Sunday, October 09, 2011

On Steve Jobs

I haven't written about Steve Jobs yet mostly because I felt like I didn't have anything worthwhile to say that hadn't already been said. As soon as the news of his death reached the Internet, every article ever written about him was shared. When I saw one of the pictures of an Apple store window plastered with Post-it notes, I started getting a lump in my throat. When I visited the Michigan Avenue store myself, I felt that lump creeping up. Seeing all these multicolored notes thanking Steve Jobs in so many different languages really got to me. On my bike ride home, I started crying.

I've never lived in the same lifetime as an inventor who has so heavily influenced my daily life. I have an Apple product in my hands about 12 hours a day. I wake up early to my iPhone alarm clock, flip open my MacBook Pro to write a little, then head to work where I'll spend the whole day writing on another Mac, then stop at the grocery store on my way home and check a recipe on my iPhone, and switch back to my Mac personal computer when I'm home to do more work. Other products that factor heavily into my day-to-day life — bikes, forks, ballpoint pens — are ones that were around way before I was. I never saw these inventions evolve and so was never able to imagine a world in which those things didn't exist.

Many of us who love Apple products feel personal about our relationship with the brand, that we independently discovered our first Apple computer, and it significantly changed everything in our lives that happened after that point. My dad had this crazy smart ahead-of-his-time friend who influenced him into purchasing only Apple and nothing else, so I was lucky to receive my own personal desktop Mac at age nine or ten in the early '90s. This was around the age when I started to realize how much I liked writing. My favorite computer games were writing-based ones. I wrote a lot of really really dumb stories on a program called Imagination Express, and I was always playing Oregon Trail. You know how Oregon Trail kept a journal of your journey with entries detailing who died of cholera that day or exactly what was lost to the current when your wagon capsized in the river crossing? I actually went added my own made-up stories to those journals.

I could type faster than I could write by hand, so all of my silly little-kid stories were written on a Mac. I typed and I typed and I typed. I typed so much the keyboard had to be replaced. During Steve Jobs' Stanford speech, he talks about how his interest in the art of calligraphy influenced the clean type of the first Mac, and influenced the clean type of every computer that came after that, since Microsoft just copied everything he did. The type was so well-designed that it didn't feel designed, and for me, a kid stumbling through writing an extremely underwhelming story, it was perfect; everything was very simply and cleanly about the words I was writing and nothing else.

I am sure I would have pursued writing regardless, because I loved it so. But I had a platform that made it easy for me to get my words out, and I didn't want to stop. The Mac was so intuitive that I was able to fully become engrossed in this writing thing without thinking about anything else. And that's what I still love to do today, and, I still do it on a Mac.

This is my personal story with Apple and what Steve Jobs gave me, and it's not that interesting. But those Post-it notes? Man I can't keep it together even thinking about them. Because everyone who scribbled a few words and stuck a note to the window had some insignificant but personal story with how Apple changed their life. These Post-it notes are a celebration of a life well-lived. I wish I had a Post-it note to add. I don't know what I'd add. I could only squeeze a few sentences on there, which wouldn't be enough to say all that I wanted to say.

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