So Long Steve . . . .   1 comment

October 8, 2011

. . . . and thanks for all the bytes.

I was 15 years old and a fan of a television show called Shindig. One evening in 1963 the Righteous Brothers were the featured performers. Instead of one of the nuggets from their repertoire of blue-eyed soul, they performed something different. Still bluesy, yet melodic in a new way for them, with production values that they had not previously incorporated into their recordings. The song was “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” and the record was produced by the still infamous Phil Spector. The next morning I went to the one record store in the city of Milwaukee that I knew would have it, and there it was. I bought it, took it home, and still have that single. It became the biggest hit for the Righteous Brothers, one of the most played recordings ever on American radio, and to this day is a great listen.

Almost twenty years later I was living in Newhall, California, the city now known as Santa Clarita. In those days it was an L.A. bedroom community just off Interstate-5. Lyons Avenue was the main drag, and Newhall’s rural nature was reflected in the age of the city. It had a college (California Institute of the Arts), classic old construction and newly created tract-house subdivisions. There was a large major park, a legacy of the 250+ acre estate owned by early film star William S. Hart. When we moved to Newhall it was more old California—read that as “tired”—than nouveau. But it was friendly, comfortable and more importantly, it was affordable. We stayed there 13 years.

About a half-mile from the interchange where I-5-met Lyons Avenue stood one of many strip-malls, and in a small retail space on the east end of the strip was something I had never entered before: a computer store. I walked in and became fascinated by this new concept, displaying numerous small personal computers, including something by this company called Apple Computer, and the computer I looked at was dubbed the Apple II. (I never saw an Apple I.) I bought an Apple II that day.  I then spent some time trying to figure out what I could do with, what was for me, a great leap forward. I had all the needed peripherals (although that’s not how I remember they were described.) These extra gadgets included a dot-matrix printer, a floppy drive (5″ variety), and a monitor. I wasn’t a computer geek or nerd, but I was thinking about what this new electronic device might actually contribute to my life.

A few years later, in 1983, I heard about the impending launch of a new computer from Apple and I heard the company would be running a special one-minute ad on the upcoming Superbowl. As 1983 turned into 1984, the football season came to its usual conclusion on January 22nd, with Superbowl XVIII. And beyond the Oakland Raiders whipping of the Washington Redskins, Apple’s new computer, the MacIntosh, was launched with the now famous “1984” ad, directed by Ridley Scott. Like the Righteous Brothers’ performance twenty years earlier, I was once again motivated to go and buy something. Unlike that hunt for the Righteous Brothers new single, all I could do was look at the MacIntosh as they weren’t yet in my local store. I put a deposit down. I wanted one. And when I finally got it home, I knew that this was an entirely different idea in a home computer; obviously it was a success.

I still have that original Mac on my bookshelf. Every couple of years I plug it in and test it. It still works. About 1985 I migrated to a Mac at my office—part of one of a few small Apple-islands in the middle of many IBMs at A&M in Hollywood. I also had a 1993 Powerbook 160 (kept that one too), at least three desktop Mac’s, a G4 Powerbook, my 2007 MacBook, plus an iPod. All of this is simply part of my little homage to Steve Jobs. I can’t fall in lockstep with most of my other Mac friends and suggest that everything Jobs or Apple did was great. (Think Lisa, or Cube.) But even the post 1997 failures were aesthetic successes.

My purchase of Apple products wasn’t, isn’t, about blind devotion. Rather they reflect my appreciation for well-designed, high quality, adaptable ideas, albeit at a higher price. Jobs’ mantra included a concept of design that essentially says, give the consumers what they want before they know they want it. His private nature, limited wardrobe, mercurial personality, were only a few manifestations of the genius of Jobs. He was very much like the best record label owners and producers I had the pleasure of working with during almost three decades in the music industry. They had an ear for great songs and great performers and an ability to anticipate where music was going. Jobs had an eye for great design and had a similar vision, although on a far grander scale. This week people have made numerous comparisons to Apple.  I’ve heard the names Google, Facebook, and Twitter, as examples of other, ostensibly, successful companies that compare to Apple. Profits aren’t the same as vision. A fusball table, a free massage, or organic food in the cafeteria don’t a culture make. Everything Google, Facebook, and Twitter are attempting to sell us is derivative. When they are able to lead the market with unique successes, for 20 or 30 years, call me. Until then, stop the comparisons. And Steve, rest easy and stay foolish.

David Steffen

© David Steffen 2011

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Posted October 7, 2011 by Jazzdavid in History, Obituary, Technology, Uncategorized

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One response to “So Long Steve . . . .

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  1. Hey I am loving the information I’ve found on your blog!

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