Thinking Different: The Real Legacy of Steve Jobs

The first computer our family ever owned was an Apple IIc.  I was around 12 years old when the white box appeared in our home, and truth be told we didn’t use it much.  Other than typing up school papers once in a while and printing them on the rickety printer with its perforated-edged paper it wasn’t quite clear why we needed a computer in our home.  After all, my math teacher at the time still insisted that we do all of our homework with carbon paper so we could keep a copy.  But there was something about that Apple with the little rainbow Apple logo there on the monitor that was accessible, friendly, even then.

When I went to college there were only a few students with their own computers.  Big, chunky, heavy monitors that took up an entire dorm sized desk and ran MS-DOS.  But, when I bought my own computer my sophomore year with the money I had “inherited” from my Great Aunt ($1,000) when she passed away I knew right away I wanted the Mac Classic.  Right out of the box a Mac worked as soon as you plugged it in.  The little Mac OS smile popped up and even on that tiny black and white screen you felt connected – not to the net – there was no real public internet yet – but to the computer itself.  I named it R2D2.  Yes I really did.  And I was not alone.  Everyone who owned a Mac named their computers, felt protective and connected in a way that PC owners did not.

But something else was true and that was that choosing to buy an Apple Computer made you different.  It was for “creative” types (non-Apple people didn’t say that as a good thing), you were not a serious person – a person meant for, or was in, business.  Of course those people spent hours trying to locate their files on some god-forsaken directory, or spent hours installing and figuring out how to set up their computers from the get go.  But still, that perception lingered.

When my boyfriend (now my husband) went to buy his first computer I went with him to make sure he bought a Mac Powerbook.  In color!  That’s how I knew I could marry him.  (Also, he looks a lot like Steve Jobs – A LOT – but I’m assuming that was just subliminal.)  And so it went.  Got the iMac G3 in Strawberry when that came out, a PowerBook G4 (again with inherited money when my grandfather died.  Again $1000), then another iMac, a MacBook and now a MacBook Pro.  And for most of that time people still looked down at the Mac.  Mac people were a “cult”; artists, writers, etc.  And Mac people came to embrace that.  When Apple launched their Think Different campaign they embraced that too.  I used to love walking by that giant billboard in SoHo of Jim Henson and Kermit the Frog with the Apple logo and the Think Different slogan.  When you owned a Mac you really did feel different – in all the best ways.

Then of course the rest of the world caught up with Apple.   The iPod, the iPhone, the iPad started making converts of so many.  Apple offered even the most conservative of computer users a way to embrace the connectivity and personalization of our new world.  People who for years interrogated me about my choice to use a Mac are now toting around a Mac Air or an iPad like it’s an extension of their body.  I’ll never forget the one family member who bought his daughter a Macbook a few years ago – the first Apple computer they had EVER owned – and he said to me with a look of total shock, “You know you just plug it in and it’s ready to go?” Yes, of course I knew that – I also knew that those who are the “creators” – the big thinkers, the ones who push limits or turn things inside out and backwards – finally started to feel vindicated.

There are so many people speculating about what Apple will look like without Steve Jobs‘ incredible vision and brilliance.  And it’s a real worry of course.  But I also think about how he turned so many ordinary people into daring creators through the ease and accessibility of the iPad and the Mac – how the iTunes store has given little ol’ me the power to podcast to thousands of listeners – or anyone the ability to record, edit and create films and music with ease – or entertain or just participate through an app on the iPad.  He has enabled and empowered kids to become the next visionaries through his products and design.  An entire generation of kids who are pushed to think differently – that’s the legacy I most want to see fulfilled.

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