RIP Steve Jobs

October 5th, 2011 | Uncategorized

I’m watching footage of the Wall Street protest. Everyone’s using their iPhones to photograph and videotape the police whacking people with batons.

my first computer

This is my first computer, in 1992–a Mac Classic. I continued using the Apple Stylewriter black and white printer that I bought at the same time through the next 3 or 4 computers. I finally had to retire it not because it stopped working but because its connection cable had become obsolete.

27 Responses to “RIP Steve Jobs”

  1. Ellen Orleans says:

    Computers didn’t make sense until I tried a Mac Plus in 1987. I bought my first Mac, the SE, in 1988 and became a desktop publisher, a career that lasted many years. Over the decades, I’ve designed, written and edited thousands of pages on Mac desktops and laptops: resumes, menus, posters, syllabi, invitations, short stories, my graduate thesis, and five books of my own.

    I remember the day in 1991 when a photo of my 1-year-old niece downloaded, line by line, on my first color screen. It was magical. As magical as the first time I Skyped on my iBook.

    I learned of Steve Jobs’ death on my iPhone. Writing this from a MacBook. Tonight I’ll fall asleep to music from my iPod Touch.

    He built technology for people like me.

  2. Ellen,

    This is very moving.

    I have a vivid memory of staying at your group household in Boulder in … 1991 or so? And seeing your computer, or one of your housemates’ computers, displaying multicolored fractal patterns.

  3. Jay says:

    I like that you have old photos of obsolete technology. I do the same thing – take photos of my room, my computer, my phone etc – because I find it hard to believe they’ll ever seem as dated as some of the old mac photos I look at now.

  4. […] RIP Steve Jobs ( […]

  5. Mentor says:

    [Why I Take Good Care of My Macintosh

    Because it buzzes while printing like a planer in a woodshop
    Because it jumps like a skittish horse
       and sometimes throws me
    Because it is pokey when cold
    Because plastic is a sad, strong material
       that is charming to rodents
    Because it is flighty
    Because my mind flies into it through my fingers
    Because it leaps forward and backward
       is an endless sniffer and searcher, is my faithful hound
    Because its keys click like hail on a rock
    & it winks when it goes out,
    & puts word-heaps in hoards for me, dozens of pockets of
       gold under boulders in streambeds, identical seedpods
       strong on a vine, or it stores bins of bolts;
    And I lose them and find them,
    Because whole worlds of writing can be boldly layed out
    and then highlighted, & vanished in a flash at
       “delete” so it teaches
       of impermanence and pain;
    Because my wife likes it,
    & because my computer and me are both brief
       in this world, both foolish, and we have earthly fates,
    Because I have let it move in with me
       right inside the tent
    And it goes with me out every morning
    We fill up our baskets, get back home,
    Feel rich, relax, I throw it a scrap and it hums.

                            — Gary Snyder

    — Mentor]

  6. amy says:

    Alison! When you’re in Chicago, come over to Occupy Chicago at Jackson and LaSalle!

  7. Andrew B says:

    People are setting up memorials outside Apple Stores. I can’t remember this kind of response to the death of a public figure since Princess Diana died. It’s strange to me; my ideas about Jobs are less positive than many peoples’. Ellen O, I think your last line touches on one important reason why there is so much feeling about Jobs’s death.

    Mentor, where did that version come from? There is at least one variant on the web. I’ve already used my allotted link, but it’s in John Markoff’s Tech Reflections column in the January 22, 2010 New York Times.

    I guess my own response to this is: 1955… He was so young!

    [Hmmm… Actually I’m not sure. I wanted to post the poem, and not having time to type it in from the book, I just did a quick Google-ing (whose results can’t quickly reproduce. Actually, I’ve heard a recording of Snyder reading the poem which is what I was really trying to find.) Didn’t look closely enough to see if there were variants. –Mentor]

  8. Ellen Orleans says:

    Alison — that fractal-displaying computer from the early nineties belonged to my housemates, Beth and Lee. (Haven’t thought about that in years!)

