Steve Jobs — Gone but not forgotten. This is my Apple story.
On the afternoon of October 5, 2011 I was tutoring a high school student in Scottsdale, Arizona. For several years I worked part-time as an ACT/SAT tutor for The Princeton Review. Up to that moment it had been an unremarkable day.
While the student was doing a timed exercise I noticed an alert on my iPhone.
It is hard for me to describe the feelings I had in that moment. I knew Steve’s health wasn’t that great. He appeared gaunt and underweight in recent public appearances. Of course there was the liver transplant. But I was not prepared for this news, not this soon. In shock, I was in autopilot mode. I managed to capture a screen shot to preserve it forever.
I maintained some semblance of composure until the end of the session. While driving home I listened to 92.3 KTAR, still not believing that it was true. At some point during that drive my resolve crumbled and I started crying.
When I got home I turned the TV on to watch the news and turned my MacBook on to read the news. My dad called and neither one of us could actually speak coherently to each other. This was the first time I had heard my dad cry. I only saw him cry once at his last wife’s funeral. After almost a minute of gibberish, I told him I couldn’t talk right now and we both hung up.
Steve Jobs wasn’t a member of our family. He was a very successful visionary and public figure, but we had never worked for him or even met him. How could my dad and I have such a strong sadness about his passing?
People who know me for even a short length of time discover that I am a tried and true Apple devotee. Some would say even that is an understatement. What many people do not know is why my devotion to Apple runs deep.
This is my Apple story.
What follows is my eulogy for Steve Jobs first published on Facebook on October 5, 2011. I have expanded the original content and added new material from the last six years. All quotes are attributed to Steve Jobs.
The Seed was Planted
When the original Macintosh debuted in 1984, my dad bought one. He celebrated by biting a chunk from an apple and sitting it on top of the Macintosh in a comical homage. I remember the original white box with the multi-colored outline of the Mac on the side.
My earliest memories of my dad involve sitting in amazement in front of this newfangled gadget. I had an Apple IIe before that, but the Macintosh was different. This was a true computer (or what my nephew used to call a wahputer). It seemed magical to me. It had something called a mouse that you could point and click on screen. You could draw your name and see it appear right in front of you. It had great games including Transylvania. I never did figure out how to avoid defeat at the fangs of a vampire. At one point my dad connected a camera and was somehow able to capture pictures right on the screen. I was too young to truly appreciate the Macintosh at the time, but the seed was planted. I have fond memories of spending time with my dad and the Mac before my parents divorced and my life changed forever.
In high school my dad gave me a Mac Plus for the anniversary of the date of my birth. With help from my dad’s friend Ellsworth, I was able to upgrade the RAM to a whopping 4MB. This allowed me to run Aldus Pagemaker, the same program we used for the high school newspaper. The computer had a floppy disk drive (3.5”), and we added an external 40 MB hard drive. I wrote many papers, articles, and columns such as Ask Brandon and The Connoisseurs. I also wrote my Class President passing-the-torch and Valedictory speeches on the Mac. I remember printing them on the noisy Imagewriter II dot matrix printer.
The Mac Plus followed me to The University of Toledo, but I only used it for a few short months before I purchased a PowerMac 7200/75 in 1995. The color screen was quite an upgrade, and the speed was amazing for the time. This was the first computer I used to access the internet. Netscape was the browser of choice. Google did not exist until 1998. For email I used Pine, a text-based client, and Eudora. I used this computer to write papers in English and Spanish (in the same evening!) during one particularly rough semester.
During freshman year my plan was to pursue computer science along with a math degree. After FORTRAN, the next programming class was C++. All the computers in the programming department were PC’s, and I was the only student in the class with a Mac. It was an uphill battle from the start. I insisted on using my Mac for programming, but the PC software did not exist for Mac. I had to use software called Code Warrior to emulate the PC version. My professor was none too pleased that he had to “do something special” for all my assignments.
“I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.”
In 1995 the general attitude toward Apple was negative and resigned. Ten years earlier Steve Jobs was ousted from the company he co-founded. In the intervening years Apple lacked innovation and continued to lose money. Most people thought the company was about to go bankrupt. But I, like Chicago Cubs fans, always believed. This experience during my formative years soured me on the prospect of programming. If iOS and the App Store existed back then, my career trajectory would have been different. Think different.
When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, he started a revolution regarded as one of the greatest company turnarounds of all time. The new era kicked off with the introduction of the original iMac.
The bondi blue iMac shipped August 15, 1998, and I had one by September of that year. The pattern of celebrating the anniversary of the day of my birth continued. People complained about the hockey puck mouse that somehow they could not tell which end was up. It seemed pretty obvious to me. They screamed at the idea of no floppy drive and some new peripheral protocol called USB. I thought it was the greatest computer ever. I could not stop staring at that profile and almost otherworldly design. I still think it’s the best color of all the variegated models.
PC = Work, Mac = Play
In 1999 after I graduated, the iMac followed me to Phoenix (passenger seat, still in the original box). I moved to Phoenix after joining Teach for America. As a junior-high teacher in South Phoenix, I used the iMac for anything and everything. All my lesson plans, grade books, quizzes, tests, and materials are still on that hard drive. This iMac was the last Apple desktop I owned until the 27" retina iMac joined the family in February 2017. I have had several laptops including the white iBook, a black MacBook, a silver MacBook, and the current MacBook Air.
During college breaks working office jobs I always used a PC with some version of Windows. This trend continued when I entered the world of healthcare insurance in 2001. Macs have generally been popular in education and some creative fields, but PC’s have ruled most of the business world. I began to internalize the concept that PC = Work and Mac = Play. I will always have this perspective.
