How Steve Jobs Influenced Me as a Writer

| Hidden Dimensions

I knew this moment was coming. I didn’t expect it to happen so soon or so abruptly. The passing of Steve Jobs affected me more deeply than I thought it would and, last night, I could not write — only absorb and reflect. This morning, I can think more clearly about how Steve Jobs and Apple had strong, emotional influence on me and propelled me into a writing career. I’m ready to talk about it.

Back in 1996, Apple was in deep trouble. I was worried about the company I respected and admired.  Starting with an Apple II in 1978, I had never owned a computer that wasn’t built by Apple.  I suppose the bleakness of Apple’s prospects got me into a funk, and I realized I needed to reach out and write about my feelings.

Dreams“It’s worth it to give up who I am for who I can be.”

The best tribute I can give to Steve Jobs right now is to show you how his vision inspired me. Below is my first Internet editorial, and, looking back, it reminds me that dreams and a passion can be a powerful thing in one’s life. As a young physicist, I never thought I could become this passionate about a man, a product, a vision and a company. That changed. I never would have become the writer I am without the influence of Steve Jobs.

The following essay was published as “Dream to be Different” in Tidbits # 344, 9 Sep 1996.

Voltaire said that if there were no God, man would have to invent Him. In a lesser but just as strong and pervasive sense, if there were no Apple Computer, mankind would have to invent it, for we are dreamers, and dreamers look up to the sky, always searching, thinking of what could be.

What most analysts are doing when they analyze Apple is to look down into the murky swells of the business world. Sam Whitmore wrote in PC Week on July 22nd, 1996, a very calm and accurate accounting of Apple’s problems. An Apple fan couldn’t really complain about his thesis for it was even-tempered and to the business point. But the article, as all the articles that suppose to articulate Apple’s demise, overlooked something very important. Sam forgot that there are those who have never been afraid to be different or be outcasts. The dreamers, the writers, the artists, the scientists, all those people who look to the future and say “why not?” walk to the beat of a different drummer.

Now, with the further delay of MacOS 8, the most challenging task Apple has ever undertaken, it will be all too tempting, even for the Macintosh supporters, to start throwing rocks at Cinderella.

Do we ask more courage from Apple than we ask from ourselves?

Once upon a time, a man named Steve Jobs, filled with passion and fire depicted the PC users as human lemmings, walking off the cliff of mediocrity. No one liked being compared to a mindless creature, and indeed, Microsoft has made quite a good living by giving business people what they have dearly wanted most for the last ten years: respectability. The line that Windows 95 is “just as good as a Mac” is the anthem of those who, for years, never had the vision or courage to embrace something better. Microsoft’s strength is also its weakness.

There will always be those who are sparked by the glimmer of something just a little better, just a little cooler, just a little more inspiring. And there will always be Dilbert Managers who must exert their control by ignoring the advice of their technical people. Here’s an example from a computer weekly in 1991, article titled: “Reaction to 50 MHz 486 is lukewarm.” It goes on to quote a woman from Hughes Aircraft, “many of our users have more power than they need right now [with 386s]” A manager at Chevron said, “Right now we could justify the price only as a server.” To be sure, these people were using DOS, not a powerful GUI-based bit-mapped system that demanded considerable horsepower. (But the Macintosh IIfx at that time was delivering just that.) So where were these people looking? They were looking at their account balances.

Where are Macintosh users looking? Men like Douglas Adams and Arthur C. Clarke? The spirit of Apple Computer is that of excellence and adventure. It embraces the future and everything positive that the minds of men can conceive of. We’ve often paid a little more, but we paid the money out of our own pockets. Some of us make a living by day with Windows so we can spend our own money on something that captures our imagination in the evening.

Apple lost its way in recent years. Apple forgot about inspiration and wonder. It got caught in price wars, desperately seeking acceptance at any price. Now, Apple’s destiny is to be the best. Truly, there may only be 10 percent of the population that cares about the best. But if Apple gives up that 10 percent, there are those dreamers and entrepreneurs standing quietly in the wings waiting to take up the cause. We cannot predict what they will do, but the spirit of the dreamers who want something more will always be with us.

More than anything, we want Apple to know that. Truly, the best in us is also in Apple — Courage Under Fire.”

A few years later, I was chatting with a friend at Apple. We were talking about the fact that I could no longer write about my employer — I had achieved my dream by going to work for Apple. Lori mentioned that the essay I had written for Tidbits had brought tears to her eyes when she read it.

From that day forward, I knew that, someday, I would be writing again about the man and the company. Truly, the best in us is also in Apple.

Thank you Mr. Jobs.

Comments

Mike Weasner

Well said, John.  Steve influenced so many people in so many ways, and not just with hardware and software.  Hopefully, he will continue to be an inspiration for many generations to come.

mrmwebmax

+

Beautiful….

geoduck

Agreed. I also am a writer thanks to the Mac. DOS machines had writing apps but they were very kludgy. Smart typewriters came around but I could see they not what I was looking for. We had an Apple IIe and Appleworks worked well, but it wasn’t really enough. Then we got a Classic and I discovered Word, and various art and page layout programs. Suddenly I could write and not get bogged down in spelling or retyping stuff. I could draw a picture, write the text and put it all together in a flyer or brochure right there at my desk. Best of all everything worked together, the screen even looked like a drawing board or layout grid and I could just grab stuff and move it around. It was like I was doing it with card sheets and contact cement except I didn’t have to retype each time the words shifted. It was revolutionary.

I graduated as a Geologist but I went into IT because of the Mac. I dared to dream of writing books because of the Mac. I make films, and web sites, and art because of the Mac.

Here’s my eulogy for Steve Jobs

aardman

I never thought I would feel so sad over the passing of someone I had never met and who didn’t know me from Adam.  A lot of people I know are also just as surprised about the depth of their feelings.

The reason, I think, is that people find Steve’s life story so inspiring.  Here is the preeminent business leader of our time and he got to be where he is not because he worried about the usual things that CEOs worried about.  He didn’t really care about things like market share, or profit margins, or production costs.  He cared only about being able to do what he liked to do most, which is to design and build fantastically great devices, to do it the best way he can, and without compromising one bit on quality.

As a believer in the liberal arts and its role in advancing civilization, I am also sad that the most eloquent, most prominent, and most convincing advocate of the liberal arts is gone forever.

Terrin

I found myself crying, with real tears and all. I have never cried for any other person I didn’t know personally who died. The depth of my feelings over the matter really shocked me.

mhikl

Quote John: Sam forgot that there are those who have never been afraid to be different or be outcasts. The dreamers, the writers, the artists, the scientists, all those people who look to the future and say ?why not?? walk to the beat of a different drummer.
Just one quote of a number I shall be adding to my quote file.

This describes the conscious Apple followers who stand in respect and wonder at the style of this amazing company and its former leader. It is what many outside the understanding do not get so can’t appreciate.

Log-in to comment