daily kaddish: for Steve Jobs

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From Erin

I’m writing this post on a MacBook Pro from 2009. I recorded it on a MacBook Pro from 2007. I moved it between machines on an Airport network. FedEx is bringing me a 2011 MacBook Pro in a few days. This project’s podcasts have also been recorded on my iPad, my iPhone, and one of Mira’s two Macs. I’ve done most of my study of the Kaddish text by listening to recordings Reb Deb and Mira made for me on the iPod Classic I keep in my car.

I’ve been using Macs since 1986, and I bought one of my own for the first time in 1994—a PowerBook 180. Between work and home I’ve probably had thirty Macs by now.

I’ve helped countless friends switch to Mac, and a few years ago I even got my mom to switch to Mac. Mom liked it right away. My dad’s grumbling switched seamlessly from “why would you want one of those?” to “what do you mean you’re taking it with you?” to “yeah, get me one, too” in the space of about a week. They’ve had them for two years now, and every so often, one of them finds me on iChat to ask about a problem, and I use screen sharing to connect to their laptops in Montana from mine in California, take control, and figure out what’s going wrong. I don’t mind being their technical support department now that it’s an easy job.

Steve Jobs’ obituary had been written thousands of times before he got around to dying. I think the heap of Apple equipment I listed above will do just fine as mine.

Oh, and one more thing—

Thanks, Steve. Rest in peace.

From Mira

I drove home tonight from campus in San Jose, past Apple headquarters, through Silicon Valley northward to my home in San Francisco — and on the radio was the announcement of Steve Jobs’ death. And okay, we all knew it was going to come. I mean, pancreatic cancer. He lived so long with it. My dad only lasted three months after his own diagnosis. Steve Jobs lived miraculously long—and yet, he died so young!

Driving past Apple tonight, Steve Jobs’ death felt entirely personal. Like losing a member of the extended family. Losing one of our own. An icon to the vibrancy of this innovative little high tech community between San Francisco and San Jose that so many friends are a part of.

I remember who converted me to Apple. He was a Turkish anthropologist who used to help me every time my IBM would wheeze and whimper and crash. He’d fix what I had, and insist that I switch over.

“All those icons,” I would complain, “they’re so pre-literate.” Apple’s icons made Macs feel like toys to me. Like the machine just wasn’t taking itself seriously. And at the time, I took myself very seriously.

“No,” he finally said one day. “They’re post-literate.”

Post-literate I could deal with, and so I switched. It was sometime in the ’80s. In a galaxy far, far away. Or that’s what it felt like, anyway. And I got hooked. And playful ended up being a very good thing.

So. In addition to everything else, Steve Jobs gave us those neat little pictographic icons—symbols we clutter our screens with, that have become familiar and folksy and friends. He made our high tech gadgets downright animistic with these little icon-critters inhabiting our screenscape. I remember having been so offended at first, especially by the little Trashcan. But now it feels as real and necessary as the can that sits next to my desk (only more environmentally friendly, in that I’m no longer chucking major wads of lined yellow legal paper into the non-virtual can at my side). (Instead, my yellow legal pad is now another icon that inhabits my iPhone).

So. This is me thanking Steve Jobs not just for the universe of need he created for his beautiful machines, but also for filling those machines with animistic little icon-critters. He changed the screen interface/vista from dull uniform grayish-green with that horrid flashing IBM cursor to delightful inhabited landscapes of colors and techie creatures.

Actually, he changed just about everything, didn’t he?

About erin

Erin Vang, PMP, BMus, MMus, is Owner and Principal Pragmatist of the consultancy Global Pragmatica LLC®, offering custom JMP scripting, localization program management, and facilitative leadership services. She is also an orchestral horn player who freelances in the San Francisco Bay Area and plays assorted brass for the celebrated dance bands Midnight Smørgåsbord and contraPtion. More about Erin…
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4 Responses to daily kaddish: for Steve Jobs

  1. erin says:

    Yes, he did, change just about everything, and the hundreds of patents to his name are only the visible tip of the iceberg. Mind you, he did none of this alone. He borrowed good ideas from everywhere he found them, and he hired (and tormented) great people.

