It is no secret that I have not been a fan of the walled garden that Steve Jobs created around Apple in recent years.
While I can appreciate that the tight control helps ensure a consistent (and I have to say – beautifully designed) user experience, my geeky tendencies fight against it.
But with his recent passing I started musing about how it all began. How did I get started in the tech industry in the first place? The results surprised me and, when I really think about it, Steve Jobs was a big part of my life and my career – so here’s the story…
I grew up in East London which, for those not in the know, is the poor part. Even compared to our neighbors we didn’t have much, and money for education was a luxury we couldn’t afford.
Since my chances of going to university were slim to none (and calling it slim is pushing it) I found myself leaving school at the tender age of 16.
No worries though, I had a plan to become a plasterer. Yup. Me. I even prepared for that by getting an “O level” in plastering (sic).
Reality dealt me a swift slap in the face on that plan when I found out that I had left it too late to apply to the local vocational college and all the spots were gone.
With very few options and, with the winds of fate blowing strongly, I found myself in a very small company that was working to promote the nascent micro-computer industry (as they were called back then).
I liked that job, even though the pay was awful and I spent 50% of my pay on commuting. The people were nice, the receptionist taught me to type, and sometimes they had left over goodies from meetings! The only problem was…I was bored. I had far too much time on my hands and needed something to do.
With nothing else to do I sat down and started teaching myself to program. It was easy to use – if a little shy on help when I got things wrong (Syntax error being about the most it would give me). But before I knew it I had various programs running, fancy graphical shapes whizzing around, and I was looking for a new challenge.
Seeing what I had done one of the consultants in the office signed me up for a government-funded college program that he found in the paper. I managed to get in and the rest, as they say is history.
Without that Apple IIe I doubt that I would have started in the tech industry, and that would have changed everything.
I may not have known Steve Jobs personally, but he affected my life in ways that I cannot begin to fathom, and I’m sure many other people feel the same. His creations have democratized technology and, with it, created a whole new world.
So, since life has been good to me, I have to swallow my pride and say a belated “Thanks” Steve. And if I have fought against some of your later creations well…it’s your own fault…you created me.
Rest in peace.