A Farewell to Steve Jobs

When I heard that Steve Jobs was resigning from Apple, I suspected that he wasn’t long for this world. But I was still taken aback to see how quickly the end came. He worked pretty much up till the end, I guess—no real surprise there, for a man who had endless passion for creating art with technology and technology that could help us create art— but I was still surprised at how surprised and emotional I was. Why was I tearing up for a man that I had never met—and for whom my only personal interchange with was a (frankly curt) email personally defending Apple’s rejection of my first iPhone app?

The first computer I ever got to play with was an Apple ][. It belonged to a middle school friend’s wealthy doctor dad, and the son wasn’t too eager to let me play with it, but I did get to experience a few brief minutes of games like Wizardry and Choplifter. Shortly thereafter our school science class took a field trip to the high school mainframe computer lab and they let us play with the BASIC games there (I remember Super StarTrek and a very simple horse-racing game) and you could see the source code by typing LIST.

My best friend’s dad became a office computer manager or salesman and got the latest Apple computers. I remember seeing a LISA briefly, but it was the Apple /// that gave me the chance to write my first program. It was only there for a day, but I brought in a legal pad with my hand-written code on it and typed in my first game, a text-based Lunar Lander simulation that used what I’d learned in 8th grade physics class to apply thrusters and calculate the speed the capsule was dropping.

It was another year or so before I had my own computer (the more affordable Commodore 64), but a few years later (1984) my best friend’s dad got him a Macintosh, and we made art with MacPaint in FatBits mode for a fantasy RPG game we were designing. I had designed my own character set for the C64, but what the Macintosh brought with its much more sophisticated and proportional fonts blew me away.  Clearly a new era in computing had arrived.

My first Mac was an SE/30, which I loved but was too busy with a heavy college work load to use it for much more than writing papers (and Tetris, Dark Castle and NetTrek), and moving to Ireland shortly thereafter meant I was without a computer at all for 3 years.

On my return, however, I found a really poor economy (much like now) and no opportunity for decent employment for someone with an English degree. After a slew of crummy jobs, it was my experience doing layout with the Mac that got me a desktop publishing job at a print shop, that eventually led to a job as a multimedia (CD-ROM) designer, that became web programmer, that led to educational software developer, that led me to programming games and other apps for iOS.

Intersection of Technology and Liberal ArtsIn a sense I’ve come full circle: to doing what I love in a field that includes many of my interests: design, programming, typography, music, literature, language, AI, technology, communication, gaming, math, physics, simulations…. and while from a pure IT manager’s perspective many of these things  are irrelevant distractions, from this arty geek’s point of view, life on this planet would be a lot less interesting without Steve Jobs and Apple, which includes all of the people from Steve Wozniak on who made his crazy visions possible .

The photo of Steve Jobs standing under street signs reading “Liberal Arts” and “Technology” has been making the rounds again; it’s truly his legacy, and it has shaped my life in immeasurable ways.

Thank you, Steve.

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2 Responses to A Farewell to Steve Jobs

  1. drr says:

    Nice piece Alec. I remember having a lot of fun with early macs–we had a game, it was a shooting game with “Crystal” in the name–and it was a simple matter to replace the aliens you were shooting with pictures (tiny, black and white pictures) of your friends. Fun stuff.

  2. Jack says:

    Thats what I was thinking when I first heard of his death. The games I used to play in high school on the school computer that were no better than atari. At the time they were state of the art.

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