Steve Jobs Has Left The Building
No, this is not a flippant reaction to the news of Steve Jobs’ passing. Quite the contrary. He was someone I never met yet he helped to shape and define me along with a large segment of the world’s population of computer users with no desire to become ‘geeks’. I first learned of the original MacIntosh when a colleague of mine purchased one. The rest of us were still computer-less at the time and I admit to a case of professional envy. What “Ed” (as I shall call him) couldn’t do with the Mac computer probably wasn’t worth doing, we all thought. The MacIntosh was streets ahead of potential competitors like Texas Instruments and Dell. “Personal computing” had been in its infancy, only gradually approaching the tipping point from awkward toddler to diffident pre-schooler.
Steve Jobs Has Left The Building
Steve Jobs and co-designer Steve Wozniak leap-frogged over everyone with a light-hearted, youthful computer operating system that was truly “user-friendly” whilst IBM and Microsoft were still locked into an almost military mindset about the proper uses of computing. The operative term here is “friendly”. Despite his reticent nature about his private life, Jobs wanted to reach a whole ‘other’ population of computer-less people whose wish lists were headed by a computer that didn’t scream “The system has detected an illegal operation and will shut down now” or words to that effect. People wanted a computer that looked inviting to try out and one that didn’t make them feel incompetent before they even got started! I was definitely one of those people. Unimpressed with the typical IBM computer, uninterested in learning “code” or obscure protocols, I wanted a computer that I could use for creative purposes: to produce a newsletter, flyers, student assignments, illustrated articles for use in my work. Things that required a computer with an operating system that would do what I needed it to do, not one that would frustrate me at every turn with limitations. I wanted what Jobs and Wozniak delivered, – a fun computer that could also be used for work.
The Mac In Adolescence
That was in 1984. The next truly revolutionary model was the 1998 iMac.
The iMac took my breath away. Finally, a computer that had some personality! Young, kickin’, colourful, futuristic and funky, the iMac was also a serious advancement in computing. Designers and digital artists were the obvious market for the operating system that offered a palette of choices and potential applications and they bought iMacs in droves. I remember pricing one out of curiosity. It didn’t come cheap, but then quality never does. Still, I could only dream of one day owning one of these marvelous machines.
The Mac Comes of Age
It took me until 2006 to finally get a Mac. And what a treat it is to work on. In the intervening years, I tried to persuade my husband that our ‘next computer’ should be a Mac but the dominance of Microsoft’s operating system made it imperative to have a some form of IBM clone instead for business purposes. Eventually, the time was right for a Mac and I shopped for it with gusto. What had happened to Mac’s “personal computing” over the decades was astounding. They had always been interesting to look at, distinctive, and inviting but by 2006 the Mac had become iconicalally sleak, streamlined and, quite simply, dazzlingly beautiful.
Even The Box Is Great!
A large part of Steve Jobs’ success is the result of his insistence on “good design” not just for the operating system but for the “body” of the computer. And not just for the body but for the wardrobe, too! The packaging of my MacBook Pro was stunning in its simplicity, quietly assertive with the iconic Apple logo on one side and an image of the MacBook Pro on the other. The packaging was as elegant as the product itself. I remember walking out of the computer shop feeling as though I had just bought a work of art. And I had. Only Steve Jobs would be so meticulous as to insist on an aesthetically pleasing machine design and packaging attractive enough for customers to want to retain for future use. That level of commitment was a large part of his genius and from what those who knew and worked with him have said, he carried that aesthetic over into his life. Or perhaps, it had been the other way around. Whichever, the world feels emptier today.
Apple/Mac images from Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons.