On hearing the news of Steve Jobs’ death, I recalled my own experience with Apple going back to about 1980. A friend had an Apple computer in his room at about 9 or 10 years old and we played some very basic graphic-based games from time to time. In the years prior, we’d stayed late at school to play “Kingdom” via the elementary school’s three cassette drive Commodore computers (I believe), which were kept in the old electric typewriter storage room somewhere in the basement.
By the time junior high school came around, my family purchased its own Apple IIe computer and kept it in my room. On that computer, I continued to play games (The Zork Series, Bruce Lee, Wolfenstein, Lode Runner, Dig Dug, King’s Quest, and Moon Patrol) but what I really learned was fluency in the language of personal computers. In fact, I never paid for most of the games I played, as my friends and I had begun our adventures in software hacking. At the time, it wasn’t called hacking, however. As I recall, it was called cracking, or code cracking. We used various piracy software like Disk Chomper to share games and programs between us. We were never at a loss for new games. In fact, I learned to program in Basic on my Apple IIe, spending hours in my room with published manuals of code that allowed you to simply enter Basic protocols into your computer in order to build games of various kinds. (Fortunately, I spent as much time outdoors as I did at that computer.)
By the time my junior high days had come to an end, the MacIntosh line was introduced, prompting one of the great Super Bowl ads of all time:
Although I subscribe to Neil Postman’s preference of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World over Orwell’s 1984 as a commentary on our society, the ad still works well. Perhaps, Jobs and Apple moved us away from 1984 but in the direction of Brave New World, but that’s a discussion for another day.
I went to junior and senior high school in the Hudson Valley of New York State, and both Kingston and Poughkeepsie, NY were early strongholds of IBM. In fact, nearly all my friends in junior high were the children of IBM employees and we were one of the few households to have an Apple rather than a PC. My high school, across the street from a massive IBM plant, was gifted a whole room full of PC Juniors and so gradually from the late-1980s and throughout the 1990s I was weaned from the Apple tradition to the PC and to Microsoft. Only with the introduction of the iPod in the early-2000s did I begin a migration back to Apple, which was completed with my iPhone and iMac purchases in the last year or so.
I doubt we will be able to reflect effectively on the Apple influence and the transformative power of its computer line until many years from now. We barely understand the impact of personal computing, not to mention the Internet and mobile technology, and so we contemplate and interface and become Apples ourselves in the process. We are Steve Jobs, for better or for worse. His legacy is in our culture and our very way of thinking. The Apple never falls far from the tree.