My Long Road to Enlightenment
When I got the news that Steve passed away it struck me as someone would suck out most of my energy. It isn’t that it was unexpected but rather that I hopped to see him watching over Apple a little bit longer. Even though I had a lot of respect for Steve since I learned about Apple 25 years ago I never had much appreciation of Apple until 6 years ago. Isn’t it funny that I an admire a person but still loath his company. But let’s get back.
The first time I ran into Apple was when I started to code my first games on a VC 20 and later TI/99 where there were also listings for Apple II. I never bought it because I took over the Atari ST-1024 from my brother and that was such a nice computer with a crystal clear monitor. With the Atari I learned so much about data structures, learned to program in C and Assembler on the Motorola 68000. Because there were no classes around I had to teach myself which I still do today because I work often in either bleeding edge technologies or less common software where it is hard to get information about them. Then on the Atari there were some Emulators available for the Macintosh but these all failed because Apple tried to prevent anyone to run the Mac OS on any other platform. I might have bought an Mac there if I could have got a glimpse of what the Mac was all about.
Before I went to College I made a few trips to the US and on the first we, my wife and I, went to Palo Alto (computer nerd destination). I bought a PC laptop there but I also got a tour of the Next computer. This was like Computer heaven. During the discussion I said that this would never work in Switzerland because it is way too much ahead of its time and it was but I would see it again later in form of Mac OS X.
A few years later when I went to college I had a chance to work on a Mac and it was easy because the UI was similar to Atari TOS / GEM and because of the same CPU the crashes where the same (two bombs for an Address and tree for a Bus error (or vice versa)). Because of the unstable applications and some of the perks of Mac I never considered then to buy a Mac at all.
Eventually I became a professional software developer and started to work for DEC (Digital Equipment Cooperation) while I was still in College. There I became a certified Microsoft System Engineer and learned a lot about Unix services (see the irony) including TCP/IP, DNS, Email etc within 4 weeks to get some incentive my M$. I draw from this still up to now even though I don’t work with Windows anymore. During that time Windows NT moved from the old Windows 311 to the Windows 95 UI which was quite nice but whatever M$ tried the underpinnings of DOS and old Windows were always visible and eventually got me so tiered of Windows.
In 2000 JavaOne I finally saw Steve Jobs live on stage (the only memorable thing) and even though I was not willing to buy a Mac I was definitively impressed when they showcased Java on the Mac. Later when I was on the No-Fluff-Just-Stuff tour with James Duncan I learned more about the Mac because he was showing it everyone willing to listen. I guess he singlehanded moved more Java geeks onto Macs than anyone else.
Even though I hated Apple and its arrogant behavior I decided in 2004 to buy an iPod to carry my music around. A few months later I noticed that the iPad battery was quite short (a few hours) and so I brought it to the Apple store. They told me that they can test it but if nothing was wrong they would charge me $75. That was Apple’s catch 22; if nothing is wrong we charge you and if something is wrong then we fix it and still charge you because we don’t tell you. Another thing that made me hate Apple again.
In 2005 I was working for Gateway and finally I got so tired of Windows and their cheap laptops that I decided to buy a new Mac when I got a new client at the end of the year. The Mac was nice to use and even though it took me some time to get used to it but nothing really eye opening. That happened later when I tried to sync my Address book on my Razor 2 cell phone over Bluetooth. After the discovery and starting sync all the addresses and phone number appeared on my Mac like magic. This was the single most important event because it opened my mind to the fact that things might just work on the Mac and one might just need to look from a regular user’s point of view.
When the iPhone was announced in 2007 I though who in the right mind would shell out $500 bucks for a cell phone when they could get one for free like it did a year before. But when the iPhone was released I was driving through LA and could hear all about the phone and the event on the public radio. The very next day I dragged my wife to the nearest ATT store just to show case it to her. Since then we never considered any other phone than the iPhone. We are both average cell phone users but we like that everything feels so natural on it and even that we had to deal with ATT it was and still is the best cell phone ever for us.
Today there is no computer in our household that isn’t from Apple – I even dropped MythTV / Linux and replaced it with Apple TV. MythTV was never about saving money but being able to see what I want when I want or have time to do so. With the Apple TV I can do that cheaper and more reliable even though the catalog of movies / series is not as big but I think eventually the movie business will go along as the music and the print industry already did (more or less willingly).
There is still more to discover and I am looking forward to ditch my Mac Notebook Pro 17-inch for a Mac Air 13-inch. I am concerned about the screen real state but I think I can cope with that because bigger is not always better (see the huge Android phones).
Finally coming back to Steve I am sorry that I did not have to see Steve on a more recent event and think that a real visionary has left us. One that thinks different and has the guts and stamina to pull through even though others laughed at him (Steve Ballmer etc). I not too much worried about Apple but we have to see if they can come up with a new, ground-breaking product like the iPhone, Mac Unibody, iPad, Mac Air and Apple TV. Because the product pipeline is about 2 years it will take a while until we can answer the question if Apple can thrive without Steve.
There were only two memorable events on the few JavaOnes I attended and that was Adam Douglas and Steve Jobs. And so I want to end with:
“Thanks for all that Mac – Steve”.