As I read the web’s posts about Steve Jobs’, who resigned as Apple’s CEO two days ago, I realize for the first time, how deeply intertwined my own professional and personal life of the past 20 years is with the company’s history: I met my later wife there in 1992, was donated my first Macintosh, an LC II, trained myself in developing database applications using the software FileMaker (mostly in my spare time and until the small wee hours…), developped a semi-automated multi-user business communciations solution, which I rolled out in the Apple department I then worked for as a student trainee – at first two days per week, later three days a week, while studying English and German Literature and Linguistics at the same time, which I later ‘cannibalized’ into English and American Linguistics, German Linguistics and Applied Psychology. I graduated over a paper on semantics in German Linguistics and obtained an M.A. in 1998.
I experienced the pre-www era with Gopher, Telnet and other software that sported no or minimal graphic user interfaces, I recall learning to actively code web pages with the advent of the World Wide Web and web browser software, which was available for all major computer platforms and I’ll never forget the defining moment, when a High School friend, then studying at Harvard University on a performance-based student grant ‘chatted’ with me from his Unix machine with me sitting in front of an ATARI computer and on a 14.4k modem line, which was uplinked to a 34 Mbps university backbone.
I experienced Apple’s milestones either working directly in the company or in its immediate periphery. Mr. Jobs’ return to Apple turned out to be a first major setback as far as my IT career is concerned – you might almost call it a worst case scenario: At that time, I was a student trainee at Apple’s subsidiary and then software distributor CLARIS. My boss at that time, Thomas Aschenbrenner, was very supportive of my professional path and even had me work as acting product manager in the end, where I worked under his direct supervision, but was personally responsible for software localization, marketing, sales support and sales of Mac OS 7.6 through 8.5. Among Jobs’s first moves as iCEO at Apple was the shrinking of Claris to about a fifth of its previous size and with only one family of software products left: FileMaker.. Needless to say that heads rolled and available positions were eliminated or drastically reduced (this then made Mr. Jobs known as ‘Mr. No-Jobs’, a little parting gift to be remembered by from those, who had to take the boot…) And also needless to say that my plans on launching my IT career right after graduating from college were thus badly thwarted… Luckily, Mr. Aschenbrenner kept me around as a self-employed sales consultant, software expert and software trainer. It was then when I started to collaborate with Apple directly again, but found a temporary professional home in software training and consulting at first.
The migration from the Motorola-chip driven main processor to the PowerPC platform, ultimately the demise of the ‘beige boxes’ and the introduction of the colorful iMac all mark milestones of my personal life as well, which I worked hard for and which were accompanied by a good deal of emotion.
However, if there was ONE product, which I’d have to thank Mr. Jobs for, it is without any doubt Garageband. It wasn’t until then that I was able for the first time in my life to autonomously compose, arrange, produce and even share, promote and sell music in a way I had always aspired to do it. In the aftermath of becoming a Garageband user and largely due to having been a writer for MACup magazine from 2004 until the demise of the paper in 2011, I took advantage of the seemless migration of Garageband projects to what I’m using now, which is Logic Studio. If Garageband hadn’t come out, I am unlikely to have found the time and patience to throw myself into learning complex music software to where I’m able of (pre-) producing music from the convenience of my home desk or even arrive at self-producing music that was played on quite a few international web radio stations and was surprisingly met with quite some enthusiasm. In light of that… it makes up for the major setback in 1998 😉
Steve Jobs resigning as Apple’s CEO leaves me with a feeling of personal farewells. I get the feeling that my “geek phase” where it relates to using soft- and hardware has come to an end. In terms of using services and social media on the world wide web as well as some mobile applications, I’d tend to describe myself as a power user with the stress being on user again. While I must admit that I have been harboring some strong feelings as to some of Mr. Jobs’ publicly known downsides in terms of humanity, loyalty a.s.f. and while I never agreed on his business success making up for poor character (at least in his beginning years), I can’t deny being a typical case of that same peculiar mix of pragmatics driven usability and a share of emotion that has been ascribed to some die-hard users of Apple products over the decades. I very much hope that Mr. “No Jobs” as he was called upon his return to the company in 1996 is going to stay with us and the company for many more years… (and frankly, I’m quite surprised to find myself making that statement…)