Saturday, October 15, 2011

For Steve

Ten days ago, I was incredibly wracked with grief over the passing of a man I've never known.

A notification popped up on my iPhone and my heart sunk. For just a moment, everything stopped. All the ambient sounds around me faded out into a quiet buzz as I read, "Apple says former CEO and founder Steve Jobs has died". I shouted to my husband who was downstairs in the family room playing Wii with our son. He paused the game after I told him the first time. "What?!?!?" he said. I repeated the news. He stood there for a moment, silent, while he absorbed the gravity of the words he had just heard.

This news came on the heels of Apple's unveiling of their new products and features, most notably the iPhone 4S. Around the technology community, the news of the 4S came as somewhat of a disappointment. Everyone had planned on heralding the reveal of the iPhone 5, but we didn't get the 5. We got the 4S. Even I felt disenchanted. After over two years with my iPhone 3Gs, I was ready to trade up to the almighty iPhone 5. I didn't want a 4S, I wanted a 5. I had spent my afternoon on October 4th watching several simultaneous liveblogs from the Apple event on my Macbook Pro in my kitchen while I cooked and cleaned, waiting with bated breath to see my new iPhone 5. I felt let down when there was no 5. The 4S was dazzling, a stunning revision of the phone that I've known and loved for two years and of course I wanted it...I just wished it were called a 5 instead. Despite my lack of love for the model name, I still knew that I'd be one of the many crazy people counting down the hours until midnight Pacific time on October 7th so I could snag one for both myself and one for Mr. Felicia. I was completely thrilled and overwhelmed with awe by the new option of a 64GB model. I reflected on my Facebook status that "My first computer had 64kB and took up a quarter of the desk in my childhood bedroom. My next phone will have 64GB and fit in my pocket. I know this makes me a complete nerd, but when I think about how far technology has come in my lifetime it brings tears to my eyes. It's just so damn cool."

I will confess: I am a nerd. I've been a nerd since I was a little girl. My first computer was a Commodore 64 that my parents bought me for Christmas. Well, I'm pretty sure that my Dad got that for me more than my mother. My Dad was and is still what they call now an "early adopter". He has always loved electronics and he enjoyed having the latest, greatest toys. My C64 had a cassette tape "drive" for memory, and Dad got me a TV that could be used as a monitor from Montgomery Ward. I wish I could show you a picture of me opening that gift. I was so was geeked out that I ugly-cried in my big, hideous, early 80's glasses. I spent hours on end for days sitting at my C64, plunking out tedious code just to see an animation of a ball bouncing across the screen for a few seconds. I adored that computer. As I learned more, I began to create my own little programs and I was incredibly proud of my programming. Those childhood frenzies of creation and errors, troubleshooting and testing made me feel inspired and brilliant and confident. By the time I got to high school, the computers at school were DOS-based PC's. In school, I learned how to do a little bit more programming in BASIC. That computer class felt like slipping on an old pair of Levi's. In my entire high school education, Miss Letourneau's computer class was my favorite and it was by far the one that came the easiest to me. In college, I helped pay for my tuition by working on campus in my school's computer lab. The machines in the computer lab ran on Windows 3.0. In the computer lab, I helped students and faculty with their computer questions ("Where is the any key?" "Why doesn't my keyboard have Roman numerals?") and tinkered with Windows. I've pretty much been a PC girl for the bulk of my geekery, but I have a bit of a confession to make: I never really loved Windows. The first time I saw it, I thought to myself "Basically, it makes a PC into a Macintosh" but I didn't say it out loud.

Throughout all of my schooling, my career after school, and into the current chapter of my life story as a stay at home mom, my nerdiness has served me well. I've adapted to and adopted new ideas, services, software and hardware. About six months ago, I ditched my trusty and clunky Dell laptop for a reliable and sexy, slick Macbook Pro. This thing is gorgeous. Without even realizing it, I had "switched" from PC to Mac. I didn't intend to switch teams. I had used a Mac sporadically when I worked for a print brokerage in my late 20's. I didn't think of using the Macbook as a change in loyalty, it was just a machine. I was fairly surprised when I noticed how much I loved the Macbook. I'm the girl who happily and quickly popped out of Windows to use the DOS shell for years. I'm the girl who used to sarcastically call Macs "Fisher Price Computers" because of their simplistically styled UI. And then I used and grew accustomed to that simple, clean, sleek, artistic, elegant UI and I fell hopelessly in love with it.

Ten days ago when Steve Jobs' passing was announced, the corner of my heart that's shaped like an apple cried. I credit Steve Jobs with bringing technology to the masses and making it beautiful. I credit him with revolutionizing the way people consume media content. Steve Jobs took a bookcase full of my CD's and put them in the palm of my hand. He gave me the ability to buy the one song that I really liked from other CD's for a dollar. (I refuse to admit, to myself or to anyone else, how much money I've spent on music via iTunes.) I'm pretty sure that Amazon looked at the iPod and iTunes and thought, "You know, I think we could do that to books too!" and thus, the Kindle was born. Steve Jobs: architect of the intuitive interface, father of innovation, genius.

As a person with half decent geek street cred, the imagination, inspiration, and innovation that Jobs brought to the world floods my heart with both awe and reverence. The emotional rollercoaster of the first week of October 2011 came full circle for me late last night as I experienced and explored the physical details, abilities, speed, and breathtaking beauty of my new iPhone 4S, which I dubbed Koko B. HardWare. I dressed him in a glittery aubergine suit fitting of the flair and showmanship of the WWF star he was named after. The sheer volume his 64GB of capacity awed me. His features and capabilities were even more amazing and overwhelming than they were via conference liveblog. I gazed down at this incredible feat of technology, design and development in the palm of my hand and the reality hit me as tears filled my eyes: the object that I held was Steve's swan song. It was the very last unimagined by the public but suddenly desired and instantly indispensable innovation that Mr. Jobs would ever create for the world. It was then that I recognized that it is quite fitting and not at all a disappointment that this permutation of the iPhone was not named 5. This iPhone is the 4S: For Steve.

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