    It was a PC which speaks exactly to the need for the Mac. Lee was (and still is) a smart computer geeky techie guy, so the PC with its exacting needs (pre-Windows) worked well for him.

    But I could never abide by all those unforgiving commands simply to make a word bold or centered or bigger, then having to print out a copy to see what you wrote. Remember WYSIWYG? It was startling!

    Andrew — I know that Jobs wasn’t Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, or Rosa Parks, but he did make me (us?) feel included. His “point and click” interface allowed those of us who wanted technology to express ourselves–but couldn’t fit our brains around IBM/key command mindset–a chance to take part.

    He made millions of dollars doing it, and yet, all that money couldn’t save his life. Makes me grateful for my good health and good luck.

  9. Yesterday, about the time Jobs’ passed away, my grandmother met my sons, her great-grandkids, for the first time via a transcontinental (LA to DC) Skype call, executed on my cousin’s MacBook on the west coast and my wife’s here on the east.

    Mom-mom, who is 92, was overwhelmed by what was happening. “It’s like a fairy tale,” she kept saying. Also, that call included a bi-coastal pillow fight between my 8-year old son and my cousin’s 7-year old daughter.

    After that call, the next thing I read online was the news of Jobs’ death. Somehow, sad as it was, it seemed like an appropriate moment to find out, having just acted out one aspect of his vision, using technology to cross 3000 miles and three generations with the click of a mouse. Profound technology in the service of the profoundly personal.

    Yadda yadda yadda, I suppose. But we truly owe the man – and the confederacy of geniuses he assembled to realize his vision – a tremendous debt – even if we’ve finished making payments on our iPads.

  10. Andrew B says:

    Ellen O, I didn’t think you were making any of those extravagant comparisons. I really meant that the responses to Jobs’s death have been strange to me. Your comment helped me understand one reason for them.

  11. Mentor says:

    […and courtesy of the Onion:

    Last American Who Knew What The Fuck He Was Doing Dies


  12. Kate L says:

    I have been struck by how much Steve Jobs’ life fits into the classic American concept of an individual inventor going on to do great things. Steve Jobs holds the patents for the computer mouse, and for the iconic Apple connectors, with tell-tale lights that tell you there is power, and that can be viewed from any angle. Those of us who use the Bill Gates personal computers(the Microsoft user agreement obligates me to say, All Praise Bill) have long benefited from the mouse. I wish Microsoft would license the connectors, as well.

  13. Kate L says:

    …This is most certainly off-topic. I just returned from the new doughnut store located off the stately Moo U campus. I thought that I had ordered a maple log with pecans on top. But, when I took it out of the bag… it was covered in… BACON!!!*

    * – Kate does her best imitation of the woman in the last scene of the Twilight Zone episode, To Serve Man, who shouts out, “It’s a COOK-BOOK!!!”)

  14. NLC says:

    Just a small correciont to the above:

    The patent for the computer mouse was granted to Doug Engelbart (applied in 1967, received in 1970. His patent expired in 1978.)

    (Also, just to be clear, although Apple can certainly take credit for making the mouse and the “GUI interface” part of our daily lives, Apple didn’t invent either. This is usually attributed to many folks at Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center –or PARC.)

    [Whose first real programming job was on a –pre-mouse– Apple][, and –speaking of mouses– who actually got to play with a Lisa, back in the day.]

  15. Duncan says:

    Remember, it was Wozniak who invented stuff, not Jobs. Jobs was a marketer, a manager, and by all accounts a total pig.

    I’m not surprised that people are now remembering that he invented things he didn’t. He who controls the past controls the present, and he who controls the present controls the future! Thanks to NLC for setting the record straight.

