I learned to type on an Apple IIe along with the rest of my generation. I can barely remember all the members of my extended family (cousins named Katelyn and Krytsen who look identical is too much to expect from anyone), but I can remember vividly playing the entire line of MECC computer games. Number-Munchers taught me to add and Oregon Trail taught me that if I hunted buffalo for too long game would become scarce. I remember typing up stories on flickering green screens and printing them on dot matrix printers. I remember learning to code using Logo and beaming with pride at ten when I coded a picture of a Volkswagen Beetle. I remember using a mouse on an original Macintosh, pointing and clicking on a little 7 inch black and white screen. So dependable was that little Mac that, years later, I bought one for $5 from my high school and used it to write my college applications, eventually replacing it with a lime green iMac DV. I regret now more than ever selling it back for $5. I miss how the words just seemed to flow on that machine.
Steve Jobs had a vision of computers belonging to the masses. He was not a particularly good programmer or engineer, but he knew what a computer could do and what people would pay for. He took computers out of the hulking mainframes and into homes and schools. He made computers that were simple enough for children to use and affordable enough for schools to buy. One of those buying Apple IIs was my father, whose job changed from math teacher to technology coordinator with the coming of the Apple.
When Steve Jobs left Apple, his vision seemed to go with it, and Windows took hold and got a foot in on the Internet revolution. When he returned to Apple years later, he decided to build his iMacs, which were designed specifically for the Internet so much so that they lacked disk drives. Once again, people laughed at the candy-colored computers, Steve laughed all the way to the bank. Once again, the public put their money behind the friendly, easy to use machine, despite limited performance and features. He then used the Macintosh as a springboard to a multi-media empire ignited by the iPod, the iPhone, and the iPad. He brought mobile computing out of the business world and gave it to the rest of us, just as he took computers out of corporate mainframes and into homes and schools decades before.
Graphic interfaces, multiple fonts, desktop publishing, feature-length computer generated movies, the computer mouse, digital music players, online music stores, tablets, and the App-fueled Smartphone market; while not created by Jobs, they were perfected by means of his vision, made elegant and easy to use for the masses. If you use technology in any way, you are a child of Steve Jobs, a great thinker and a friend of education whose insight into technology was balanced by his insight into the needs of people.
In the weeks and years to come, when he becomes likened to historic figures like Edison and Ford, it will be interesting to see how his contributions are weighed. Ford made us a nation of drivers, Edison illuminated the world, and Marconi brought the world into our living room. I feel like the Apple II and the Macintosh were the Model Ts of the information age because they we invited to schools and homes for the first time, their creation is the point where it began, and Steve Jobs was the personality that gave rise to that generation.