Now that everybody is posting about when and how they met Steve Jobs, his brilliance, his deeds, his flaws, I want to offer here my humble contribution to this ritual. No, I didn’t know Steve Jobs and I never met him, but that doesn’t mean I have not bitten eagerly into his apple like most.
My first computer was an Apple II clone (shown in the picture). I forked out 80k pesetas to buy the CPU. Yes, the same 500€ you pay today for a personal computer. Only it was 28 years ago!, so it represented about 2000€ in constant 2011 euros (See “the cost of living comparison over 30 years in Spain“). Looking back, it was probably one of my wisest investments. I learnt how to programme with my Apple II-Katson and all of a sudden, it became the first digital gadget that started to nibble into my time. Programming that weird machine was the hell and, therefore, it was also a lot of fun. My first own version of the classic space invaders in BASIC, is something I will always remember.
History might have been very different if Mr. William Gates III had not been around with his DOS. At that moment, neither Jobs nor Gates were the revered heroes they are today, and their value propositions were debatable to say the least (and if I had to be clear, a true pain in the…) For quite a long time, you had to choose between a patchy, faulty DOS with its absolute 640k memory ceiling or an expensive, closed, geared for designers and elitist Mac. No surprise that, strictly speaking, personal information systems were in the doldrums for a whole decade, the one Jobs spent in his exile while Gates tried to stuff his Windows OS down our throat.
I became a unix activist and opposed Windows as one of the worst user experiences you might have to put up with in your digital life (first acceptable version: Windows XP, if not Windows7). Suddenly, Jobs came down from Heaven and showed us the way. I still resisted for half a decade more. Jobs’ way was dictatorship. If you wanted his iPod, you also had to bear the burden of an incompatible device and live forever into his iTunes walled garden. However, when the iPhone came along it was impossible to continue fighting. I gave into temptation. The iPhone is a hard drug. For nobody knows what combination of spells, once you get in touch with an iphone for the first time, you are lost forever.
The success of the iPhone is not only the result of the vision and wizardry of Jobs, which was key of course. It is also the result of the self-righteous complacency and the stubbornness of the till-then incumbent handset suppliers. Nokia was the best for 10 years. I also fell in love with it, but alas, it let the business of the century slip out of its hands! Others should take notice.
April 2010: the final frame, the master stroke, the iPad. With the iPad Jobs could have said much more properly that Julius Caesar: veni, vidi, vici, and after that, having done what he had come to do, Steve Jobs left us. This summer, just before my holidays, I crawled like a snake to buy an iPad 2 in order to feel the crazy taste of the apple again.
I don’t know if I am a convert, the prodigal son or what the hell I am. I simply know that I am now loyal, a believer. Jobs is the king of his generation, the alpha-male of information technology. I like Jobs as a symbol because his image is not the naïve, all-embracing god-like figure that everybody adores. He illustrates both the light and the shadows of success, the tradeoffs that glory brings and demands here on planet Earth.
May God save the King!
P.S. While I was writing this lines, there arrived the dismal news that another pioneer of information technologies, Dennis Ritchie, had also passed away. He was actually the guy who created the C programming language and, together with Ken Thompson and other colleagues at Bell Labs, the UNIX operating system, setting the basis for the modern operating systems than run our present day beloved smartphones. May God save also Dennis.