I Shook Hands With Steve Jobs
I think Mac computers are magical machines. Wizards. They are my Merlins. I became a Mac fanatic. I still am. It all started in 1985, when I was 45 years old and on a trek in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho. My husband and I, along with our friends, Carl and Mary, were hiking up to a lake named only by it's elevation, 8522. It's so remote, you have to climb straight up along the side of a waterfall to get there and there's no trail. I usually brought up the rear, but It never bothered me because I had time to day dream and usually to trip on some minor rock or stick.
We reached the lake and attacked our lunches. While sitting on a sunny rock and reveling in the view, Carl asked me about my art career. “ My painting is going really well, I replied, but every time I have to get out marketing information to galleries and art consultants, it takes me three days to type my resume, two days to type a letter, and way too much time to type labels for my presentation slides.”
Carl took another bite out of his sandwich and said, “ You know, Sandy, there is this new thing out there called a Mac computer.I think that is what you might need. It can copy and paste, and you can fix all your mistakes before you print. Plus, you can use the same form over and over and make as many changes as you’d like."
What a revelation. I wanted it and I wanted it now. When I got back to Los Angeles, I went to a computer store and asked a salesman about a Mac computer.
“Can it copy and paste?“
“Uh, I think so.” He stammered.
“You THINK so? You don’t know?”
“ Well, not really. It’s kinda new...”
I was very frustrated because I felt my nirvana was so close. But I thought to myself, I need this thing so I’m going for it. I brought my new Mac home, pulled it out of the box, listened to the instruction tape and went to town. Voila! I immediately removed the icon for the internal hard drive. Gone! I had no idea where it was or what to do. So, I called an eleven-year-old son of a friend and he very easily located my hard drive. I decided that I’d better start reading the manual.
I am obsessive. About my art. About my cooking. About my lipsticks. And when I want to learn something I dig down deep and get into it. But my computer had me baffled, so I went to a computer store to ask for help. A young man there suggested, “Why don’t you become a member of The Los Angeles Macintosh Users Group?” I had no idea what that was, but I was desperate to learn this thing. I joined the group but didn’t understand three quarters of what they were saying. But the members were very patient with me and would answer my really basic questions like: how to save, how to copy, how to anything. I was going to learn this thing!
I also subscribed to magazines like MacUser and read them cover to cover. In one of the regular columns, I saw a little blurb about a labeling program offered by Silicon Beach Software. It sounded exactly like what I needed for my art slides and 4x5 transparencies. So, I called the company and ended up speaking with the president, Charlie Jackson. I asked him when his program was coming out? He said, “Hopefully in six months.” I told him I was desperate and that I needed it now. He then asked me if I’d like to be a beta tester? ”Sure!” I said, having no idea what that meant. (Was it something nuclear?) So he sent me his labeling program and I started taking notes and using it. To show you how basic my knowledge was, I didn’t know that you hit “return” for “enter.”
But I began filling my notebooks with questions and criticisms. It was just what they needed and when the software was released, they even thanked me on the front page of the manual. Pretty cool.
Meanwhile, at home, I became a Mac Evangelist and tried to get my husband and kids into computers. NO! They would have none of it. My husband said he preferred a quill pen and ink pot. My daughter was happy with her word processor, and my son could have cared less.
My son, Matthew, once had a very long history report due for a class. Trying to entice him, I offered to type it for him on the computer, print it and he would not have to use the typewriter. So of course, typical of my son, he waited until the night before it was due. I typed what seemed like a hundred pages on the computer and then hit “Print.” Nothing happened. The computer crashed. Every thing was gone. Vanished. My son’s lengthy paper was kaput! At 11:30 PM, in tears, I frantically called a friend to find out what had happened. He asked if I’d saved the report while I was typing it.? “Uh, no.“ I admitted.
Was my son upset? That’s an understatement. Fortunately, he has one of those remarkable memories because he was able to recall the entire report, word for word, and he dictated it to me. I printed it out successfully, but he never wanted to use a computer again!
Fortunately, his disdain for computers didn’t last. Many years later, Matthew worked for a company that did the advertising for Apple. One of the fringe benefits was that he was able to get me into Apple headquarters during a Christmas vacation.
My son, my husband and I wandered around the Apple campus. I just loved seeing anything Apple. I gushed when I met anyone who worked there.
At lunch time, our son insisted that we had to try the Apple cafeteria. There was every kind of food you could imagine, from exotic vegan curries to peanut butter and jelly. As we were chowing down, my son whispered, “Look who’s sitting across from you!” It was Steve Jobs! “Mom, you’ve got to introduce yourself.” My husband chimed in, “ This is a once in a lifetime opportunity!” But I was intimidated because I knew of Steve’s reputation as being one very tough customer. Somehow, I pulled myself together and when he stood up to leave, I walked over to him, extended my hand and told him that he made “the most insanely great computers,” and thanked him for it. He very graciously said, “Thank you,” and shook my hand.
I shook hands with Steve Jobs.
I miss his genius. He made such a glorious and positive difference in my life.
And I shook Steve Jobs’ hand.