    But here’s what he did do alone: insist on greatness and hold a huge company accountable for achieving greatness, over and over again. Sure, there were some flops, and he made or signed off on some decisions that I found mighty irritating at the time, but those flops have achieved their proper status as footnotes set in 8-point type, and most of the irritating decisions have become evolutionary moments that we grew to appreciate in time.

    And it’s not just the tangible products—the devices, the operating systems and programs, their packaging, the stores—but also the intangibles. The fact that Apple Tech Support really does get your problem solved, without torturing you with hours of phone tag, condescending geeks, and blue screens of death. The way repairs are handled efficiently and for a fair price. The way they make it up to you when something goes wrong—like the time they comped my $1300 repair (after my dog and I showered my MacBook Pro in hot coffee) to make it up to me that getting it right took them three weeks.

    The way those post-literate icons never condescended to you—how they instead empowered you to work efficiently on what you’re good at, because the computer was good at handling the rest.

  2. erin says:

    A comment received by email:

    Hello Erin,

    We do not know each other, but I was moved personally by your article “daily kaddish: for steve jobs“.

    My wife has been using an iPod touch and iPad for a couple of years now and keeps telling me our next computer should be a mac. I feel like you said your dad did in your piece about Steve Jobs. I think your experience as you described all the apple products you have had, and are using, has caused me to rethink what kind of computer I should get next. While I was working at Stanford University for the department of Defense many years ago I used to be annoyed that the Apple company was giving students at Stanford U computers so when they graduated and bought one they would buy a Mac rather than an IBM pc which was what most everyone else was using. I guess it is now time for me to consider switching to a Mac Book Pro since my son was showing off his new Mac Book Pro a few months ago and he grew up with a regular IBM style computers. If he can do it, and considering your comments about your dad, I guess I can learn some new tricks too. Do you think it will be very hard for me to switch over from a Dell Inspiron 530 to a Mac Book Pro?

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts about Steve Jobs.

    Sincerely,
    D.B.
    Bakersfield, CA

    • erin says:

      Hi, D.B., and thanks for writing!

      No, I don’t think you’ll have much trouble. My dad—who really didn’t want me to be right about how much he would like his Mac—is a good example for you, all right. He does so much more on his Mac than he ever dreamed of doing on his old Windows box, I almost don’t recognize him.

      Anyway, I recommend getting your new Mac at an Apple Store and taking advantage of all the help setting it up that’s available in-store. You might also want to sign up for the one-to-one training plan so you can get some extra help moving all your stuff over from the Dell and learning your way around your new Mac. I recommend using all the Mac apps that you get for free—Mail, iCal, Address Book, and so on—even if you happen to have web-based apps (such as Google Mail, calendar, and and contacts) already set up and working for you. Within a few days of using Mail, iCal, and Address Book, you’ll never know why you put up with Outlook all those years, and you won’t miss any web apps either.

      Once you get all your stuff moved over and you’re feeling comfortable with the basic stuff you do regularly (email, web-browsing, etc.), start spending a little time exploring. Give iPhoto a try. Play with Garage Band. If you’ve thought up about setting up a website, try iWeb. Try Pages and Numbers instead of Word and Excel, if you use those. Poke around. Have fun. Don’t worry about everything getting all messed up if you do something wrong—that’s a fear you’ll eventually leave on the side of the street—along with that Dell that is going to need a new home.

      Good luck! Have fun. Don’t worry—and drop me another line in a few months and tell me how you’re doing with your Mac.

      Best,
      Erin

      • erin says:

        D.B. replied:

        Thank you for your responses to my original questions.

        After reading your initial blog posting my wife and I visited an Apple store in Reno, Nevada, and I spent a good deal of time with a specialist there discussing an iMac computer and many of my personal technical concerns. I left feeling very confident that the iMac we were being shown was the machine to buy and I will be buying it at the end of the month. Your comments helped me solidify the decision to proceed with the switch to an iMac from my current Dell PC.

        Also, your suggestion to use the one-to-one training I will also use.

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