Steve Jobs and me
The Macintosh SE30 was my very first computer. My boss plonked one down on my desk late one Friday: “take this home over the weekend. By the time you come in on Monday I expect you to know how to use it”. I looked at him aghast. I had never used a computer before. There was no manual. I wasn’t even sure where the on/off button was. “It’s intuitive” he said.
I lugged the heavy little box home on the tube to my North London flat and pushed and prodded it all weekend. Of course he was right. It WAS intuitive, and by the time I brought it back on Monday and sat it up at my desk I pretty much knew how to use it. It became my indispensable companion at work.
And that for me was the magic of Steve Jobs and Apple. That he took people like me, non-technical, non-geeky, non-computer users and opened up the world of computing for us so effortlessly, giving us a lifelong love of technology that might never have been possible otherwise.
My father was an engineer and spent most of my childhood trying to get me interested in computers. He built an early PC in his bedroom and enthused endlessly about how computers would take over the world. But I just didn’t get them. They were complicated and un-sexy and the computing language he wrote in and tried to interest me in was frankly incomprehensible. But in that one weekend grappling with an SE30 suddenly I ‘got’ computers. It was my ‘Eureka!’ moment.
It’s generally accepted that the invention of the PC by IBM was what opened up computing to the layman, bringing technology away from the mainframe and onto the desk. But I don’t buy that. The PCs that were around when I had my first SE30 still required a hefty amount of technical knowledge and training (and a manual) to master. There’s no way I could have taken one of those home without a manual and felt confident enough to use it after just two days. No, it was Apple under Steve Jobs for me who caused the technology revolution that I am now part of all these years later.
And he did the same for mobile. Having been gripped with a passion for computing and the online world and launched my business I and everyone else at Tamar found ourselves waiting 10+ years for the ‘year of mobile’. Every year joking that this would finally be IT. Once again it was Apple and Steve Jobs that got the party started with the iPhone. Hundreds of derivative smart phones followed but the iPhone made mobile possible, mass-market and cool – like the SE30 before.
I won’t presume to add to the obituaries praising everything Steve Jobs did in his lifetime so this is a very personal tribute of what he meant for me and my life and career. After that early enforced immersion in Apple I became a dedicated Apple and Steve Jobs fan-girl and followed avidly everything he did. For so many others like me, Apple and technology became not an add-on but a way of life.
I had the privilege of meeting him once in person and I have never forgotten it. He was in the UK in the ‘non’ Apple period of his career, launching his NeXt computer. Invitations had been sent to the CTOs of the FTSE 250 companies to meet him and the CTO of the company where I worked couldn’t make the day. Knowing of my passion for all things Apple and especially Steve, he offered me his place. I was incredibly junior to be going but he said he knew no-one in the company who would appreciate the opportunity as much as I would. I’m still grateful.
There were perhaps 40 people in a darkened room in the Dorchester Hotel when Steve got up to speak. His vision for the future merged worlds of computing, media, communication and learning was so thrilling it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. He was incredibly inspiring in person and when we mingled afterwards I briefly spoke to him. I’m so glad I did. And if I could have bought a NeXt computer on the spot I would have!
Only a few years later I set-up the business that has employed me and 100s of others for over 16 years now. The founding of it was inspired in no small part by my love affair with technology started by that first encounter with an Apple computer all those years ago. For an English Literature and Philosophy graduate it always strikes me as incongruous that I have ended up here but I am passionate about what I do, and Steve started it all for me.
And yes, the very first computer I launched my business on was a Mac. I have toyed with PCs over the years as my personal office desktop but only this year switched back to a Mac at work again (having always used them at home). It feels like coming home.
RIP Steve Jobs. Visionary, genius and inspiration. And with whom it all started for so many of us.