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Thank You Steve Jobs

Thursday, October 06, 2011 03:19 AM

It was 1999, my household did not have a single Apple product in it. It was actually a pastime to mock Apple "people." I had built several PC’s by then and had started dabbling with Linux. I learned bash and was programming in Perl and C++ (in XEmacs, screw you vim-ers!) at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA. In order to function at the lab and in college I had to learn unix. So as a result I caught the unix bug and was flipping out at how awesome it was compared to Microsoft Windows. I remember a few years earlier how Apple almost bit the bullet. I had made it a point to want to know when Apple would die. In keeping up with tech news (which was usually by PC magazine) I read how Apple was revamping their operating system and basing their userland on a variant of BSD (which is a flavor of unix). The first chance I got I told my Dad, "Hey I think we should invest some money in Apple."

My Dad gave me this ridiculous look and although I don’t remember exactly what his response was I’m certain there was a “probably not a good idea” and “risky” in it. I will always remember this moment, especially when I’m about to throw down some cash for the latest Apple product (it’s usually right before they tell me my subtotal, I then take a deep breath, smile, and respond with "thank you").

Back then Apple products were totally out of my price range. How I got my first Apple product is somewhat of an embarrassment. A co-worker at JPL owned a first generation iPod, and asked me if I wanted to buy it (he was upgrading). It was an amazing device and I still have it in my possession, I see it as a symbol of forcing myself to not be comfortable with the status quo. I immediately went home and showed my family (I took the opportunity to bug my Dad to buy some stock … sadly he held his position). I didn’t own a Mac then. I bought a “fire wire” card for my Linux desktop and used GtkPod get music onto the device. It went everywhere with me, I loved it literally till it died.

I graduated from college, left JPL, and accepted a job in the Silicon Valley. Unfortunately it wasn’t at a tech startup. The company I worked for did defense contracts for the United States military. My solace while working was listening to music on my iPod. One day it died, and on my lunch break I went to Valley Fair mall in Santa Clara to make my very first Apple Store purchase. After work I was chatting with a co-worker. This was the first time I ever felt "bullish" on a company. I said to him, “Dude, I want to buy Apple stock. This device is fucking amazing.” He pulled up the info on Yahoo Finance and said the stock was over valued cause of the P/E. His viewpoint was important to me because he had been investing in the market for a couple of years and investing was foreign to me. I made the decision not to invest, but I regret not following my gut.

It was late 2003 that I started watching Steve Jobs do his now famous keynote speeches. I’d be at work doing something horribly boring, and in the afternoon the keynote would be up on for either a product announcement or for WWDC. This is where I started to realize there was something more to this company other than these amazing products. It was about this guy that got on stage in this black turtleneck, jeans, and those New Balance shoes (although for the Nike+ launch he wore Nike shoes, always the showman). I got a book about Steve Jobs entitled “The Second Coming of Steve Jobs”, after that book I read a book about Bill Gates entitled “Hard Drive” where part of the history between Apple and Microsoft was revealed. I then read a book about Linus Torvolds (the guy that created Linux), in it he explains how he was summoned to Cupertino, asked to join Apple because Steve wanted to use Linux as the kernel for OSX. Linus refused and compared it to something like “joining the dark side.” I then read “iCon”, “Inside Steve’s Brain”, “Return to the Little Kingdom”, and “Revolution in the Valley: The Insanely Great Story of How the Mac Was Made.” I was hooked. I never missed a keynote and I idolized Steve Jobs much like I idolized basketball and baseball players when I was a kid.

His famous 2005 Stanford Commencement Address, changed my life forever. It inspired me dig deep down inside myself to figure out what my heart was trying to tell me. It made me realize that I wanted to be apart of something great, I wanted to make a ding (not a dent) in the universe. And that’s when I changed the tag line of this blog to “Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish”, scroll to the bottom of the page and you'll see it. Just recently everyone has found that gem of a video and has been quoting it like crazy. It makes me really happy to know I’ve been following the advice from that speech since it was spoken.

A gathering of items outside the 5th Avenue Apple Store in New York on the night of his passing.

When Steve stepped down in August I thought that he would pull through it just like he did in 2004 and 2009. But when I saw the keynote on Tuesday and Steve wasn’t there I knew it wasn’t a good sign. I never got a chance to see one of his keynotes and I never got a chance to shake his hand. However, when hearing about his passing I felt worse than I have for family members that have died. I went to the Apple Store on 5th Avenue in Manhattan, and played a video of him showing off the mock Apple Store (it’s one of my favorites, his energy in that video is a lot different than his last keynote appearance in June).

People talk about where they were when they found out JFK got shot, when the space shuttle challenger exploded, when the plane hit tower two at the world trade center. I was on the corner of W. Broadway and Canal St. in Manhattan, when I found out Steve Jobs had passed. I'll never forget it.

Live long and prosper. Thank You Steve.