Thank You Steve Jobs
My parents and I moved to the United States in 1979, when I was 10. I’m what you’d called FOB: a “fresh-off-the-boat” immigrant who is MIT (Made in Taiwan). The first few years were tough for my family, caused in part by the then declining domestic and global economy. I also didn’t speak a word of English when I first arrived in the US, so it was trying at times to fit in, especially because sometimes I couldn’t tell whether people were laughing at me or with me.
Throughout primary school, I stayed away from the Apple II computers that were available at school because they intimidated me. It seemed like there were a lot of typing that you had to do to get anything done, and when my friends tried to explain to me what you could do with a computer, I didn’t really comprehend due to my limited grasp of the English language. Floppy disks were always fun as a makeshift Frisbee, but I was never invited back to a friend’s house after I tossed ‘Missile Command’ into the fireplace. A few of my friends did really cool stuff making their computer show colors synchronized with sound (by writing code, as I later learned), but the cooler the stuff they did, the more I shied away from computers.
In 1984, my parents saved up enough money to buy me a Macintosh without me asking because my mom saw some researchers using it in the lab at SUNY at Buffalo and she thought it might be good for me. That was of course the first model of the Mac. My mom put it in the living room because there wasn’t enough room in my bedroom for it. So there it was, next to the TV, and my journey in technology began on that Mac.
At first, I used that Mac (whose screen was in black and white) to write term papers using MacWrite. Then, I used MacPaint to illustrate stuff. I even played a game, Zork, which was a choose-your-adventure game. In our humble home, through colorful autumns, chilly blizzards, and sweltering East Coast summers, my computing world opened up… with my trusty Mac’s graphical user interface. I had access to the power of computing in the same way my technical friends had, except I didn’t need to remember commands.
I don’t know when the switch came for me and I gained the courage to move from a user of computers to a developer and now, a producer, of computer software. Since 1984, the computing world has changed dramatically. I’ve also had an interesting path going from a Mac user, to a developer and marketer of Windows software at Microsoft, to starting my own company where my primary computing device now is a MacBook Pro.
A year ago, on my son’s 2-year birthday, I bought him his first Apple device – an iPad. He had learned how to do basic things like browsing YouTube on my Mac from when he was 18-months old, and I figured that the touch device would be better for him to navigate given his hand-eye coordination at that point. Of course, my mother needed to have an iPad, too, so it was fun to see the two generations, separated by nearly 70 years of life experiences, both using the iPad with ease from the minute the beautifully designed boxes were opened.
You can say a lot about what Steve Jobs has done for Apple, the economy, American leadership in technology, innovation, etc. But for me, his impact is deeply personal. During his first tenure, he made it possible for me to enter a new field; one in which… thirty years later, I’m still in. In his second tenure, he introduced a new paradigm that brought the power of computing to new generations of people, my 70-year old mom and my 2-year old son, enabling them to connect effortlessly, and look very cool while doing it.
Both times, he did it via design; his designs broke down the barriers between people, devices, information, and technology. They gave people around the world a common platform to admire and use, connect, learn, and be entertained. I doubt I would be in the position I’m in today if it weren’t for his vision, successful execution, and attention to details.
Thank you, Steve Jobs. I wish you the very best.