    I’ve used Macs, as well as Windows, but my first computer was a Commodore 64. I watched fractals and other color patterns on it when both PCs and Mac fans were jeering that you don’t need color on a computer, a C64 was just a toy. But I also used it for “productivity” tasks like word processing. In 1987 I got an Amiga, when PC and Mac users were still jeering that color was for toys and multitasking was useless, because people can only do one thing at a time. I still use my Amiga for some tasks, even though it’s mainly obsolete. But I bought a Toshiba laptop four years ago, and it does the rest of what I need to do.

    I’m baffled by the cult of personality around Jobs. Or any cult of personality, really.

  16. NLC says:

    It is true that Steve Jobs didn’t invent the entire Apple/Mac/etc system single-handed (and, to be clear, he himself never claimed anything remotely like this).

    He was, nonetheless, a technical, and (yes), a marketing genius –to use a much overused term. And –to use another– a genuine visionary.

    He died less than 36hrs ago. Rather than a “cult of personality” I see the subsequent public reaction as a sign of true affection and a celebration of a life well lived.
    I, for one, would vote for cutting him a little slack.

  17. hairball_of_hope says:

    @NLC, Kate

    I was going to mention Xerox PARC and how both Apple and Microsoft both ripped off all their ideas.

    The first mouse at PARC was made of wood. In the “what’s old is new again” mode, I recently saw mice made of wood and bamboo for sale in a computer store. I was tempted to buy one, but I have way too many “Human Interface Devices.” (N.B. the computer term for mice, keyboards, wedge readers, etc. is Human Interface Device, or HID for short.)

    PARC also invented Ethernet, standardized as part of a consortium known as DIX (Digital, Intel, Xerox), later becoming the IEEE 802.3 standard. I’ve probably personally installed close to 100 miles (160km) of network cabling over the past 25 years, starting with Thicknet 10Base5 and vampire taps to current gigabit Cat6 copper and multimode fiberoptic.

    My first computer was a home-built S100 bus kit that I assembled myself, the operating system was CP/M. Alas, it was not an Altair 8800, it was a cheap no-name kit, and not particularly reliable. One of my friends built an Altair, he donated it to the Smithsonian a few years back when he cleaned out some of his technology graveyard.

    I worked on a few custom computers with toroidal core memory and hardcopy teletype (TTY) as interface. We never did get CoreWars programmed into them, but we did do amazing ASCII art, including the ubiquitous life-sized naked woman that seemed to be hanging in every computer room in the 70s/80s.

    The first computer I worked on which was a COTS (Commercial Off The Shelf) device was a DEC PDP8e with a paper tape reader. I wasn’t allowed to touch the IBM 370, I was too junior, only the senior exalted gods of tech in their blue lab coats were allowed in that computer room. The first Apple I worked on was an Apple ][ running CP/M. I still remember CTRL-8 to boot from floppy, and the CAT command (short for CATALOG) to list files on the floppy. (N.B. Today, *nix users use the ‘cat’ command to display the contents of files.)

    As for the Mac, I still have a Mac Classic sitting in my technology graveyard at home. I never got to see a Lisa, it cost $10K at the time and was a sales flop. The Mac (which was famously introduced via the one-time showing of a Big Brother commercial during the Super Bowl) took the Lisa technology and made it affordable for normal people.

    I understand why Ellen and others were immediately attracted to the Mac for its accessibility to non-techie users and visual thinkers. I was (and still am) a command-line junkie, and I still have all those Wordstar formatting commands in my brain. I use keyboard shortcuts whenever possible instead of the mouse (CTRL-A, CTRL-C, CTRL-V to Select All, Copy, Paste is my most-used combination that harkens back to those days).

    I’m not fond of Apple products these days, even though OSX is really BSD Unix under the GUI interface. Stupidly overpriced for what they do, and the accessories are even more obscenely overpriced. All the Apple stuff seems to scream “You’ll do it the Apple way, or you won’t do it at all.” I like choices and options (and I’m cheap), which is probably why I like Linux so much.

