How Steve Jobs Saved My Life

With the litany of Steve Jobs articles this past week, I figured it was time to put in my two pennies.

Steve Jobs means a great deal to me.  Even though I have never met him in person, one could easily say that he is responsible for my entire career.

It was June of 1993 and I was floundering badly. I had just been laid off for the second time in less than a year — both times coming as a total shock. With absolutely no savings to speak of, I was extremely lucky just to have a place to live. Thankfully my wonderful girlfriend (and now my wonderful wife) supported me for several months until I was able to turn my career around.

Kevin Strasser during Gulf War

Just a year before entering the civilian workforce

To get by I worked odd construction jobs and delivered telephone books door-to-door. Both were great jobs to motivate one toward a more stable career.

Clearly my career in mental health counseling had little to no future, but I lacked career skills outside of behavioral science.

Every day I asked myself “What am I going to do with my life?” It was absolutely driving me mad, as I had no clue.

Then one day I was reading The Washington Post want ads from beginning to end. I noticed job after job listed under the heading of “Computers.” This went on for several pages. Obviously this was a career path with plenty of potential and opportunity.

But I absolutely hated computers!

Even though my Dad was a computer programmer, I never had much interest in computers (outside of video games). I had worked with PCs a bit in college and found them to be an absolute chore. The IBM machines at school were of no interest or significance to me at all. They were difficult to use for even the most simple projects.

Photo via http://www.flickr.com/photos/gavinmusic

I decided to give computers one last chance, though, and met with my buddy Eddie. He was the one friend I had who not only knew how to use computers, but also owned his own machine. This was somewhat rare back in those days and not commonplace like today.

Luckily for me, Eddie had a Macintosh.

The first time I saw this thing it was like a giant flashbulb going off in my head. “I GET IT NOW!” It clearly made sense. You have a desktop, with folders placed on it; files live inside of the folders and there is a trash can for easy removal of objects. This was nothing like DOS.

Then Eddie demonstrated Quark Xpress and a brand new application called Adobe Photoshop. Seeing a photo so easily manipulated, twisted around, altered, cut up and then placed inside a design within Quark was simply astonishing. About as amazing as seeing Chris Angel levitate.

I had never seen computing power like this, but even more impressive to me was a computer that you could pick up and use immediately. No need to read a manual the size of the phone books I used to haul.

Apple products were designed to be easy for humans to use. Largely thanks to Steve Job’s influence — Apple focused product design from the inside out, meaning that they focused on the user experience first and then worked outward toward the technology requirements.  They still do this with every new product they launch.

This is referred to as user-centered design. A former Apple employee has written probably the most famous book about it — The Design of Everyday Things.

Steve Jobs Talks About His Design Vision (1997)

You would think that other firms would have caught on by now, but unbelievably most still to try to compete based on features and specifications instead. How truly powerful can a technology be when it is not clear how to properly use it? Not very…

Sure, there may be a tablet out there that has more ports, bigger or brighter screens, faster processors, or even all of the above. But no tablet is more intuitive or more of a joy to use than the Apple iPad. Nothing is even close at this point.

So I need to give a big thanks to Steve Jobs for saving me — and also want to pass on prayers for his health.

Thank You, Steve, for building a computer I could relate to and understand. Oh and thanks again to you, Eddie!  Without you, I might still be outside hauling phone books.

 

Kevin Strasser is the founder of Creature Software and MyGoldenIsles. He is currently on his tenth Apple computer and passionately enjoys several iPods and an iPad.

68 Comments

  1. I get chills re-thinking about you reaching out to me with this story on the very day Steve Jobs would later pass away.

    In soo many ways, I could ( and now will someday ) detail my own: “how Steve Jobs saved my life”

    I am so profoundly saddened, not only for you and me (techies) but for everyone because he changed everything — you and I know more than most — we mean — he changed everything for — the better!

    News, Print, TV, Movies, Animation, Design, Safety, Health, Genome Sequencing, Pharmaceutical Drugs, The Internet….. everything!

    RIP Steve

  2. Thanks for the comment, Eddie. I also was thinking about how amazing the coincidence was.

    I don’t recall being this sad about someone passing outside of my family.

    However, when you look at all of his accomplishments, Mr. Jobs certainly achieved several lifetimes worth of them — all within only one too short life.

  3. Darrell Strasser

    Kevin, What a Great story you have to tell. I’ve also tried to explain the difference between PC’s and MAC
    to friends and family but never as eloquently as you have done here.

    dad.

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