I was a staunch advocate of Tandy TRS-DOS over CPM. I owned a big silver and grey box that I personally updated from 32KB of memory to 48KB and replaced the slow external cassette tape player with two 184KB floppy disk drives. And then I met Macintosh. 128KB of Ram and two 400KB disk drives. For the next decade I worked closely with Apple as one of the early writers about the platform. I wrote for MacWeek, MacToday, MacWorld, MaACazine, the Macintosh Buyers Guide and several other publications. I covered the Mac in mainstream office magazines, manufacturing magazines and in software development.
I received hardware regularly to keep me up-to-date on what Apple was shipping. And I became a HyperCard expert, writing articles about HyperCard and artificial intelligence, eventually meeting long-time friend and colleague Ron Evans through his HyperX HyperCard expert system and the serendipity of the Apple community.
The Macintosh did profoundly change my relationship to computing, facilitating a childhood passion for learning, exploration and co-creation. I would see Steve Jobs from afar as he introduced new products to the world, and as an analyst and reviewer, report on the hits and the misses. I always walked that tight rope between fanboy and critic, leaning toward critic much to the dismay of my fanboy friends and relatives, and too close to fanboy sometimes for other hardware manufacturers who also delivered hardware to my doorstep for evaluation.
It wasn’t until after Jobs left Apple for NeXT that I actually met him. We were together at a small press conference for the Object Management Group where Steve was offering the NeXT object model (OpenStep) as the common platform for computing in the future. Typical of Steve, even though he was now at a smaller, not even also ran, nearly never was, computer company, he touted his vision as the future of computing. All computing. Of course, much of Mac OS X owes its foundations to OpenStep.
During this period, where I had more interaction with him than when he was shored up behind the wall of Apple, I found him to be insightful, brash, to-the-point and anti-BS. Even though I challenged the NeXT pricing model and the all new OS in a world where there was, in my opinion, already too many OSs for the consumer, we bantered with friendly disagreement.
Today I am glad I have those memories. I didn’t stay connected with Steve once he rejoined Apple. I stopped going to MacWorld. Soon after joining the Giga Information Group I stopped receiving my annual new machine. As an industry analyst, I migrated to the PC because that was the platform that dominated the environment for my enterprise clients. And of course, I did my time at Microsoft which took me out of the ranks of the perceptively impartial analysts and reviewers altogether.
I am now back as an observer and commenter, reviewer and critic. And although I have my issues with the iPad, once again, Steve Jobs and his passion for working elegance and inspired design, changed my relationship to technology. My wife refers to my iPad as our “other child.” And if not for Steve Jobs, and his determination to transform science fiction into tangible consumer fact, we would probably still be waiting for a meaningful expression of tablet computing—a goal, I believe Steve and I shared, as the result of Gene Roddenberry introducing the PADD in Star Trek the Next Generation. That had to be how computing would work in the future. I wrote about. Steve built it.
Over the next few days, the television, the radio, the Web and every magazine cover will be filled with remembrances of Steve Jobs and the impact he had on the world and on computing. My best memories of Steve were not our personal encounters, but the moments when his vision changed my vision – and as we know looking at global leadership, both in politics and business, the ability to change how people see the world, and then to get them to align their behavior with a new vision, is all too rare a gift.