By RJ Bardsley
Steve Jobs and the devices he created have shaped the world and the thinking of a generation.
I vividly remember the first time I ever saw an Apple machine. I was seven years old, standing in line with the rest of my second grade class in the lobby of South Elementary School. Two men wheeled a large beige metal trolley past us. Layered on the two levels of that trolley was the vast expanse of an Apple IIe. It included a monitor, a printer, a long box with a keyboard on it and two disk drives, along with a wad of wires connecting all those components together.
I can remember a broad feeling of excitement as we watched the cart roll past us and there was a hush over the class, a group of kids who were almost never, ever quiet. For a year that Apple was the one and only computer in that school. Teachers could sign it out from the Library for a day at a time, and it got wheeled around on its massive throne-trolley at the beginning and the end of each day. Because the entire school shared the computer, getting to use it was a rare experience. I think I got to use it maybe twice that year. There was a program that let you play detective, moving through screens trying to find clues to solve some sort of mystery. I’m sure there was something vaguely educational about it. But, I remember somehow connecting that computer with science fiction, and knowing that in the future boxes like this would let me do some pretty incredible things…if I could only figure out how to use the keyboard.
My next in-depth experience with an Apple computer was with our Mac lab in high school. I went to high school in Sitka, Alaska, and at the time, the schools in Alaska had money for everything, thanks to the State’s oil revenues. Our school had a lot of cool facilities, among them was a gym-sized computer lab stocked with Macs. These elegant, single unit computers where a huge step up from the Apple IIe of my early years. Yes, they were tiny, black and white screens, but they had HyperCard and SimCity. I took a typing class and a couple of computer classes, and fell in love with the Macs instantly. I can still remember sneaking into the computer labs on Saturday mornings with my friends Billy Hartrich and Chris Carlson to play SimCity for hours.
Then I left Apples for a while. I muscled through college on IBM computers – learning to master the command key shortcuts on WordPerfect and getting along just fine without a mouse. In grad school I had a brief stint with a Mac desktop, but it was forgettable and prone to quirks that left me without the ability to print term papers at critical moments. In my first job after school we used Compaqs and Dells, and it wasn’t until 2003 when I owned another piece of Apple hardware…that piece of hardware was a shiny blue iPod mini that Malinda Banash gave me, and it changed my life.I was part of a large population of 20-somethings that had just come out of the Napster / Y2K era with an appetite for digital music and a lot of comfort browsing, buying and basically living online. The iPod was sleek, stylish, said something about who I was, and oh, yeah – it was functional and easy to use. Wow. It changed my view of what hardware could be – from that point on I wanted beautiful devices, not just clunky black boxes and screens that did nothing else besides work well.
I have owned five iPods (I still have 4 – I broke one while running), an iPad, an iPhone and a Mac Powerbook. I still use non-Mac computers at work and I have an Android phone, but Apple devices have definitely become my personal choice of gadgets. I truly have grown up in a Steve Jobs world. He founded more than a company – he established a new way of looking at the world.