My Life With Apple

Steve Jobs and Laurene Powell Jobs

Steve Jobs and Laurene Powell Jobs, 2011 by Lea Suzuki

In 1984, I convinced my about-to-be (then) husband not to buy a Macintosh ($2,495/$5,440 in 2011 $). It wasn’t just because it was expensive. It wasn’t interoperable, you see, and the dairy cooperative we worked for was an IBM shop. Mainframes and IBM PCs (not clones) didn’t talk to Macs. Heck, Microsoft Word wasn’t around yet!

Instead, we bought an Epson cp/m machine with 5 1/4″ floppies, a green screen and a great software bundle (Peachtree). And a dot-matrix printer, of course. I can’t imagine that it was interoperable either, but it was less expensive. And it was the gateway drug to the life I lead today.

I moved to the Northwest in 1989 in a vain attempt to salvage that marriage. When I started work at Northwest Pulp and Paper Association in 1990, I tried to convince my boss to let me buy a PC. But NWPPA was a Mac shop. Her response: someone needs to be able to access your files if you get hit by a truck. So I bought my first Mac on the company dime. I never looked back.

By 1991 I was online and, information junkie that I still am, I was in nirvana. CompuServe was my friend and the PRForum was my community. One of my best friends from college was married to Dennis Hayes, of Hayes Modems, so I made sure that was what we bought at work. I became the network/software/IT person in our office of five.

I remember going to one Halcyon user group meeting in Bellevue. I couldn’t understand why everyone was having trouble connecting to the Internet, and I said so. The guy running the session said, “What kind of computer do you have?” “A Mac,” I replied. “Well that’s why you don’t have problems.” I didn’t go back.

When I traveled for work, I had a Motorola mobile phone. Eventually I would buy a Powerbook. (Guy Kawasaki got me an Apple employee discount on my second one; he was the keynoter at a conference I attended.) I had no idea I was an early adopter; when the people around you have similar toys, that becomes your normal.

In 1995, I began work on one of the first gubernatorial candidate websites in Washington state, on my trusty Mac. In late 1996, I left public affairs and started to ride the dot-com boom as a communicator who could speak tech. I was also convinced that the WWW would impact the 1996 presidential election. (That’s what happens when you don’t know you’re an early adopter.) I was on the board of the HTML Writers Guild and in that role presented a paper at the sixth conference of the World Wide Web Consortium in April 1997. I created a Mac fan site (“Mac Facts”) and was an Apple Demo rep. I lusted after a Newton. And bought stock right before it tanked.

I had become techie.

As much as I love Apple, I’ve never bought a first generation product. I’m not a bleeding edge person, but I really wanted that first iPhone. However, I can be pragmatic (as the opening anecdote illustrates) so I waited for the 3GS before ditching my Samsung Blackjack. And I bought the iPad2.

I’ve admired Steve Jobs from afar, for a very long time; we are, after all, contemporaries. My friend who married to Dennis Hayes? She met him back in the 80s. And I know lots of people who have met or worked with or know him casually. Tech is a small community.

The news broke as I was riding my motorcycle in the rain to the University of Washington campus to teach a class called Managing Your Web Presence: Strategic Digital Platform Fundamentals. Design and HCI are big components of the class, so Apple is a big component. Presentation skills are factored into other classes I teach, so Guy’s tips and the Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs have informed my students.

Just as we were getting started, Lisa asked me if I’d listened to the news while coming in. “No,” I laughed, “I’m on a bike!” I don’t remember her next words, just the name: Steve Jobs. Heck, she may have only said Steve. It was enough.

Apple Logo - Jonathan Mak Long

Modified Apple Logo, Aug 26 2011, Jonathan Mak Long

Would I be where I am today if, in 1990, my boss had said “sure, buy a PC”? I don’t know, but maybe not. I believe that Apple products and Apple’s user interface guidelines shaped my sense of user experience, informed my views on product and web usability, turned me into an advocate for the person we visualize using our products.

Steve’s death has touched me like no other “celebrity” death except that of Princess Di. At the time of her death, I was taken aback at my intense feeling of sadness. I did not understand that I was experiencing the connectedness and closeness, the stirrings of intimacy, that can come from computer mediated communication.

Tonight is different. With Steve’s death, I feel my own mortality; we are the same age. I grieve for a world that has one less person whose passion is aesthetics and soul coupled with a willful disregard for conventional wisdom.

R.I.P. Steve, and heartfelt condolences to your family.

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Photo  : San Francisco Chronicle
Logo : Tumblr

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Meaningful stories about Steve Jobs:

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