The first computer I ever used was an Apple II. There was an Apple store in Riverside, California back in the early 1980s. They might have sold computers, but they were too expensive for me. I did take computer classes there, however.
My first real computer was an Apple clone (a Lazer, I think). It was an old “green screen” thing, no hard drive, just floppies. That was 1986. From then to now, I’ve never stopped using Apple computers. I held on even during the dark days of the 1990s, before Jobs came back to Apple in a blaze of glory (like Lenin or something) to reinvent the company and, really, reinvent the world.
I seem to remember just about everyone in the world made fun of Apple in the 90s. And the change is usually attributed to the iPod and the subsequent iPhone, iTunes, and iPad. But I think the real change came when Jobs returned to Apple in the 90s and developed the first “i-device,” the iMac, which was multi-colored, weirdly-shaped, and totally unlike every other computer (including the Apple I had). It boasted an artist’s flair and it was dismissed as so much artistic crap. But what the engineers and other PC people didn’t realize at the time was that people, by and large, didn’t like computers. They were confusing and didn’t work right most of the time. Jobs didn’t fix everything with that first computer–but he made a nice-looking computer, something that 14 year old girls wouldn’t mind having in their rooms.
From there, the world changed. Jobs would announce a new device; it would be mocked, then become amazingly popular. Soon, all his competitors would create their own copies. For fifteen years, as computers have become more and more central to our lives, Apple products have led the way. Today, it doesn’t matter what computer you own or what mobile phone or handheld whatever you have–they all resemble Apple products, right down to the round edges on the monitors.
Jobs was an artist in a computer world dominated by engineers. Where engineers focus on the internal workings of a computer, Jobs focused on the user: how do people use computers? How do they interact with them? How do they hold them? Where engineers focus on productivity, Jobs focused on music, photos, and videos and finding ways for people to take these things with them everywhere they go.
You might have hated him, you might have mocked the cult of Apple (who hasn’t?), you might have made fun of the pretentiousness of Apple commercials (and they were and are pretentious, to be sure), but you can’t deny that the world we live in today is shaped by a design philosophy largely created by one man and his company.
A great person has died today, someone whose name will probably be around as long as computers are. Rest in peace, Steve Jobs.