a community coping with the loss of an icon…

October 6, 2011 8:32pm
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Wow. Last night was kind of crazy – one minute I’m gearing up for another normal, regularly scheduled evening of writing my humor column, the next I read a tweet saying that Apple founder Steve Jobs has died, and from there everything pretty much came to a screeching halt as I tried to sort through the chaos and just kind of make sense of it all for myself.

Although I don’t necessarily work on a Mac right now, I’ve vowed that my next laptop will be a MacBook Air (due to its amazing size) … and I pretty much go everywhere with my iPhone.

And there’s certainly no denying that Apple computers helped to shape my childhood in an incredible and profound way – the school libraries always had rows upon rows of Apple IIe‘s for us to learn typing and play educational games.

Later in the 4th grade, I had a teacher who had one of the first Mac Classics in her room and she was excited enough about computers to let us play Carmen Sandiego on it during breaks and recess and sometimes even right in the middle of class, just because she wanted to see how it ended!

At home we had an early clone of an Apple IIe, which always kind of sucked because it meant that none of the software from school would work on it, but I still enjoyed it, both in learning to write my first BASIC programs on it when I was about eight and a few years later using it to transcribe my first “novel” using the WordStar word processing program.

It’s kind of weird because even though we all knew that Steve has been fighting pancreatic cancer for a number of years, in no way did it make the shock any easier to deal with. Thankfully, the tech community really came together and it was a great reminder of which friends I had in which circles … whereas on Facebook, which is mostly “real life” friends and family, there were a total of 3 mentions of it throughout the entire night (out of 112 friends), and one of them was negative and kind of crude, whereas over on Twitter my entire feed was nothing put outpourings about grief and his contributions to society and jokes and inspiration from hundreds of fellow geeks … exactly what you would expect and hope for from a group in mourning.

Eventually somebody tweeted that Leo LaPorte and the TWiT crew were doing a live broadcast to talk about things, so I jumped over there and sat with that in the background for a good three hours before they finally went off the air and returned to regular programming. It was kind of amusing even then because at one point the discussion ended so that Leo could do a spot on CNN, although they kept the cameras rolling and we basically got to listen in on Leo waiting to be on the show, and it was a really interesting look into the vast differences between traditional and niche broadcasting. For a long time it didn’t even look like he was going to be on because the way it would work is CNN was just going on the fly, so as they got more and more people “lined up” for interviews, they would constantly reprioritize who they thought had the most to contribute to the show and bump people down the list.

Which I guess is fine for general interest or whatever, but as a fellow tech enthusiast I just got so much more out of TWiT Live because they didn’t have to wait to find people to be on the show who knew about Steve Jobs and his contributions to society because they already knew all about him themselves! So instead, what we got was a real nice, informal gathering of friends sitting around and sharing stories, kind of like a wake would be. At points different people would come and go – some because they were writers who needed to write obituary features for their respective outlets, which I can only imagine must’ve been difficult – but all in all it was just what I needed because at times like this sometimes it’s just nice to be surrounded by people who recognize the same genius that you do when faced with tragedy.

I’m going to write a separate post with some more thoughts about the evening in a different vein, but I guess to cap this one off, I’m just grateful for the tech community and all of my fellow geeks who came together in support of one another as we bid farewell to one of the pioneers of personal computing. Most of us got our start using something that Steve Jobs had a hand in creating, and more likely today can’t go more than a few hours without one of his devices in our hands – he brought the world closer together as a community, and I can’t thank him enough for that.

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