Bye Steve

Articles — Sean Bonner @ 7:13 pm
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My first computer was a Macintosh 512.

I say “my” because even though it was really the family computer, I was the one on it all the time. This was late 1984 and while had Apple IIe’s at my school, the Macintosh was obviously the thing to have at home. I mean, I had one, right? I had friends with random incarnations of PCs but they seemed so blah. My Mac was cool. I was 9 or 10 at the time and somehow got a subscription to Macword and I’d rip out the full page photos of Macs and put them on my wall. There was a 5-6 panel fold out cover one time that I kept for years before there were finally more push pin holes than paper on the edges and it found it’s way to the trash. This was a few years before I progressed to ripping pages out of Thrasher for the same purpose and without question is where I developed my object lust. I could stare at those beige boxes for hours imagining all the exciting banners I could great with Print Shop on that sweet monochromatic display.

Years later a college era room mate, Jon Resh, would use an almost identical Mac Plus to make a perforated paper dot matrix banner for his room that read “Someday you will die, live hard now” which without knowing it would foreshadow many of Steve Jobs later comments about remembering that you won’t be here forever, and the importance of making the most of your life – and living it for yourself and your terms. His words stuck with me then, and resonated with me often. I knew he was right, even if it was a scary thing. You can’t live your own life and be happy without believing in yourself, and I always knew that’s what Steve was trying to tell us all to do. If we just believed in ourselves, we could do anything.

I can’t even speculate how many Macintosh products I’ve owned. I can’t even speculate how much better my life has been because I had access to those products. The first Mac I ever bought myself was a Macintosh LC. I bought it shortly after moving to Gainesville for college, and lived off pepsi and sunflower seeds for months to afford it. It was totally worth it. I’d like to say it changed my world, but the truth is my world had already been unquestionably changed because of these computers. There were only 2 computer laps on the University of Florida campus that had Macs and in the many months between when I moved out of my mothers house and bought that LC, I spent more hours than I’ll ever be comfortable admitting bouncing between those two labs. Between talking to people all over the world on #IRC and the newly released mosaic browser which allowed me to see content on literally *hundreds* of pages on the world wide web, there was a lot to keep up with. Also, since I wasn’t technically a student I could only hang out in each lab for a few hours until the SysOps would notice. But I was already a diehard at that point.

I saw someone mention yesterday that everything they’ve ever created that they were proud of was made using tools Steve Jobs had a hand in making. I thought about it and there’s no question thats true for me as well. With the exception of 4 jobs I held in my early employment carrer, Dishwasher, Grocery Store stocker, video store clerk and pizza delivery guy every single thing I’ve done professionally, for my self and my own companies or for others has involved Macs heavily. Every logo I’ve ever designed has been with the help of a Mac, and the very first logo I ever made, the first logo for my record company blatantly swiped clip art that came with our family Mac.

Shortly after I moved to Los Angeles in 2001 the iPod was released. I’d just been laid off from Playboy but I didn’t give a shit, I knew this thing was going to change my world and I bought the original 5MB version the day it was released. I still have it and it was every bit as revolutionary as I knew it would be. The thing I probably heard most in 2002 was “I hope you have stock in that company because you are selling more of those iPods by constantly talking about than any ad campaign could.” I didn’t have stock, but it wasn’t about money. It was about the future.

Through all of this, Steve Jobs has been like a constant beacon of hope. I’ve always been able to count on him, and I trusted him. I never met the man and I don’t think I ever had the opportunity, but like a dear friend who you don’t always agree with, I knew he wanted the best for me and I trusted the direction he lead me in. Dropping SCSI caused me weeks of headache at the company I worked at, but I knew it was the right move. SCSI sucked and my life would be better without it, even if it hurt to walk away. Same with floppy drives and CDS. Lots of people have vision, few people have the dedication and commitment to that vision to inspire others. Steve did, and I didn’t even realize until yesterday how important he was to me.

Over the years I’ve gone from watching his keynotes on baited breath, dying to find out what he’ll announce next, to having a pretty good idea what is coming out and not needing to see it live because I trust that I’ll know about it in a few hours and it will be every bit as awesome I as assume it will be. Because for better or worse, if something isn’t awesome Apple won’t release it. Steve wouldn’t let that happen. He was dependable and even when he took his first leave from Apple for medical reasons I never suspected he wouldn’t be around tomorrow. I mean, people get sick, and sometimes those people die, but we’re talking about Steve Jobs here. Right? I couldn’t imagine a world without him.

