I just couldn’t type.
Practicing on an Olivetti portable typewriter, I never learned to trust my fingers. Through various “administrative assistant” jobs I held through my 20’s, I had learned “word processing.” Typing on a computer dedicated to creating text documents made sense to me. It was forgiving. Flexible. It enabled me to capture my thoughts and arrange them more carefully later.
In 1983, I became a typographic proofreader.* Ironically, once I got there, I no longer had access to word processing equipment. If I wanted to write anything, I was faced with analog tools: pen and paper, or worse, typewriter, correction fluid and lots of paper.
One fine day in 1984, I was passing by a shop window in a mall. I saw this cute machine inside. It was beige. It had a little gray screen, a beige keyboard and a beige block of a mouse. It was the first Macintosh.
The salesman showed me how it worked. He told me what it cost. He explained Apple Credit to me (10% down and 22% interest). $3000 with the ImageWriter dot matrix printer. My head was swimming.
I went home and couldn’t stop thinking about that little beige computer. The smiling start up screen. The selection of fonts that displayed on the screen as you typed. And when you printed, the output looked a whole lot like what you saw on your screen. Cut, copy, paste, delete. It all made so much sense to me. You could even “paint” on it! That little computer invaded my dreams. I had to have it.
I soon went back to the store, signed my life away to Apple Credit and brought that beige toaster home. I set it up and started the tutorials. I was late for work that night. I couldn’t wait to get home to learn more.
For ten years, I continued to use that computer. I even got to see the inside of the case with all the embossed signatures of its proud designers when I brought it in for service. Hey, when a computer has just one disk drive and runs everything off that one drive, it’s bound to fail occasionally. I can’t complain. Ten years of use from a computer is pretty remarkable. And I’m willing to bet if I pulled it out of its box and plugged it in it would start right up. I stopped using it when I got my Performa (with an actual hard drive, CD-ROM drive and a 14K modem) in 1994.
And so began my journey as a bona fide Mac Head and Apple evangelist. I always believed in Apple products, and loved using them in spite of the detractors. I laughed as the converts came to realize the value of devices that work; simply, beautifully, without viruses.
Thank you, Steve Jobs, for creating the computer that haunted my dreams, for building a company that makes the tools that enable my expression and ability to earn a living on my own terms. I will miss your audacity, your vision, and the excitement of your keynotes and product launches. There will never be another to replace you. But I’m glad we got to enjoy you for a while. Your legacy will be the inspiration and empowerment of generations to come.
*Typographers were craftspeople who enabled the creation of “galley type,” a practice that pre-dated desktop publishing. Type shops once abounded in New York. Beautiful, high quality work was created for the top agencies and their print and TV work.