“It’s a toy.”, My father said flatly.
We were peering through the window of a small, Mom and Pop computer store. The Macintosh had recently been introduced and was on display. “Let’s go in and look at it.”, I insisted. Up close, it was unlike any computer I had ever seen. Rather than trying to recall arcane commands to type into a command line, it had a thing called a ‘mouse’. You simply clicked on menus and dragged windows around and it did what you wanted. It was almost effortless. It was phenomenal! I wanted it. Badly. I was hoping my father would feel the same way and realize he needed this machine for his accounting business.
“Computers are supposed to be difficult. That's what keeps all the dummies away.” My father used DOS. He believed in the command line. For him it was the bright, fluorescent, dividing line that kept the less skilled at bay. Most importantly it kept them from messing up his stuff. He did not see the need.
The following year, I began at the University of Illinois. Computer labs were on the ground floor of nearly every dorm and they were filled with Macs! My major was computer science though, so most of my time was spent on drab Unix boxes, staring at that soulless, blinking, command line.
Despite my great appreciation for programming, I had no talent for it. I had a tough time just getting my programs to compile, much less run. Rather than sifting through reams of green-bar paper, in search of an errant semi-colon, I found myself spending hours on the Mac, creating posters for my fraternity. I would nudge type and pictures around the page for hours, until they were just so.
This did nothing for my computer science grades. It seems my professors had no appreciation for my beautiful, fraternity posters.
“There’s a major called ‘graphic design’ that I’d like to try.”, I was on the phone with my father. For me, graphic design meant that I could do what I spent most of my time doing, while actually earning a degree. Even though I had waited until nearly the end of my third year, my father was understanding. To my surprise, both of my parents had quietly been expecting it. “We were just wondering what took you so long.”
Audwin began, “I need to get a new computer and...” “Get a Mac.”, I interrupted.
“Yes, yes but I’m looking for something that will...”
“Get a Mac.”
“...Look man, most of us don’t have careers in design so we need computers that are...”
“Get a Mac.”
“...You know, as much as you hype Apple, I really hope Steve Jobs is paying you well.”
“He is not. But you should get one if for no other reason, than to avoid hearing me say, ‘you shoulda got a Mac’ whenever you ask me what’s wrong with your computer.”
He got a Mac. As did nearly all of my close friends and family.
Including eventually, my father.
My friend Heather, posted this on her facebook wall:
no one wants to go to the mac store and have the genius say, "yep. its dead." grieving now for Sterling Langston Kwame Ireland. my beautiful macbook pro who drowned on saturday. they are trying to retrieve his data now.
Steve Jobs passed later that evening. I can’t begin to understand the connection between the death of a laptop and the death of the man largely responsible for its creation. I do however, understand the bond between a Macintosh and it’s owner. Much like our childhood toys, they are imbued with something, making them more than mere objects. We cherish them. We argue with them and sometimes we give them names like, Sterling Langston Kwame Ireland.
And when they are gone, we are sad.