    I do have an iPod Nano (it was a gift), and the industrial design and software interface are really good, much better than my other MP3 players. But now it has a dying battery and I am not about to fork over whatever ridiculous amount TekServe wants to replace a battery in a sealed unit.

    I’m leery of the hagiographic treatment Jobs is getting in the media. Yes, he was brilliant, but he was also a real PITA to deal with, according to folks who worked with him.

    The digital media ecosystem he championed, and his emphasis on excellent industrial design and user interface, will be Jobs’ lasting influences on technology.

    (… goes back to wandering in her technology graveyard, wondering what to do with all those Apple Desktop Bus [ADB] accessories …)

  18. Dr. Empirical says:

    My understanding was that initially, it was Jobs who said “Wouldn’t it be cool if we could…” and Woz who then figured out how to do it. Woz is a genius, no doubt, but whether without Jobs he’d have been more than just another vector-head will never be known. Whether Jobs would be more than one more guy muttering into his coffee in the back of a Starbucks without Woz is similarly unknown.

    Shall we do Lennon and McCartney next?

    In other news, comics fans, Marjane “Persepolis” Satrapi has a book coming out next month. Well, it actually came out in 2004, but an English translation of “The Sigh” comes out next month. I’ll be first in line.

  19. Anna in Albuquerque says:

    One thing I am grateful to Jobs for is the wealth of fonts he decided to put on the Mac. Who ever heard of fonts, unless you were an artist or did layout on your high school newspaper?

    “If I had never dropped in on that single (calligraphy) course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, its likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do.”

  20. Ginjoint says:

    I just got my copy of MetaMaus. Devouring it now. Alison, perhaps 25 years from now, you’ll do the same thing with Fun Home. Or not. Whatever floats your boat. And thanks for the heads up on the new Satrapi book, Dr. E.

    Lastly: mmmmm….fonts……{slobber}

  21. Mentor says:

    [There’s a nice interview with AB by The A.V. Club of Chicago: [HERE]. –Mentor]

  22. Ginjoint says:

    Fixed that for ya! 😉

    [(blush) Thank you. (I also fixed the original, so that folks won’t get confused by the dual posting.) –Mentor]

  23. Kate L says:

    Hi, everyone! 🙂

    I just had a healthy spinach salad with vinegrette dressing, at the Smallville Quantum Biotic Health Food Cafe. I think that I’m still trying to cleanse my palette of the bacon-sprinkled doughnut I accidentally ordered (elsewhere) the other morning, thinking the bacon bits were pecans. I woke up in a cold sweat last night, shouting “That wasn’t pecans, that was BACON!”. And, for no apparent reason, “Soylent green is people!” God, somebody get me some yogurt!

  24. esc says:

    re: computers thru the ages…to think that the original “computers” were jacquard looms (or any loom for that matter, if one is going based on binary’s where the warp string is either up or not or down or not, depending on the type of loom in use). hmmm. i don’t think looms and mice go well together, however.

  25. @ Kate L, thank you for completing my Bacon Trifecta for the week. Just recently, I was introduced to the concepts of dessert (candied) bacon and chocolate-covered bacon.

    Rome is burning. And it smells like bacon grease.

  26. Acilius says:

    I once met someone who had a position soliciting charitable contributions from IT bigshots. I asked her who her favorite was among them. Without hesitation, she said “Steve Jobs.” Why him? “The others won’t give any money to me. He won’t give any money to anyone.”

  27. Ellen Orleans says:

    Last night, I hosted a potluck and book swap for 25 women. At one end of my table, Jeana–in her 30’s–mentioned how much liked Fun Home. At the other end of the table, my friend Karin (about 50) commented on the Bechdel rule, mentioning that it was in Alison’s first, pre-Mo book. Ann, 78, sitting between them, said, Did you know Alison just edited Best American Comics?”

    In that moment, I was wowed by both the range of your work and the age range of people who are avid followers.

    All of which is to remind you of the impact you have on people’s lives. Just in case you’ve forgotten.