Steve Jobs has been a part of my career in computer and networking since it began in the 1980’s. My first computer and business were based on the Apple II Plus, creating medical office software and consulting to the State of Nebraska Education Department while attending college at the University of Nebraska at Kearney (then Kearney State). I also worked in the college computer department supporting other students in our computer lab using Apple II’s and our timesharing mainframe computers. As a computer science student, I practically lived on my Apple II, writing software, playing games and experimenting with everything I could do with my Apple II. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were two of my first heros in the computer industry.
My Apple II followed me to my first post-college job building banking software. While others thought I was crazy, I brought my Apple II into work to write software requirements and designs while others turned in handwritten pages for the word processing pool to type up. While living in NY, I saw the introduction of the Macinotsh and the Lisa, neither of which I could afford at the time. My first Macintosh was actually purchased by my employer EDS, and a few months later I was able to buy my own Macintosh.
During that time I was working on a lot of projects using Apple technology and working on EDS’s Apple account in Cupertino. For a while I even toyed with the idea of moving to Silicon Valley and signing on to work at Apple. I was able to attend a couple of Apple events, MacWorld conferences and a TED conference where I saw Jobs in his element, pitching Apple and its products. I also had the privilege of presenting a Mac-based product I was a part of creating to then Apple CEO, John Sculley. Those projects also gave me a chance to meet Apple Fellow, Alan Kay, and Hypercard creator Bill Atkinson.
Macs were my primary computers at work and home until the mid-90’s, when I made the switch to Windows. The Mac operating system had become too unstable, slow, and lacked the software options available on Windows. Windows was catching up and the Mac no longer held the advantages over Microsoft it once had. Jobs was no longer at Apple and Apple as a company was a mess. I felt Apple had let me down on so many fronts and it was time to move on.
It wasn’t until Jobs returned to Apple and made the decision to abandon the proprietary Mac operating system and Motorola processor dependency by switching to the
Linux Unix-based Mach OS kernel that I felt there was hope for Apple. I wasn’t enamored by the iMac, the cube Mac or other plexiglass generations of Macs, but today Macs are provided as an end user computing option where I work right along with Windows. Despite my dire (and insanely stupid) predictions the iPhone would succomb to other smartphone devices, it was developing software for the iPhone that brought Apple products back into my professional and personal world. For me, the iPhone and iPad were the revolutionary equivalent to the Apple II and Mac products of their day.
Apple’s launching of the personal computer (Apple II), their approach to ease of use and user interface design, the 1987 “Knowledge Navigator” concept video (link) and the ground breaking iPhone and iPad products have all had profound impacts on me. All of these innovations helped shape my own deeply held beliefs about designing for the user experience, creating usable software, innovation and customer service. And Jobs was at the heart of these and so many other innovations.
The loss of Steve Jobs on Oct 5, 2011, didn’t come as a surprise. When Jobs announced he was stepping down as Apple CEO, I knew the end was near. For Jobs to step down, I sadly knew he had to be living out his last weeks or maybe even days.
I heard of Jobs death while driving on my way to meet my wife for dinner and a movie. I told Jodi I was surprised how strongly his passing struck and saddened me. And then I realized that Jobs has been with me since the time in college when I discovered computers and creating software were my passion, hobby and vocation. Steve, his philosophies about products and customers, and many of the products he helped create have been a part of my journey, and while I’ve had my serious disagreements with and disappointments in Apple and Jobs, there are so many more things I love, appreciate and admire about them both.
Three of the things I appreciate most about Steve Jobs were his infectious passion, his visionary product innovation and his fundamental belief in the customer experience.
Thank you for everything, Steve.