The Age of iPhone and iPad
On January 9, 2007, Steve jobs announced the iPhone at the Macworld convention. I cannot tell you how many times I have watched that keynote address on YouTube, but it’s double digits.
My co-workers will tell you that I started a paper clip chain in my cubicle. I removed one paper clip each day as the release date approached. The very last paperclip was attached to a facsimile iPhone picture. On Friday, June 29, 2007 at about 1:15 PM I was among the first ten people outside an AT&T store in Chandler, Arizona. For hours that seemed like days I waited for the iPhone to arrive in my grubby hands at 6:00 PM. I was one of the few who paid the full price $599 as a premium to have the “Jesus Phone.” I was among the frustrated masses who could not activate the iPhone that evening or the next day due to an overloaded system. When the phone was finally activated Saturday afternoon, I was ready for stardom. I went to malls just to walk by the cell phone kiosks. Inevitably someone would ask, “What kind of phone do you have?” Of course I whipped it out and barked, “iPhone!” As I continued walking away stridently, I heard frenzied pleas: “Wait!! Come back! Let me see!”
Did I wait in line for the iPad too?? You bet. I waited for the WIFI + 3G model released on April 30, 2010. That morning I had two wisdom teeth pulled. I was still numb from the novocain as I stood in line waiting for the iPad. I was drooling for two different reasons and hoping I could get home before the novocain wore off (I did.) I still believe that there is no better web surfing experience than the iPad, no Flash and all. Oh, and of course I had to get the iPad 2, but that one I had shipped. After the iPhone 4 experience in the hot desert sun, I had my fill of waiting in line. The FedEx guy might as well have been delivering a pair of trousers for all he knew. I stay current with iPads. The iPad Pro 9.7” is my constant travel companion and the ideal device for passing time on a plane.
As silly as it sounds, it is difficult for me to part with Apple products. The MacPlus is still sitting in some room at my mom’s house. I saw it when I was back home a few years ago. I toyed with the idea of booting it up for old time’s sake, but I let it rest in peace. The PowerMac stayed in the family and provided much enjoyment for my brother Ed and his family after I moved on. The original iMac sits on a shelf in the closet in my office. One day I will find a more reverential place for it. The IceBook is stored in a box. The CD drive does not fully lock in place thanks to an ambitious cat.
The black MacBook found a new home with my good friend Steve. He managed to keep it working despite a mishap involving a glass of water and a cat, not the same one but equally ambitious. I do not keep iPads; I seem to always find a good home when the time comes to upgrade to a new one. The iPhones? I still have them.
To the surprise of nearly everyone I tell, the iPhone was my first iPod. I don’t have an explanation for this other than music has always been in my head. In 2010 I purchased the iPod Nano 6th generation along with a watch band in a short-lived attempt to wear it as a watch. I was ahead of the curve by five years.
On April 24, 2015, Apple released the Apple Watch. This was the first brand new product released after Steve Jobs was gone. Leading up to the release I had a paper cut-out of the watch and band to test the form and fit. I continue to wear the stainless steel Apple Watch 42 mm, and it performs well for the few tasks I need.
A eulogy is supposed to be all about the person who just passed. In actuality, that’s what this has been. The best tribute I can give to Steve Jobs is to describe his impact on my life through Apple products. I cannot imagine my life without Apple, and I don’t want to imagine it. I feel like a silent member of my family has now left forever. Mine is one tiny story, a few bytes of data from my mind through the MacBook to Medium of all places.
“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.”
When Apple Retail Store #14 was set to open in the Chandler Fashion Square in October of 2001, I applied for a job.
My dad’s advice was to send Steve Jobs an email, asking for him to be a reference for me for the very job I was applying for. My dad suggested that my ardent support of Apple and its products somehow gave me sufficient qualifications for the job. It was a crazy idea, and I did send the email. Who knows if anyone ever read it, let alone Steve. If he did, I’m sure he just thought I was a nut. I had two interviews but never got the job. It’s just as well. That would have put me too close to the Mothership.
Speaking of the Mothership, I was fortunate to have a client in San Jose. On June 20, 2015 I traveled to One Infinite Loop in Cupertino, CA to visit Apple Headquarters. This is the location of the only “Country Store” that sells official Apple merchandise. To me the visit was practically a religious experience. To my co-workers who joined me, it was some run-of-the-mill office building and store. As it turned out, that week was the last week the store was open because it was closing for renovations.
On October 6, 2015 I returned to Apple HQ to visit the remodeled store that now resembles all the other Apple retail stores. They still have Apple merchandise that cannot be found anywhere else, but I feel the charm of the original store has been lost.
On September 12, 2017 Apple held a special event to announce new products including iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X. This was the first event held in Steve Jobs Theater at Apple Park. The new headquarters is only a few miles from One Infinite Loop. I watched the event live. It opened with a video tribute to Steve Jobs that stirred within me emotions of sadness, loss, and gratitude. I recommend watching at least the first few minutes.
I’m not a sports guy. When I see die-hard sports fans experiencing heights of excitement when their teams win or depressive lows when they lose, I do not have a connection to that. But I understand it. I know guys and gals who connected with their fathers through sports. They went to games, watched them on tv, played in the backyard, and they will always have those memories. My connection with my dad will always be through Apple and the vision Steve Jobs had to put a ding in the universe.
“No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.”
I am shutting down the MacBook and iMac, turning off the iPad, iPhone, Apple Watch, and Apple TV tonight. The screens will be dark, and there will be silence. Darkness except for the memories that fade to dreams and silence except for the music in my head.
Steven Paul Jobs 1955–2011. Harold Dean Wilson 1935–2014
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