Bleeding Seven Colors

My first meaningful computing experience was on an Apple IIe in grade school. From the moment I first used the machine I was hooked. I’d find ways to stay in from recess, and stay after school, to play the Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium’s “Oregon Trail” or “Number Munchers.” I even had a subscription to ENTER Magazine, for as long as it ran. Friends and I, on their IIgs’ and IIcs, would dutifully type in the BASIC programs that they printed, just to see a moire pattern or explore a very limited dungeon. And oh. my. god. Print Shop. I would have borne Brøderbund’s children, if I’d only known where babies came from.

The summer before my seventh grade year my grandmother died, and explicitly left me her car. Being well below driving age, and with my parents apparently in need of a peach-colored 1979 Mercury Zephyr, a trade was made. A car for a computer. I was ecstatic, at least until I found out what they were planning to get me: A PC XT clone. The first time I turned it on my heart broke. It just sat there, waiting for a DOS disk. There was no BASIC in ROM.

In time, it became my second love. After all, it did have a turbo switch and four-color CGA. I wrote to Epson Corporation noting that the PC seemed to have shipped without BASIC of any sort, and asked if I could be sent a copy. A very kind person obliged me, and a copy of the Epson BASIC interpreter, as well as a hand-copied manual for it, arrived in the mail. It didn’t take me long to be all about PCs, even though PrintMaster Plus wasn’t quite up to Print Shop standards.

You never forget your first love, though, and all throughout high school, all throughout college, and even now, really cool stuff was found on an Apple. My first desktop publishing was in Aldus Pagemaker on a Macintosh II, and my first laser printer was a LaserWriter IINT. My first network was LocalTalk. My first real time multiuser network game was a port of Nettrek to the Macintosh. My first network troubleshooting was finding why the LocalTalk network would freeze in the middle of Nettrek. My first multimedia creation was in HyperCard, and, soon after, Macromedia Director, on a IIlc, importing video from a VHS camera.

Every day I pick up and twirl the old Apple II 80-column card I have on my desk, as I think.

So many of my own computing firsts had Apple in and around them, but it wasn’t really about the technology. The ideas themselves, instilled in all of Apple’s products, rubbed off on me. Simplicity. Being passionate. Having a deep understanding of what your work is about. Being creative, and letting creativity flow from experience. Trusting your gut.

Loving what you do.

Not settling.

These are Steve Jobs’ ideas, and for as simple as they are they’re very uncommon. I’m happy that I think I got the messages.

I hope that I can pass them on.

“Design is a funny word. Some people think design means how it looks. But of course, if you dig deeper, it’s really how it works. The design of the Mac wasn’t what it looked like, although that was part of it. Primarily, it was how it worked. To design something really well, you have to get it. You have to really grok what it’s all about. It takes a passionate commitment to really thoroughly understand something, chew it up, not just quickly swallow it. Most people don’t take the time to do that.”  Steve Jobs, Wired 4.02

1 thought on “Bleeding Seven Colors”

  1. “My first network troubleshooting was finding why the LocalTalk network would freeze in the middle of Nettrek.” Isn’t that how we all learned networking? Granted, for me it was DOOM on Ethernet, but the same applies…

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