With the passing of Steve Jobs, there’s no shortage of reminiscenes of Apple and its impact on design and, of course, the computer world.
I’m watching a show called “MacHEADS” (2010) — pre-empting my F1 watching — which covered the Apple story and aptly pointed out that in ’96, the company was on the verge of no longer existing. (Talk about a death-watch, ’96 was the last time the Orioles made the playoffs).
Jobs’ death has me personalizing the history of Apple as my own remembrances of him is in the wake of the ways Apple touched me.
1. My first remembrance of Apple is from college when all the PC labs were full and I had a paper due the next day.
After waiting some time, I just decided I had to use whatever computer to finish my paper and settled on the sparsely populated Mac Lab. Some hours later: a non-spectacular paper resulted (I got a “C”). Over the trauma of a large essay written overnight, I found how easy it was to edit and change fonts on the word processor. Back then, changing fonts was huge — even nearly a decade after Apple’s landmark commercial.
2. Fierce loyalty to Macs then came with the territory. Studies at the time compared the architecture of design programs on computers and showed how much more efficient they were on Macs over PCs.
I remember the last days of college and being at the end of the (free) “escalator” of access to programs and computers and thinking how great Macs were for designing anything. There was so much more out there, but for me it was a start.
When I got a job, networking in those days was an afterthought after having worked in the techology deficient government. (I used to enter payroll on a computer that looked like that one on Lost and you didn’t know if you made a mistake until two weeks later when you saw the aggregate report).
In the design office though, there was the powerful computer, the design programs and the printer (office and final project printing): all else was extra. I remember only checking e-mail three times a day (once in the morning, after lunch and on the way home — boy that’s changed). Often, the nightmare came in when I needed to interface with PCs.
From those experiences, most Mac Users I knew had nearly as much — if not more — experience working/fixing their computers/setting up networks/dealing with setbacks as the tech companies that set up the networks. (One thing I never agreed with was calling the help desks ‘Genius Bars’.)
3. Jobs’ reemergence translated into pushing the Mac into the hands of Hollywood in big ways as I became stoked when Mac products were the computers used in movies and the like. It seems like ages ago now, but the early days of Sex & The City — and Carrie’s Powerbook was another example that helped translate the iconic nature of the Mac (the scene I saw immediately validated the design update of flipping the logo to appear right-side-up for the viewer).
4. The opening of the store: time was when the push to open Apple Stores was a big gamble.
Witnessing first-time users, Apple products were big on the uptake when people viewed them — and had the chance to see them at work. For someone like me, it had always been a modern museum and a vision of what my office should look like.
5. The iPod. The iPod — even the early ones were amazing pieces of hardware which led the process of chipping away at what the experience of music buying and listening has become. Equally important was iTunes in my view. Creating a Mac and PC environment to develop workflow for the music market was critical to the success of the iPod.
I personally remember betting against the cost of an iPod and getting a Nike/Philips mp3 player. In the end, I was wrong: the software and the flash storage of the iPod reigned supreme back when a 10gb click-wheel iPod was something to have. The mp3 player software just wasn’t as good. Also, Apple also developed a strategy to cut through the piracy of mp3s where there was no structure up until then.
6. For years, my desktop computer was a G4 Cube. Great computer. Great form factor.
7. Somewhere in here has to be noted the failure of Microsoft Windows to take advantage of its size advantage in the mid 90s coupled with the gaffes and problems with its operating systems. Mac proved over and over people could have more computer as long as the penalty of translating their work from a PC-world wasn’t too steep (email, MS Office, internet, etc.)
8. The iPhone and iPad. Both of these devices are enough by themselves to be great accomplishments, though I don’t own either. I always had a love-hate relationship with Mac products so that I never wanted to be the early adopter (I have a thing against expensive phones and being an early-adopter who gets caught out there in technological no-man’s land.)
I just heard a 1996 Jobs interview on Fresh Air where he talked about the post-PC world that takes full advantage of an internet connected world. The “think different” mantra of Apple, coupled with some high-end failures opened the conditions that led to well-curated products that also successfully cultivated content as well (iTunes/appStore popularity).
Well, I considered lining up my Macs for a portrait to send in to the New York Times as they were requesting today, but this portrait is more satisfying in that not all my Mac products are still around (sold The Cube on eBay/threw out the Powerbook).