Steve Jobs has resigned as CEO of Apple Inc. today. That’s noteworthy for me because Mr. Jobs is one of my all-time heroes, although I didn’t always hold him in such high esteem.
My family’s first computer was an Apple IIc, purchased in 1985. It wasn’t my first computer experience (that honor goes to a Texas Instruments TRS-80), but it was transformative. I spent many hours on that machine, writing programs, playing games, writing school papers, and even making art. I learned about word processing, spreadsheets, databases, digital art, and desktop publishing. That was our family’s main computer until around 1991, when we upgraded to a Macintosh LCII. But that IIc still works as of this writing, and is in my brother’s keeping.
In those early days, I learned that Apple computer was founded by the two Steves. In fact, those were probably the first corporate personae that I knew of by name, and Wozniak was my favorite. How could he not be? He was a goofy nerdy guy who loved the Apple II’s, just like I did. He was Polish. He was the Woz. Supercool. Jobs was too… serious.
Fast forward to the year 2000. I was then teaching computer science, and a favorite part of the course covered the history of computers. I learned exactly how innovative and important Apple had been in the early days of the personal computer industry, and about Steve Jobs’ role in that innovation. He was serious, but I then recognized that was what made the Apple, and then the Macintosh, great. He was, apparently, also an asshole, but I was fine with that. My students just thought he was crazy. They probably thought I was crazy, too.
One year around this time, one of my students (no idea who) printed out a picture of Steve Jobs and drew devil horns on it. They cut this out and pasted it to the back of my inbox in the school office. It was, I’m certain, intended to be a malicious prank, but I saw it as high praise. I left that picture there for over a year. No other teachers got pictures of famous people pasted to the back of their mailboxes.
I currently use an Apple computer at work and at home. I own both an iPad and an iPhone, and the latter is rarely out of arm’s reach. I’ll admit that I’m a fan of Apple products, but that’s because they do what they do so well. And I recognize that while their success is the result of many individuals’ efforts, those efforts coalesced because of the vision of Steve Jobs. And my life would certainly be different if that vision was absent. Thank you, Mr. Jobs.