I wrote to Steve Jobs upon his final retirement from Apple, 6 months before his death. I told him he had changed my life twice. I don’t know if he ever read it, but it’s always made me feel good that I was able to say thanks.
The Apple II was a revolution in my world. It took me from being a boy who had learned the excitement of computing from my Dad to a full fledged computer nerd myself. I set up my elementary school’s computing lab for them, owned one myself (my Mom’s sacrifice in putting one in our house has paid dividends my whole life), and learned the foundation of my current work on one.
The iPhone was the second profound change. It lead me to co-founding a company and is still the source of income and full focus of my career today. Not to mention the fact I’m currently writing this post on one and derive a profound amount of daily information, productivity and joy from using it.
But the Mac is the focus this week as it turned 30. Mac and I had a funny relationship over the years. At age 8 or so, my Dad got my brother and I included in a research study he was doing comparing Macs and traditional PCs. I was hired and paid for 8 hours of work (the first job I was ever paid for) and I completed those 8 hours of work in little over an hour. I’m pretty sure that was high marks for the Mac in the study, and I was enamored with it.
Somewhere along the line, my computing self got too big for his britches and I imbibed the trope that the Mac was a toy for people who weren’t smart enough to really get computers. I even teased my Mom over her beloved Mac. I had learned that real serious computer people used PCs, and besides I could do everything so well with command lines I didn’t see why I should bother with silly desktop imitations and iconized pseudo-computing. I was so taken by Apple and Steve’s first revolution that this lead me to largely sit out the second revolution.
Until Apple bought Next and OS X was born. My good friend and software engineering mentor Andrew was an old school Mac zealot. He sat in an office surrounded by PC folks and happily worked away on a bondi blue iMac - the only computer our company would buy for him to meet his demands that he wouldn’t work on a PC. He showed me OS 10.0 and I was hooked. Looking back, it was a pretty rough release and 10.1 barely got its feet under it. But it was Unix and a Unix box that didn’t require me to spend half the day being the sys admin I wasn’t. I bought a G4 tower for home and inherited his G4 when he left the company. I’ve never worked on a PC since and a great majority of those same engineers who scoffed at Andrew are now Mac users themselves.
So happy birthday Mac. I’m glad you didn’t pass away while I was too silly to see how great you are. And thanks Steve. I’m glad that you didn’t pass away until your vision of a computer for the rest of us (and even for us computer people) was vindicated. Twice.