Thursday, October 6, 2011

Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish - Steve Jobs and I

As a young writer I filled a hundred notebooks with my longhand scrawl but never really came to terms with the typewriter. In 1984 I started hearing about the 'word processor' and decided to take an introductory course on the basics of 'personal computing' at the Denver Free University. We started learning about the various coding formats that would enable us to peck out something communicable using lines of glowing green text displayed across the blank dark background on monitors of rather large desktop number crunchers. I remember the evening that the instructor came into class with the look in his eyes of a religious convert as he started raving about a new machine that would render everything he had taught us up to then obsolete. He was talking about the new Apple Macintosh.
Steve Jobs was five years younger than I. Like me he had dropped out of college because he "couldn't see the purpose." Like me he had hung around exposing himself to a broad range of study as a 'drop in' student, not knowing where the obsession for knowing would lead. He read and was deeply influenced by the Whole Earth Catalog. I read every edition from cover to cover. There was the urge to know where we were and where we are going. One thing leads to another and when one connects the dots something arises that makes sense.
In our lifetimes the world changed radically. I ended up in the food business with a side road into publishing. Steve Jobs began his life's work in a garage and became the biggest game changer of our generation. He has been compared to Edison and Einstein, but a better comparison may be with Guttenberg. The innovations that Steve Jobs led have brought us into an entirely new relationship with our world and with each other. His genius was not in the depth and complexity of his thinking but in its breadth, coupled with a unswerving drive to make things simple and elegant. He connected the dots and showed us a better way to do it ourselves.
I bought my first Macintosh in 1984, after taking that class, and I've been a convert ever since. All through the ups and downs, when the industry pronounced Apple's doom, when Jobs was fired, during the absurd battle of the bands between Mac and Windows users, and all the way to today when I type this out on my iPad at my local Starbucks. Finally I've got the perfect writing machine and it almost feels as if it were designed specifically for me. I never met Steve Jobs or even saw him speak until today (see the video of his Stanford commencement speech), but I feel like we've been on the same page for a very long time. 

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