I don’t have a cool Steve Jobs story. Just a deep love of the products he and his partners and his teams over the years (who are often disregarded, though no one works alone) created.
My first introduction to the computer was in Boy Scouts when the parents of my friends all had computers. I grew up in Rochester, NY, where Kodak ruled the city and nearly everyone I knew had a father that worked for Kodak. They were mostly engineers and they tinkered with computers in their spare time over the weekends. My real love for computers began on an Apple. My fifth grade math teacher had an Apple ][ in the corner and I recall spending far more time learning to program on the Apple than I did learning math that year. My middle school had a computer lab, where some of my geekier friends and I learned basic programming and how to have fun with the computers. About that time, the Macintosh came out and I recall riding my bike up to the only computer store about 4 miles from my house to gawk at the interface and play with the mouse. Despite my prodding, my parents, who were not engineers by any stretch, refused to buy into—literally or figuratively—my desire for a computer. In retrospect, given the $1,995 price (at the time, which would be roughly $4,500 today adjusted for inflation), I can completely understand the reticence to purchase such a very expensive toy for their son. While I tinkered with electronics through my early high school years, I spent more time using glorified electric typewriters than I did using computers.
I flirted again with Macs in college, although my roommate (whose computer I used) and most of my friends had PCs. I worked a bit on computers, but I was too busy with other things to get deeply involved. Once I got out into “the real world”, I was often thrown tech projects and database projects because I just loved working with computers. It would be some 15 years later before I had my own Apple computer. More or less, I’ve never turned back.
Like many in the technology world, I can’t say I ever had any direct interaction with Mr. Jobs, or even secondary contact. But he and his company did have a tremendous impact on me. Probably if I hadn’t had one of those Apple ][ computers to play with, I’d never have been as interested in those funny boxes, or programming, or data systems, which is where I later ended up. I might not be where I am today. I’m sure there are many others who share my appreciation. Whether we’ve lost our Edison, as some have stated, I’ll leave it up to history. My thinking is that was probably Steve Wozniak, who’s gotten somewhat short shrift of late. But we might have lost a Carnegie. Regardless, I’m saddened by the news. I feel like a bit of my childhood died yesterday.