Earlier this year when he stepped down for real, I convinced myself that he’d done what he needed to do and was going out on top. He’d started a company, survived getting kicked out of it only to come back and rescue it from sure death and turn it into one of the most successful companies ever. How do you top that? I told myself he had accomplished his goals and was ready to move on to the next thing, and even when I read his letter saying he was stepping down for medical reasons, I downplayed it.

Hearing that he died yesterday hit me so much harder than I could have imagined. I’m getting choked up writing this right now and it’s been a full day. I’ve had friends and family die and it hasn’t impacted me this much. I feel like a idiot saying that, how could this guy who I never even met mean that much to me? I really don’t know, but as I looked around my house and saw his influence in every corner, and as I read the stories from his friends and people who had interacted with him I couldn’t help, and can’t help thinking that we, all of us, lost something so much more than just one person yesterday. This isn’t some fanboy shit either, I have a pretty strong distaste for celebrity on all levels but this one person had such a huge impact in my life, for so much of my life, I’d be lying to myself if I didn’t admit how much I’m going to miss him.

Right now in my living room there is a Macintosh 512 on a pedestal. It’s not the one I had as a child, but I hunted for years to get one just like it. The model 128 that came out before it is “worth” more, but this one means more to me personally. I’ve had it displayed for years, not because it’s useful on any technological level, but because it’s inspiration of how far an idea can go when you really believe in it. How far you can go when you really believe in yourself. And how doing that today is of paramount importance.

Thank you Steve, thanks for everything.

I wouldn’t be who I am today without you.

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4 Comments »

  1. Thanks, Sean. Honest and eloquent.

    Comment by Sarah — October 6, 2011 @ 7:53 pm
  2. poignant~

    Comment by Jo-ann h — October 7, 2011 @ 2:59 am
  3. Steve Jobs & Apple – personal reflections « Mac Aficionado | Mad about Macs mentioned this Article on

  4. At my first real job, working for the Atlanta Film and Video Festival in the mid 80s, I learned Photoshop 1 and Aldus PageMaker on a pair of cutting-edge Mac SEs. From that point on, it seems like a Mac has made my work either easier or even possible. Last summer, Woz was in Gainesville to speak at UF. His student “handler” brought him into Volta to spend a fall afternoon drinking tea outside. I was more nervous and tongue-tied than if it had been pretty much any cultural icon short of Steve Jobs. As I was fixing Woz his tea, I told him that I hope he didn’t mind, but that I really wanted to let him know how much the company that he had helped to found had impacted my life: design, typography, photography, academic research, web dev, video editing, DVD authoring, book design, even running a coffee shop like Volta. I’m sure it’s a story that he (and Jobs) heard every time they went out in public. Woz was incredibly gracious. He listened, posed for photos, and then chortled that “you really don’t hear people talk about any other household appliance the same way.” I really kinda love that he saw the Apple legacy in this way: they built something new that became ubiquitous in peoples’ lives, something that fundamentally changed the way we work and think, yet is now as humble and engrained as a washing machine or radio. It is a serious thrill in my life to have even been able to acknowledge to one of Apple’s founders this nerdly fondness for how the Mac helped me find my creative life.

    I never really came close to meeting Jobs. I had a breakfast interview with some of the major Mac players in San Francisco, but it was literally the week before Jobs was back in charge. I don’t know how I would have felt if I had met him then, or even recently. I’ve had lots of friends that were put through the grinder while working at Apple. It’s a huge freakin’ company that engages in the sorts of distasteful things, from the way workers are treated in China to the way smaller companies have been damaged by very competitive practices. In this month of Occupy Wall Street, it’s a bit odd to see the raw emotional responses to the passing of a CEO by so many I respect. But as ruthless as Jobs could be, he was fundamentally different from other CEOs. Larry Ellison and Bill Gates are like Jobs stripped of humanism and aesthetic sensibility– both are driven, genius, beyond successful; I can’t imagine a wide-ranging emotional response to their passing like we’ve seen this week. I once worked for Paul Allen writing documentation for an installation on his mega-yacht Octopus. Never met him, but I spent a month on what was, at the time, the most expensive personal yacht in the world. I think I got a pretty good sense of what mattered to the guy. It was the sort of experience that would have me on the street marching if I were in NYC this month. I guess the point is that if you are going to be the CEO of one of the largest companies in the world, Steve Jobs set the standard of how to do it while leaving a legacy of respect and influence. I just don’t see many others in the business world living up to that standard. It’s a shame that he didn’t have the time to articulate a perspective that could have helped to reorient the top 1% in the same way he helped to transform the lives of those who used his devices.

    Comment by anthony rue — October 9, 2011 @ 1:25 am

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