"Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary." -Steve Jobs at Stanford's Commencement Address in 2005
I feel so weird about Steve Jobs' passing. I never knew him, I never met him, I don't think I was ever in the same place with him… but he had such a huge impact on my life, I can honestly and without hyberbole say that I wouldn't be where I am today without him.
In 1984, I bought my first Macintosh. It was a 128 with one floppy drive. When I plugged it in and started it up for the first time, it was like I'd stepped into The Future from a science fiction novel.
Before my Mac, the two big computers we had were an Atari 400 that belonged to the entire family, and a TI-99/4A that was all mine. I learned how to program on both of them in BASIC, and I was able to do lots of cool things with them, mostly writing and playing games.
When I got my Mac, the first program I started up was Visual BASIC. It was this confusing jumble of windows and weirdness that didn't work at all like the BASIC I knew so well. After a few frustrating failures to write and run even the simplest program, I gave up; writing stories in MacWrite and drawing pictures in MacPaint was more fun, anyway.
I wrote my first story on that Mac, and my second, and my third, and pretty much all of them until I got a color Mac II in 1988. I wrote on that for years, until I got my first Powerbook in the 90s. I used that Powerbook to take my first steps onto the Internet, using a VT100 emulator, a 4800 baud modem, and the mysterious ftp and telnet protocols.
Today, I own and use a Macbook Pro and an iPad. I have so many iPods, most of them just live in a drawer at my desk. My wife has an iPhone and an iPad — the first two devices that made it possible for her to embrace her inner geek and understand the one she married — and both of my kids have Macbooks. Anne has an iMac in her office that she uses every day.
Hearing that Steve Jobs died today hit me in the stomach, even though I'm not an Apple Fanboy, and I love to tease and make fun of Apple Cultists. I use a rooted Android and spend almost as much time in a Linux VM as I do in Mac OS… but the world I live in was shaped by Steve Jobs and the people he inspired. I got to find the person I am because Apple tools made it easy for me to take my ideas and move them from my head onto paper when I was a kid, a teenager, a twentysomething, and today.
I don't agree with everything Apple does, but I feel like the world lost an important person today, and I feel like I lost a distant relative who I never got to meet, but knew everything about because for one reason or another his influence was everywhere I looked.
iRIP, Steve Jobs. Thank you for making the incredible things that made it possible for me to live in a real future that's even cooler than the one I pretended to live in when I was flying that spaceship so many years ago.