I’d been awake for about 20 minutes before my iPhone blared into life; Wake Up Boo filled the bedroom, and I leapt off the bed to switch it off before my wife woke. As is my habit, I flicked the phone off airplane mode, and gave my e-mails a cursory look.
I remember my first encounter with a Mac vividly. I was still in my teens – just – and in my first year of an English Literature degree. I’d been persuaded by a friend – whose name I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve long forgotten – to see what I could do to get the college magazine back on its feet after a disastrous year. There, sat in the cubbyhole that masqueraded as the magazine office, was a Mac. No hard drive, tiny greyscale screen. That tiny little box changed my life. We wrote in Word and laid out in Aldus Pagemaker on that little box. It did what we had several expensive typesetting machines and a handfuls of PCs to do back at Felix, Imperial College’s student magazine. I had the power to publish on a desk, in one box. I was hooked.
When the news came, years ago now, that Steve Jobs had pancreatic cancer, I felt a chill. The last time I heard that diagnosis, it was applied to my Dad. The oncologist had looked each of us in the eye, and then handed me a piece of paper with the number 3 written on it. “Years?” I asked. “Months,” he replied. Dad beat the odds. He made it to 9 months.
Within weeks of that horrible day, I had bought myself my first Mac of Jobs’ second era at Apple: one of those much-mocked clamshell iBooks, in graphite. I bought it so I could work from Suffolk when I needed to, and my brother bought a digital video camera so we could capture some of those last, happy days. And so I discovered iMovie, and a new set of opportunities for creation, for recording and sharing opened up. Within a few months of my Dad’s death, I was blogging, and using that to post the first pictures from my very first digital camera. 2001 changed my life in many ways, but many of those changes were mediated through that toilet-seat iBook.
I’m sat on a train somewhere between West Sussex and London, typing these words on an iPad. (You know that whole “iPad is for consumption not creation meme”? I never got the memo.) It’s given to very few to change the lives of millions in a positive way. It’s given to even fewer to provide the world with beautiful, functional tools that change our relationship to both our own creativity and the creativity of others. Jobs looked at the digital revolution and dreamed of using it to do things better, to live better, to make things better. And he did that. What a life.
Thank you, Steve. I can honestly say that your work made my life a better place, and continues to do so every single day.