Steve Jobs

Posted in Miscellaneous.

At Apple​.com today is an obit­uary. It is absolutely done in the Apple style; it’s simple, it’s graph­i­cally arresting — and it is also star­tling, almost unbe­liev­able.

Steve Jobs is dead.

When I heard the news that he had stepped down, I was almost in tears, some­thing my mother couldn’t under­stand. She was happy for him; he’d worked so hard for so long, she wished him a happy retire­ment. That wasn’t my first thought; my first thought was: he’s dying, and he knows it; he liter­ally can’t run the company any more.

Why was that my first thought? Because it’s exactly the way I’ll retire from writing. Writing is my job, but it’s also my obses­sion, my compul­sion, my avoca­tion. I will stop when they pry my rigor-clenched fingers from my keyboard. I will never reach the millions of people Steve Jobs did, but that’s almost beside the point.

Is writing always a joy? No, of course not. Neither are chil­dren – espe­cially on the day after the presen­ta­tion of a stomach ‘flu when you’ve done 3 loads of laundry at 2:00 a.m., you’ve gotten no sleep your­self, and you know you’re going to pay for it. But you love them anyway, and the worst thing that could possibly happen is that they could be taken away from you. There seems to be an idea that love is always joy. I don’t subscribe to it. I do, however, believe that it is the greatest source of joy – and of work, of pain, of longing, of peace.

This sounds amaz­ingly melo­dra­matic. I know it does. So let me explain what Steve Jobs’ start-up lab-in-a-garage company means – and has meant – to me.

My bedroom is shared, my office is shared, my closet space and dresser space – all shared. My books, to a lesser extend – the ones I bought, not the ones I wrote – are also shared. Food I buy is shared. Even the hours of sleep – espe­cially when the kids were young – were not my own. But every­body needs a bit of privacy, even if they’re other­wise happy to be encased in a family home.

A computer is a room of my own. It is the only space I own that belongs entirely to me. It’s not a phys­ical space, but I don’t have that, and never have. It’s a space carved out for my thoughts, my words, my email, my bits of trivia, even my music. It’s mine, it’s an oasis to which I retreat. It has a figu­ra­tive door, and so many windows out into the world, and I can open or close them without asking anyone else if it’s okay.

In the early years of Mac OS, no two Macs looked the same – the desktop pictures were different, the icons, the system fonts, even the way menus were arranged. Mine was no excep­tion.

It was my space. I could deco­rate it. I could fuss over it. I could look at it and think that the shelves were becoming too damn crowded, and decide, for purely selfish reasons, what could – or could not – be thrown out to make more room.

Much fun has been made of people who choose a computer for its external design sensi­bility. I don’t see why — people choose houses, clothing and cars for more than just simple func­tion­ality. A computer is not a simple commodity for me — it’s where I work. It’s part of where I live. It’s a large part of how I keep in touch with my various commu­ni­ties. The programs housed in it reflect my sensi­bil­i­ties across a broad spec­trum.

There is nothing inan­i­mate that I love quite so much as my tech, and this is why: it’s a room of my own. It’s a personal space, from which I create things that I can share. It’s part of the way I work and live.

Steve Job’s not-so-little company designed, engi­neered and sold millions of the stylish small boxes. They were mass-produced, of course, but the act of choosing one was the act of trans­forming every­thing about it that wasn’t fixed, that wasn’t engi­neered. Opening a Mac box and taking out all of the bits and pieces packed therein was almost cere­mo­nial — but it was a gleeful, joyful, hopeful, personal cere­mony. It was pure squee.

I never met the man. I never sent him email. But he has honestly had as much of an effect on my life, through his own work, as many of the people I have, so I am going to grieve in my own small way.

5 Responses to Steve Jobs

  1. I’ve lived my life through tech­nology and like you I’ve never made contact directly with Steve, but indi­rectly? How can anyone who has ever had anything to do with computers ever not had contact? We don’t get many like him but their effect will be felt long after they are gone. I’ll miss him drag­ging the industry to heights it would have ignored other­wise, for showing us that tech could be ‘artful’ and for all of the rest of the small things that he forced into the mix of what we take for granted today. I’ll miss him for these things and frankly, I’ll just plain miss him.

  2. Karen Z says:

    The first computer soft­ware I wrote course­ware for was an Apple IIe, How to Use AppleWriter. The first computer we purchased was a classic Mac. Over the years I’ve had Macs in just about every config­u­ra­tion. Jobs was an inno­vator, visionary, and, at times, a bully. He took personal computing where no one had thought to go. My iPhone is crit­ical to my life tools – calendar, notes, Weight Watchers tracker, and face-to-face commu­ni­ca­tion with family and friends. RIP Steve, you leave a giant hole in many lives and tech­nology.

  3. Aaron says:

    My first computer memory is playing “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego” on my ][c. Whether we admit it or not, Apple made a huge impact on personal computing, and Mr. Jobs was a big part of that driving force.

    That said, it’s a mite bit depressing to log in to Michelle’s home page and see an obit­uary for a more than a month. Can we, perhaps, post some­thing a bit less macabre?

  4. I dunno, seems oddly appro­priate to me, what with the way Michelle’s books are filled with dead chil­dren, dead wives, and the people who are forever tortured by their loss. ;) You can’t go more than a few pages without trip­ping over a dead person or their memory.

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