influence on my life that I will write about here.
Like many computer geeks, Steve Jobs was a hero and an inspiration to me. He changed ‘thinking different’ from a reason to get beat up to a reason to be respected (at least as far as nerdy computer geeks go). I have been in continuous awe of the things he has created since the day my dad brought home an Apple IIe in 1983. That, along with a Commodore 64 and a VIC-20 that we used in the high school Computer Club, were the first places I learned about programming. BASIC. Loved it!
To a person who thinks of things in a very literal way and finds it hard to get along in a world where logic does not always dictate reality, programming provides a comfort, a world where actions and consequences are dictated by logic alone.
Aside from learning some PASCAL in college, I was out of the computer/media loop until 1995, when my dad told me about Windows 95. I got my first PC, a Compaq Presario 100MHz mini-tower with 8KB RAM, and read “Windows 95 For Dummies” from cover to cover. Over the next 10 years, I learned to build and fix PCs. I learned to build websites using FrontPage Express, a program that was included with Internet Explorer 4. It had a split view where you could look at the visual web site on one side and the code on the other, making it very easy to see how changing one would affect the other. I also learned more than I ever wanted to know about the Windows operating system.
By 2004, I was sick of the constant problems with Windows and had decided to switch to Linux. 2004 was also the year that the San Francisco Apple Store first opened. Lured by the promise of shiny electronic things, I wandered into the store and was completely blown away by what I saw. The operating system of the time was OS X 10.3, aka Panther. It was simple and beautiful, yet had the power, stability, and security of a UNIX based operating system behind it. That was it. The bar was raised forever. My first mac was a 12″ PowerBook 1.33GHZ PowerPC with 256MB of RAM. Somehow, that little thing ran circles around my 3GHz Pentium 4 PC with 1GB RAM.
I knew almost nothing about my new mac, which was a little disturbing considering that I could troubleshoot Windows in my sleep. Luckily, Karen knew how to use a mac and showed me the way. Before long, I realized that I was so confused at first because everything was so easy to do! I expected everything to be more complicated and unstable like Windows, but it was not. There was no need to troubleshoot in my sleep anymore. Like programming, macs made sense to me.
I currently use a 24″ iMac, a 15″ MacBook Pro, and an iPhone to do my work, learn new things, play games, and communicate with the world in a way that was not possible for me in the past. I am thankful to Steve Jobs for thinking differently and for the amazing contributions that he has made to the technical world. I am thankful to him for his inspiration and vision. I will miss him and the contributions he surely would have made in the future had his life not been cut so short.
Steve Wozniak remembers Steve Jobs