The very first computer my parents bought for me was a Texas Instruments TI-99/4A. We really didn't use it much as a computer, as I recall, mostly played games on it. By games, of course, I mean a glorious little piece of intellectual property theft called Munch Man. I got wicked good at that game, better than I ever got at Pac-Man.
But the first computer we got that we actually used as a computer? That was an Apple IIc.
Gorgeous thing. CPU and keyboard in one lightweight, portable unit that even had a carrying handle. It was the MacBook Air of its day, a clever piece of engineering on which I did homework, made Happy Birthday banners on colored accordion-fold printer paper, and enjoyed the closest thing I had to sex in those days: Leisure Suit Larry.
I remember seeing a demo of a IIGS at a local library and nearly soiling myself over how beautiful and fast and immersive the thing was. They let me play Karateka on it, a game I'd beaten a hundred times by then, and damn if the thing wasn't almost too fast to play. To see such a work of art killed by lawyers was and is unforgiveable.
I didn't touch another Apple product until 2008. I didn't get Macintoshes in the early days. Tiny black-and-white screens, what kind of accountant wants that? You can't play King's Quest on that. I needed real estate and at least 16 colors to be immersed. So I stayed out, and I missed the Dark Times.
I moved over to Windows, and I stayed there through 3.1, 95, 98, ME (Motto: "What Is That, Hardware?"), and then XP. The last computer I ever bought was a Windows XP desktop that's still running, the spoils of a bet my wife made with me to get me to quit smoking.
Then 2008 came and I got the first generation unibody MacBook Pro. I had to save up money for a long time, sell off a bunch of my old stuff, and have one of the biggest arguments of my marriage to get it, but it was worth it. I'm typing this on it now, two operating systems later, and the damn thing still runs like new, discounting of course the water damage my daughter wrought upon its undeserving internals.
It is a gorgeous piece of machinery. Solid, sturdy, modern-looking. Vibrant display, backlit keyboard, barely makes a sound. I thought I hated trackpads until I bought this thing, but the modern Apple trackpad makes a mouse seem like the computing equivalent of using Morse code.
I'm not going back. I use a Windows 7 computer for work, and to be fair, it's a really good operating system, the first version of Windows I haven't had to tolerate in over a decade. But it's not the same. OS X manages to get the hell out of my way while still being quite literally delightful to use. It has, with no exaggeration, changed the way I think about and use computers and software. It is a daily reminder of the benefits of paying for quality, a reminder that cheap things are expensive and that science needs art.
Steve Jobs understood those things. His engineers used to sign the insides of the cases of the computers they shipped, as artists do their paintings.
You can duplicate an iPad, but you can't copy that mentality. Not understanding that is why Apple's competitors so often fail, even when following lockstep. We'll see if Apple can maintain it without Jobs.
Steve himself was often regarded as a tyrant and an asshole. There is ample evidence to support this theory. But tyrant or not, he invented personal computing, then returned to push it out of an endless hell of beige boxes. He completely transformed the cell phone market, then created a tablet market that will again change computing forever and that nobody else (except perhaps Amazon) seems to know what the hell to do with. He created Pixar, quite possibly the best movie studio in human history.
Whether you like him or not, he has undeniably touched your life. Whether you've bought his products or not, you've bought his products.
He lived just long enough to see the fulfillment of his vision. Just long enough to cement his change upon the face of the developed world. I hope it was reward enough for him.
Thanks, Steve. Thanks for what you did and will continue to do for generations.