I have surprised myself by the undercurrents of emotions with the passing of Steve Jobs. He certainly lived a lot longer than expected considering the type of cancer he had; and he accomplished enough for several lifetimes. Yet I am haunted by vivid memories of my first encounter with "the Mac" on a visit to a rural Pennsylvania dairy farmer's home, at night, after the milking was done.
The big country kitchen actually smelled of cow dung....not in a gross way. Just very "authentic." We bought our first Mac from this unlikely computer distributor -- the first in this rural Pennsylvania area, and I became the "key computer operator" at my husband's small town architecture office.
I LOVED MY MAC! It made tedious office work so much fun!!!! It had a mouse, like a toy or a game! But when divorce prompted me to leave my horse farm in rural PA, and re-enter the city workplace, I was so embarrassed at how user friendly our little Mac had been, that on my job applications I said I didn't have any computer experience (DOS and IBMs were still the default setting in most offices.) How strange for me to land my first office job at Lotus Development Corporation, at a time when IBM and Lotus were scrambling to move the industry to OS2 and away from Bill Gates, who had IBM by the short hairs with clunky, ugly, complicated DOS.
When I first saw OS2 and, later, Windows, I was flabbergasted. They were all just trying to copy the Mac's GUI -- and were still years away from the ease of use of the first Mac. That Macintosh OS that was so easy and intuitive, I didn't take it seriously and refused to put it on my resume, afraid that someone might think I actually knew something about computers. Then I watched as the entire computer industry scrambled to catch up with the GUI of that original Mac that I first saw demonstrated at a rural Pennsylvania dairy farm.
Then there was a big gap after Jobs was fired. Apple's stock tanked. 1-2-3 for the Mac, always an afterthought, took a back burner, as the desktop application wars threatened Lotus's high rolling days. Lotus acquired ccMail, while the company continued to promote Lotus Notes.
Only die-hard Apple zealots clung to their religion. But a few of my computer friends confessed that they were "bi" -- they kept a Mac as well as a PC. And they whispered that the Mac's were much more stable, faster, easier, bug-free and, as the Web took off, apparently immune to the virus's that started attacking PCs.
Then there was the Napster scandal. I remember thinking, "why are the record companies being so stupid? The cat is out of the bag. They are trying to close the barn doors after the horses have already escaped...and are out frolicking in the pastures." While Napster and the record companies were tied up in years of litigation, and my daughter was dancing to a lot of songs mysteriously coming from the family PC, the iPhone was launched. And then Jobs announced iTunes, with songs easily downloaded for a penny a piece. I remember thinking, "FINALLY...someone is seeing the OBVIOUS need to change the business model!" I loved it that you didn't have to buy a whole ALBUM of songs. And how cool to be able to create your own play lists!
Shortly after iTunes came on the scene, I noticed my family desktop PC was acting sluggish. I investigated, and noticed an icon on the desktop -- "iTUNES." I clicked thought to "my songs." And I found over 1,000 songs! No wonder my teenage daughter was working two jobs. And no wonder the PC was sluggish.
Hmmmm....I wonder....had it had been a Mac, do you think it could have handled all those songs with ease, acting as a part-time juke box, part-time photo album, homework headquarters and family post office? I'm pretty sure Steve Jobs would say "of course. But why not upgrade to an iPad?"