I never met Steve Jobs, but he changed the course of my life.
When I entered college in the mid-’80s, I did so as an Electrical Engineering/Computer Science (EECS) student. My high school counselor noted that I had taken our school’s computer classes and told me, “Computer programming would be a good field to go into.” The actual extent of my programming experience had more to do with designing Lode Runner levels than learning BASIC, but, it was true, I liked computers for some reason. A career in programming seemed like the thing to pursue.
During my first year of college I stumbled upon one of the university’s Apple computer labs. The room had a few Lisas and perhaps a dozen Macs—the original 128K Mac, back when they still called them Macintoshes. A student was using one of the Macs to do something—work on a flyer—and I was amazed by how he was doing it. He was using something I had never seen before—a mouse—to freely move the cursor around the screen. The cursor opened menus and panels to change objects’ patterns and shades. The program had different fonts that looked nothing like the glowing green pixel-type I hammered out in command-line rows in my programming classes.
I asked the guy what program he was using. He said, “This is MacDraw, and this computer is a Macintosh.”
He continued working on his flyer—putting a grey box behind a white box to make a drop shadow, making type larger and bold for a headline, and moving elements around on screen. It was astounding. I watched him print the flyer to a LaserWriter in the corner of the lab and caught a glimpse of the output before he picked it up. I’d never seen a computer produce anything like it before.
In those few minutes, my relationship with computers changed.
The next day, I signed up for a Macintosh training session, which after a few minutes of sitting down in front of a Mac seemed unnecessary. I learned to use MacWrite, MacPaint, and MacDraw. I started doing freelance word-processing and graphics editing by renting time on a classmate’s Mac. Unconsciously, I was entering the then-unnamed field of desktop publishing.
A few college quarters later, with a pointed question from my girlfriend—“Why are you studying computer programming when you don’t even enjoy it?”—my school’s EECS program and I parted ways. A year later, I was working as a word-processor/desktop publisher and taking graphic design courses. Twenty-five-plus years later, I am working as a graphic designer and still using Macs professionally and personally.
Graphic design existed before the Macintosh—but I wasn’t aware of it. When I saw the student using MacDraw to make a flyer, I didn’t know that people did things like that for a living. What I saw was someone using a computer to create something. And, the ease—the simplicity—of the Mac as a creative tool changed my view of computers from something to make things for to something to make things with.
I didn’t know who Steve Jobs was when I first saw the Mac. I don’t remember if I knew who Steve Jobs was when I first got a Macintosh Plus, or when I started working in desktop publishing, or when I started studying graphic design.
But, somewhere along the way I learned that it was Steve Jobs that made the first Macintosh so insanely great that it changed the course of my life.
And, for that I say thank you, Steve Jobs. And, thanks for all the good things you’ve given us.