How to pay homage to Steve Jobs and Apple as the company turns 30?
I certainly cant add onto the plaudits being handed out by the millions. These days everyone loves Steve. Steves even bigger than Bill, who is plenty big in his own right.
Steve came up with the earthshaking concept that high-tech products didnt have to be butt-ugly and they should work when you turned on the power. This novel concept was original when the company was founded and has not been duplicated since.
But how to pay my respects to the product that made sense of mice and has continued to grow into a family of products that will turn an entire generation deaf? “Say what? I cant hear you” is sure to become the common greeting of the current crop of teenagers.
Then I remembered that my thanks to Steve was sitting down somewhere in my cellar.
Or the agent of my potential homage, I should say. For down there amid the old boxes of decaying magazines (remember print?), exercise equipment still in like-new condition, and the flotsam of any New England cellar, was my first computer.
Somewhere down there was a 1982 Apple IIe. A IIe complete with monitor that stood proudly on two massive floppy drives. A IIe with a Hayes 300-baud internal modem that once drove me crazy trying to flick the little switches to make the thing work. A IIe with a couple of expansion boards and some other stuff that I no longer remember.
If I could find that Apple personal computer and get the thing to start, Id say, “Yes, that Steve was no fool after all. He did what he promised and my congratulations go to him, even if he does continue to wear those black turtlenecks at an age when tweeds and smoking jackets are more suitable.”
I found it in the far corner over by the backup sump pump. This would be a real test of a real machine. A delicate system preserved in museum quality conditions? Forget that. This was a box sitting open to the elements. Dust, humidity, freezing temperatures when the furnace conked out, all the pieces were there to mess up the strongest power supply, the beefiest microprocessor.
Ill describe my scientific testing: I carried all the pieces up to the kitchen counter, plugged everything in and hit the on button.
Actually, an on switch, on an add-on power outlet made by Dana. I dont remember what that was for, maybe it conditioned the power. I know it had a couple of outlets in the back.
Anyways, the screen lit up and the disk drive whirled before settling on the A: drive waiting for something. That something was software, of course, and I had none.
I remember doing a review of AppleWorks which was sort of an integrated office product for the IIe. AppleWorks, like many Apple products, led the way in what office suites would become. Alas, I had no software to put into those tough disk drives waiting for 5.25-inch floppies, which I doubt are still manufactured.
But the computer worked. Why Steve Jobs turned his back on computers that you could open up yourself and stuff add-in boards into is another story. Why he has cultivated the art of distance from his loyal supporters and broader audience is also another story. Why he was sent to the desert away from Apple, only to return a wiser man, is also another story.
But Steve and company (and you really shouldnt forget the rest of the company, especially in the case of the IIe) came up with a nice-looking box that was built in 1982 and started up after sitting winter after winter in a New England cellar, and for that I thank them and offer my congratulations on thirty years in the business.
eWEEK magazine editor in chief Eric Lundquist can be reached at [email protected]