I don’t know what to say about Steve Jobs that hasn’t already been said. As usual, John Gruber’s got a good perspective on Jobs’ resignation, so I’ll just redirect you there.
I never met Steve Jobs. I’m pretty sure nobody I know has ever met him, either. And yet it’s hard to think of many people who have had a greater impact on my life, indirectly or otherwise, than Jobs.
When I was about five, my dad, eager to spend less time at the office and, incidentally, more with his kid, packed a then-new Macintosh Quadra into the trunk of his Volkswagen GTI and drove it out to our house. His job required massive amounts of data entry from time to time, and he did the most he could to assuage the frustration of pounding away at a numpad by taking the work to the comfort of his home.
I couldn’t tell you when I first started poking and prodding at the machine, but I remember admiring it from a distance and thinking it was just fascinating. The color and lines of System 7 stood out to me. This wasn’t just some ugly, monospaced black-and-white terminal — this was years beyond the computers I’d known. DOS and Windows were machines, just tools for businesses, but the Mac was something else — and I wanted to dive in.
I’m sure I’d used a computer a couple times before that, but having one in the house meant I could (theoretically) spend as much time with it and do whatever I wanted. I made folders, opened documents, mashed the keys, and did everything in between. I scribbled to my heart’s content in KidPix, changed file icons, recorded sounds, created text files and had the computer’s robot voice read it back to me, and generally just wreaked havoc on a microscopic scale. My curiosity left a trail of destruction behind me, but fortunately the Mac was built rock-solid.
Before the computer joined our family, I had already become intimately entangled with the Nintendo Entertainment System. Games were a tactile joy for a kid like me who was just, you know, a total embarrassment on the playing field. Games taught motor reflexes and eye-hand coordination — skills that are prized in sports — but in an arena that I felt comfortable mastering.
Some of my earliest memories involve my dad and my uncle, chocolate-covered raisins, a hideous and oversized red sofa and Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda. I was too nervous to play the games myself at that point — dying is a pretty stressful experience for a preschooler, virtual or otherwise — so I sat and watched and shouted advice while my adult supervision took the controls.
Before long I was playing the games on my own, over and over, discovering nuances and perfecting techniques. I was enchanted by the richness of experience games offered, even though we were years away from the first console games with rich narrative or, hell, even a complete sentence or two. To me, games were — and still are — the next great medium of expression. Even as a young kid, I couldn’t contain my excitement and optimism for what tomorrow’s games would bring.
And then, when I was nine or ten, I started learning how to use HyperCard. Included with every Mac, HyperCard was originally designed for nonlinear presentations as a sort of precursor to the World Wide Web. It was also a smart and simple way to build interactive audiovisual experiences — in other words, games.
HyperCard defined fifth and sixth grade for me. I stopped going outside for recess, preferring instead to hole up in the computer lab for 15 or 30 minutes at a time to add another room or test a few links in my first game. A few friends of mine joined me, eager to learn and to build games of their own. I became the de-facto authority on HyperCard at Westridge Elementary, and my game — a simple point-and-click adventure about a hexagonal hero named Hex — was played by dozens.
I later built games in Basic and Assembly on my calculator and Visual Basic on Windows, but my first taste of game design came from HyperCard. No other programming and design tool was so simple to use, so deceptively powerful and so easily accessed as HyperCard. If Apple hadn’t included it with its computers that filled our school, there’s a very good chance I’d never have discovered my passion for making games.
That was fifteen years ago. I haven’t finished a game since. I’ve tried countless other tools and sketched out countless ideas on notepads and reams of loose paper, but nothing has come together since.
I’m not sure what’s missing, but I won’t give up. Even with nothing to show for my efforts, even when it feels like a shameful waste of time, I can’t stop. I just love it too much to quit.
I could write a book delineating the myriad ways Apple made me the person I am today, but I’m pretty sure it’d be a ponderous read. And honestly, my story is by no means unique; so many kids of my generation had their interests ignited on a Mac.
Now that Jobs is resigning, I’m reminded of the commencement speech he gave at Stanford University in 2005. There’s a quote that stands out to me so much that I really ought to write it on the walls of my apartment so I never forget it:
You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.
Apple helped me discover what I love, but Steve Jobs inspired me to pursue it tirelessly. His life is one marked by incredible successes and brilliant work, and his legacy is truly unprecedented. If I can make just one thing with such a singular vision and such inspiration, I’ll consider my life well-lived. And even if I don’t succeed, at least I’ll know I lived my life the best way I could.
Thanks for everything, Steve.