October 6, 2011


My first time using a computer was when I was a freshman in high school. The school had obtained a dozen or so Apple ][+ computers and, surprisingly, our French teacher had written a program to quiz us on our building French skills. Part of our assignment was to sign up for some time in the computer lab and to run these skill testing programs she had written. They were well constructed programs, so much so that she was able to sell the programs to a software company who incorporated them into their Computer Based Learning curriculums. I always thought that was kind of cool.

The Apple ][+ setups were on the high end for the era; two floppy drives sitting side by side on top of the computer case. On top of the that sat the monitor; which was really a glorified television that was missing a tuner. The program that were to run sat on a 5 1/4-inch floppy disk. For some reason I remember sitting down to run the first program, which coincided with chapter 3 of our text book. The same book that had started out with “Michel? Anne? Vouz-traveillez? Non, nous regardons les television, pourquoi?”


That was the first two lines I ever typed on a computer. In less than four weeks I signed up for more computer time and started writing my own programs. My first program emulated the cash registers at the local Ames. Cash registers were the first computerized pieces of equipment I had seen in action. Soon I was writing other little programs and then I got time to use the brand new Apple ][e which seemed faster, relocated the RESET key and had the capabilities of using lowercase letters.


An Apple product in our home was outside of our budget, so I wrote programs in Apple BASIC at school and Commodore BASIC (on a VIC-20) at home. This probably helped my budding programming skills more than I would realise, because I was writing cross-platform and didn’t even know it. I always wanted an Apple ][e of my own though. Who knows, maybe I’ll find one on ebay.

I had some time to kill my senior year of high school so I signed up for two computer classes. One was Computer Programming. In that class we learned to write in LOGO and then in BASIC. I aced the class. I loved it. I always got extra points for making my programs more user friendly. For example, we had to write a routine that did city and state lookups by zip code. My classmates would write orders like:


whereas I would write

Please enter the city and state and press ENTER

There’s no reason for a computer to sound like a computer. Not even in back in the technological stone age.

When I write programs and/or websites today, I still strive for the human element. I know I owe that focus to Steve Jobs. I want the computer experience to be as simple and effortless for the user as possible. My endeavors get the job done but they do it in the most intuitive way possible. Using a computer, for whatever reason, should be an enjoyable experience. And that’s why I love Apple products. It’s bringing the wonders of technology to the masses in ways that everyone can understand.

I was in a programming class a few years ago when the instructor said something that made perfect sense to me. “A computer can do anything. If a programmer tells you it’s not possible, it’s because they’re just too lazy to figure it out.”

That’s one of the reasons I mourn Steve Jobs’ passing today. He brought the wonder and excitement of using a computer to the masses by focusing on the human element. ‘How is the user going to want to listen to his music’? Because he had a vision and the fortitude to pursue it, I have my entire music library in my phone or any other device that is smaller than an index card. I am able to see my lover, who is working 300 miles away, on my cell phone while I am getting ready to call it a night. I can type this blog entry using a keyboard that is sitting on my lap and a touch-based tablet-like device that had only been seen on Star Trek before five years ago. Sure, I go on about Linux from time to time, but it’s the fit and finish that Steve insisted upon that always brings me back to Apple products. Linux does some amazing things but it always feels clunky. Windows gets the job done, but there’s little in the way of style or class. Steve’s vision and insistence on perfection raised the bar for all technology companies.

And for that, I say thank you.