Thursday, August 25, 2011

Apple computers, Steve Jobs and me

I've been using Apple products since the mid-1980s, only a few years after the first, boxy little Macintosh came out. I've personally owned five Macs (three bought second-hand) over the years. In fact, I had some experience with an Apple IIe computer that I used in taking a BASIC programming course in about 1981. I've always enjoyed the intuitive, simple interface of the Macs I've used. Jumping from a Microsoft DOS-based computer at my office to the Mac's graphical user interface with point-and-click selections and simple commands in the early 1990s was like going from doing algebra in Roman numerals to using a calculator.

When the newspaper I was editing faced a decision on a new production system in the late 1990s, it was at Apple's low ebb. Some forecasters were saying that Apple would soon be bankrupt or would get out of the computer business altogether. It's recent innovations (remember the Apple Newton?) had flopped, and its personal computers had performance and reliability problems. I remember calling a trusted consultant who advised sticking with Macs; he thought Apple would dig its way out of that hole.

Did it ever! Only a few years later, Apple introduced the iMac, which took the computer world by storm. Following quickly were the iPod and iTunes. By the time he iPhone and iPad came along, Apple's ascendancy to the top of the innovations market was complete.

I have no doubt that the credit for this remarkable turnaround belongs to Steve Jobs, the Apple founder who left the company only to return years later to resurrect his baby. Jobs has demanded creative thinking, simplicity of design and reliability. I am writing this blog on a Mac that is about 10 years old but still reliable (although slow by today's standards). At work, I now use a Windows computer, which I have become accustomed to and don't think much about its differences. But occasionally some task will emphasize to me how comparatively simpler and more intuitive Apple's interface is.

Steve Jobs announced Wednesday that he was stepping down as Apple CEO. He has had serious health problems, including pancreatic cancer, for years. The news can't be good for Apple; one doesn't replace such an innovator so easily. I hope the culture that Jobs created at Apple will live on and that Apple will continue to create dazzling new products that make me say, "Wow!" and "I want one!" I just wish I could afford more of those toys. I might start by replacing my old Mac.

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