Thursday October 06, 2011

✦ Steve Jobs

I started out hacking on an Apple //c when I was 11 years old. Eventually, my father replaced it with an Apple IIgs. I hacked on that, too. Looking back on my life as a software engineer, audio engineer, musician, and businessman, I attribute so many of the skills I have to the lessons learned studying these machines.

I cut my teeth as a budding adolescent programmer in 65c816 assembly language, TML Pascal, and Orca/C trying to poke and prod at the “Toolbox”, Apple’s framework for making the IIgs the marvel that it was at the time. Here was a personal computer in the late 80’s that had an audio synthesizer chip built in. It was truly revolutionary and forward thinking for it’s time. And I knew that thing inside and out.

Just around the time I hit puberty, I had dreams of changing the world by writing software for these machines to make life easier. While I always have been a geek at heart giggling in delight at fantastically designed architecture under the hood, I wanted to write software for normal people. I wanted them to do extraordinairy things. Steve Wozniak fed my inner nerd. Steve Jobs fed my inner user.

Steve Jobs taught me that a doctor doesn’t have time to think about driver installs or interrupt request lines. That a mother of four would rather spend her time with her children than babysitting a machine during a full reinstall. That a veteran would video chat with his great grand children and have no idea what a codec or network protocol is.

In a world full of marketing about megahertz, gigawhatsits and package managers, Steve Jobs knew there was a place for that, but not for his customers. As a card carrying member of the “holiday family IT” crowd, my idealism was shaped by watching the low level details of the IBM PC legacy leak out to unsuspecting users and ruin them. These machines were frightening. Impersonal. Let’s call Jonathan, maybe he can fix it.

Steve said, “No.”

And so, here I am. From the small beginnings, I started down a path of invention, problem solving, and entrepreneurship. As a child I studied the story of Apple’s humble start in that garage back in 1976 (my birth year, btw). I didn’t want to be like other technology companies. I wanted to be like Apple. I wanted to build products that ordinary people could use.

So crazy.

Yeah, I’ll gripe about Xcode or Objective-C. I’m not impressed with their stance on patents of software. Apple isn’t perfect. But it does a lot of things so, so different.

Steve guided a company that demonstrates patient, slow growth and profitability, not a quick race to market. A company that makes tools and services we pay to use rather than selling us and what we do to advertisers and “partners”. A company that knows how to make money, create jobs, spawn industries, inspire.

Here’s to the Crazy Ones.

Rest in peace, Steve Jobs. Quite a ride.