Recently Apple celebrated their 40th anniversary birthday. I thought it would be a good opportunity to reflect on how I got into Apple products, and more importantly, how Apple has changed my life.
It all started with a iPod nano on sale in my college. The MP3 players I had before the iPod, while usable, all have a clunky interface with folders and songs that have to be managed manually by the user. When I first got the Nano I remember being fascinated by how thin it is, the elegance of its packaging, a translucent plastic case slightly bigger than the size of a cigarette box. The battery life was amazing, and importing albums (yes, I still listen to songs religiously in sequence) is a breeze.
Not too long after getting the first iPod, I found myself needing a smartphone as I had to use a lot of GPS navigation as well as taking a lot of photos during my student exchange program in Sweden. After having a good user experience with an Apple product, and seeing my friend using his iPhone 3G with much delight, I bought a second hand iPhone 3GS. I still remember the night I got it: I was sitting in the subway, playing with the touchscreen interface, and I remember how smooth and bouncy it was. It was one of those revelatory a-ha moments in my life; like having a new pair of eyes implanted which allows me to see possibilities I have never seen before. I loved my iPhone, and I still am to this day (although I have minor quibbles on the design of their latest design, but that is for another article).
Due to my newfound fascination with Apple products, and the fact that I had a lot of free time while studying in Sweden, I started to read about Apple as a company. And of course, you couldn’t read about Apple without reading about its co-founder, Steve Jobs. In my free time, I devoured every Steve Jobs’ Apple Keynotes available on YouTube on my tiny netbook (remember those creatures?), and a few interviews he gave on the All Things D Conference. The one he gave on the year before he died is one of the best interviews I have watched. While watching those videos can seem procrastinatory in hindsight, I realize what was happening to me as a person during that 6 months is that I started to internalize Steve’s mindset, interests, attitudes, and values. They have profound effects on my life ever since, and he becomes my personal hero in life.
Among those effects is the appreciation of Design (with a capital D), arts, and humanities. In the year after my exchange program, it was time to decide what PhD major I wanted to pursue. At that moment, it was clear to me that Biology, which was my undergraduate major, is not my life’s calling at that moment. On top of that, I found myself frowning upon the everyday grind of working in a biological laboratory, and it would be very tough to find joy and passion in the work, especially in the face of calamity and boredom that would say hi to you in some day. In retrospect, I recognise that it was because that kind of work doesn’t aligned with my personal values anymore. Therefore, due to my newfound interest in design, I went on to study human-computer interaction as my PhD major, since I have always been a computer geek from my childhood.
In a sense, writing about Apple really feels like writing my own life story because it has such a positive and profound impact on my life. I would wager that this is the same for many other people who loves Apple and its products. I find myself happier, more optimistic, and empathetic after using and understanding Apple.
To me, the biggest personal influence of Apple is not its products, but the thinking, philosophy, and values that go behind the company and their process in creating those products. In an interview with Charlie Rose, Jony Ive, Apple’s chief design officer, reflects on his design process and concludes that good design is all about care; caring about the people who is going to use the products, and caring about the goals users want to achieve in their life. In my opinion, that sums up the company and the values I want to engraft onto myself.
I hope Apple can keep these values in the next 40 years, and I hope to do the same.