Steve Jobs, Apple and Me

Thu 06 October 2011 by Kevin van Haaren

I am a computer person. Computers have not been widely available all my life, but I was exposed at a very early age. Learning BASIC on a mainframe at the National Weather Service. My freshmen year of high school I'd take the bus to my dad's office after school and hang out until he was done for the day and we could go home. It was mainly a way to get me out of my dad's hair.

At high school we had Apple ][+ and Commodore PET computers. I was a die hard Apple user. I didn't like using the PET computers and got away with almost zero usage on them. At home my father bought an Apple //e that pretty much ended up being my computer (in fact, I still have it.) I used the hell out of that thing, playing games, learning Applesoft BASIC and eventually 6502 assembly language.

In these early years I was much more of a Wozniak follower. He was the engineer and the did the real work. Steve Jobs, eh, he was the business guy, whatever (hey I was in high school.) I used an Apple //e through college (getting an electrical engineering degree because, hey, I already knew how to program, screw computer science.) Campus computers were either dumb terminals tied to mainframes (oh god I had to learn FORTRAN) or IBM PC's, and even in those early days frequently virus infected. I'd heard/seen Macs but stuck with my tools (not to mention I couldn't exactly afford anything at that time.)

My first job after college used software that was IBM PC only, so I learned to use those (DOS mainly with a bit of Windows 3.1 thrown in, yuck) eventually support them, and to this day use them. Through Windows for Workgroups 3.11, Windows 95, Windows NT 4.0, on up to Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 (f'in Microsoft names) today.

But at home, it's always been Apple. I got paid to use/support PC's but I wanted to use Apple. At first I just hung onto that Apple //e. Finally, I broke down and got a Macintosh Performa 400 (with the Apple //e card, natch.) This combined with Adam Engst's Internet Starter Kit and Mosaic got me a color computer and on the Internet (and was the cause of the first all-nighter I'd pulled since graduating college.)

This is when my idea of computers started changing from the Wozniak engineering, to the Steve Jobs design. This is when I started to see that it isn't function over form, or form over function, but that form when properly designed for it's function is beautiful and so much more preferable to use. Not every iteration was perfect, but so many more things from Apple fit this than anyone else.

It was Jobs' insistence not just on simplicity, but justification of every feature. Machines weren't just an assembly of parts with a few drivers thrown in. Features needed stories and poorly written stories weren't included. Now matter how many competitors jumbled the parts into their models seeking to differentiate themselves with checklists of functions.

I use, support and make a living from Windows machines. I use Linux servers at home because they satisfy some engineer's sensibility in me, but I, like millions of other people, ENJOY using my Mac, iPhone and iPad. I don't think Steve could've had a better legacy.