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Steve Jobs: My part in his success

Steve Jobs is dead, and with him a unique episode in technology. I have a slight part in his rise to dominance.

In 1982, I was working as a compositor and layout artist – making pages for local government magazines and a denominational newspaper. I did a course on computers (Burroughs B25s, like proprietary DOS PCs) and discovered I was good at it. So I decided to take the stories on the 8″ floppy discs and insert Compugraphic typesetting codes so that I wouldn’t have to proofread again (how naive!).

I did this in increasingly sophisticated ways, but what I was really waiting for was the newly announced Adobe graphic language (I even got the Red Book and learned to write PostScript programs). Then Apple announced the Macintosh, which, having read about the Lisa and played on some unix graphics workstations, I was really anticipating. They launched it in November 1984 as I recall. We had one by January 1985, and on that 6″ screen I did 10,000 pages of a university’s handbooks in PageMaker, 16 pages at a time.

It handled fonts well (for the time). I was able to do wraparounds. I could set up styles and reuse them consistently across the entire document. I was hooked.

Over the next 20 years I bought, advocated, evangelised and specified Apple products even as Windows tried to catch up. University IT managers insisted we be PC (for “security”) and I fought them, even threatening to take my publishing department out of the university’s internet and buy in commercial feeds, because nothing did graphics as well as Macs.

Then Jobs came back and made OS X on top of his NeXT OS unix, and we were away even further. Every day was a treat of finding out how to do things in an advanced manner. Each upgrade was Christmas. Each new OS capacity allowed us to do things only a Mac could do. Microsoft played catch up, but for years the joke was “Windows [present version] = Mac OS [5 years ago]”.

It’s not so now – we’ve packed the carrying capacity of the OS wars such that there’s not a lot to tell between them apart from bad Microsoft software design philosophies, but I love my Apple because Steve made it great. Reality distortion fields aside, the Mac was just brilliant, and remains so, although it strains under the complexity at times (as does Windows, far more so)

So Steve, I forgive the fact that I didn’t get my cut of the thousands (literally) of Macs that were bought on my recommendation. I forgive that I never got invited to 1 Infinite Loop. I will remember you with great fondness. Thanks.

Later: I should add that he was only a few months older than I am. Too damned young!

3 Comments

  1. Ian H Spedding FCD Ian H Spedding FCD

    For me, Apple’s minimalist design aesthetic is the near-perfect embodiment of the principle of parsimony. It makes competitors look like clunky, awkward kludges by comparison. And it’s not just the appearance, it’s the function as well. I have a 1G iPod Touch and an Samsung phone running Android. The phone interface works reasonably well but it can be slow or hangs and getting any kind of a smooth scroll is a hit-or-miss affair. The Touch just works – flawlessly. It does exactly what you ask of it, whenever you want it, smoothly and without any fuss. If I could afford it I’d go entirely Apple. Unfortunately, that is probably not going to happen in the foreseeable future.

    The other sad thing is that the story that Alan Turing was the inspiration for the Apple logo is probably an urban myth.

    • Yes it is. The designer used the bite mark to show it wasn’t a cherry. The rainbow colours were before that became a gay theme. He’d never heard of Turing or bytes.

  2. Susan Silberstein Susan Silberstein

    My iPod Touch is a crucial part of my life. Wonderful machine.

    I thought of you, John, when Job’s death was announced. I know no bigger Apple fan.

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