My first exposure to a computer was in sixth grade. I was selected to be part of a small group of students taught by Mr. Klotzkin who would be given time to learn computer programming using BASIC on an Apple ][. No matter, that was my first exposure to Apple. I had this model that computers waited for your input, and only until you supplied it could it do any work. But I didn’t realize that meant you couldn’t, for instance, poll the keyboard for events. I learned many basic software lessons on that computer, this was only one such thing.
I calculated how long I would have to save my allowance to get an Apple ][ of my own: about 80 years. It wasn’t looking good. Without any hope of my own computer, I wrote Apple BASIC computer games in pencil and sent them to Mr. Klotzkin via neighbors still attending elementary school in the hope they would be run. Instead they were sent back with comments like “Mr. Klotzkin doesn’t understand what you’re doing”. I finally got my own computer, a used TI 99/4a my father bought from a neighbor for $50.
Fast forward again, where, as a new college freshman, I smugly knew that my (pirated) copy of Word Star was a superior word processor to anything else. Until someone showed me the Macintosh, with MacWrite – my first exposure to fonts. The Macintosh became my go-to computer for work. But I still could not afford Apple’s higher prices. Instead I bought perfectly reasonable second- and third- tier PCs. (IBM was the sole first-tier PC manufacturer, and I surely couldn’t afford one of those.)
Fast forward once again: to my first job out of college, and almost three years into it I was given a special assignment: fly to Cupertino and take a week-long training on programming this new handheld platform called the Apple Newton. The campus was littered with large-sized iconic Macintosh icons. The pointer. A face. This place was beautiful. The industry was wonderful, and while I worked in the pharmaceutical industry, Apple was my kind of place.
A last fast forward: my career at Google. This is what I felt Apple was like, only my dream of Apple from those days at the Cupertino campus were even more magical, like the icons in the garden. Thanks to Google and my friend David I got the courage up to finally try a Macbook Pro, which was eventually replaced by a gorgeous Macbook Air. I’m writing this post on my home PC, a Mac Pro, which I call the Octocore.
I never met Steve Jobs or any of the many people who helped invent these products. Things we take for granted, things that — what I mean is: what would the world be like without them? What would my daily life as a professional software craftsman be like without Apple’s influence?
Enough. It is late, and I must rest. So as I do nearly every night, I’ll set my iPod’s timer to turn off after 20 minutes and find something interesting to listen to as I fall asleep.