I had my first frustrating but fun experience with a Macintosh computer back in high school. My mom was given an Apple IIe for her classes, and I used it after school to try and play the text-based Hitchhikerís Guide to the Galaxy game (which embues things with another level of connection as the storyís writer, Douglas Adams, was an early Mac fan who died unexpectedly near the turn of the century). We had a couple of computers before, the Tandy (such a simple and amazing thing) and the Atari (which I learned how to load and unload the hard way), but the Apple IIe was empowering in some weird way that escapes me at the moment. I just know that I enjoyed having it around, even if I didnít make it very far as Arthur Dent in the game where the world was ending and all you needed was some peanuts, your alien best friend, a handheld computer guide, and a towel.
Thatís about the last fond memory of an Apple product that I can recount for over a decade. I didnít really care for Macs beyond that. I found their shapes to be weird; I found the spinning wheel of passing time annoying; I found PCs much more enjoyable, not that I really understood the difference.
It wasnít until the end of my second year teaching that I was brought back into the world of Steve Jobs (who, it turns out, had been expelled from his own garden for a while). Some of my students chipped in and bought me an iPod mini. As I had never owned a portable CD player, this brought me back to the world of music that I had forgotten. It was only a matter of time, then, before I invested in a small iBook. Then it was a nicer laptop, a full-fledged iPod, an iPhone, and then an iPad. Iím not sure why, really. A number of things come to mind. Something about the design. Something about how it says this is a whole device. Lots of things that lots of Mac users can say much better than me. And even though I have a PC laptop in my classroom, I find that I do all of my important work on the Mac in the workroom.
I was surprised by the death of Steve Jobs this past week. I knew that he had been sick. I knew that he was a genius. I didnít know much beyond that. What I do know I have since learned because of articles that Iíve read online (mostly using my Apple products). Itís taken some time for the ďChristian communityĒ online to say much. Within a day of his death, I found one reprinted article at Christianity Today about Jobsí ďsecular gospel,Ē which was a bit of a downer. Most of my friends posted comments about his passing in somber tones; one even used the moment as a reminder that even the rich and powerful have to die some time. It seems like Steve Jobs knew this more than many of us. I came across the commencement speech from a few years ago that has gotten no small amount of airplay since his death: he had a decent view of things, call it secular if you will.
The Onion said it irreverently and best: Steve Jobs was the last man who knew what in the world he was doing (thatís my clean version of what they said). So many of us, myself more than most, waffle between ways of thinking and living and dealing with things. Our vision often lacks focus, our work often lacks style. Something about Steve Jobs was steady, directed, in a way that might not be too easy to find anymore. In the days since his death, it has been noticed that a lot of people have been eulogizing him as if he had been their friend and not just some creative genius (and how strange to call him creative when really it was a tech thing, some might say). Perhaps he was more of a guide than a friend: someone who didnít just see how things could be, but sought to find a good way to get there. It takes a real kind of confidence to do that, to help people get there. How strange that we see it more clearly now that we have less of it to see.