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Steve Jobs Was Technology's Change Agent

As the world says goodbye to Steve Jobs, I’d like to share a few stories and photos of my own as I reflect on his death and legacy.

Steve Jobs in front of a slide of himself and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak before revealing the iPad in 2010.

Growing Up With Apple

I’ve long had a love affair with Apple and its products. My parents purchased an Apple II computer for the family back in the late 70’s or early 80’s. The computer was a ticket to faraway worlds, and I spent countless hours playing games such as Ultima, The Bard’s Tale, Wasteland, and Pirates. I learned how to type on the Apple II, and my earliest memory of programming was from watching my brother tinker with Midway Campaign, changing the game’s enemies from the Japanese to the Soviets.

My earliest photo with an Apple product. Look how happy I am next to the Apple II computer!

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Personal Reflections on the iPad

The Apple faithful since 1980

For the religious, this past weekend was Easter. For the Apple faithful, it was iPad launch weekend. Since I attended the iPad Announcement Event, I had the opportunity to use the device before the general public; so, buying it was not a problem, finding a place from which to buy it was! Currently, Rae and I are on the other side of the United States screening our documentary film Autumn Gem! Knowing that I would be in Boston, I skipped the initial pre-order rush and scheduled my iPad to arrive in the second batch of shipments on 4/12. As with any big Apple release, however, I found myself restless on Friday night. The apartment in which we were staying was only 2 blocks away from the Apple Store in Cambridge. What reason was there not to go there in the morning or camp out with the rest of the Apple faithful? The weather here in Massachusetts and Boston has been fantastic over the past few days, unlike the wet and cold conditions seen back in the Bay Area.

So, this was how I found myself waking up at 4:00am to walk over to the store. I soon realized that things play out differently at this Apple Store than my local ones. For starters, the doors to the mall were locked, and there was no one else waiting to get in! Contrast this with the Palo Alto and Valley Fair locations, where people were lining up the day before to be the first to get their iPads.

So, I went back to the apartment, did some work and slept for an hour until 7:30 am. Despite there being a little over an hour to the launch, there were only a handful of people in both the reserved and non-reserved iPad lines! I figured most people arrived at the store to get in line at 7:00am. I guess the shortage was due to several factors: (1) the ability to pre-order and have the product shipped to your house, (2) the fact that the hype was not as big as the original iPhone. Furthermore, the iPad is a device you have to see and feel to understand, it’s not something like a cellphone which everyone has. Back in 2007, it was easy to understand why the iPhone was so much better than the crappy phones we were all carrying at the time. While the iPhone was an easy sell, the iPad for many people posed more questions than answers.

I was in and out of the Apple Store in 40 minutes by the time the doors opened at 8:55am. Everyone in line got their own Apple Specialist to assist them with the purchase. I ended up buying the case and the VGA adapter for two reasons: (1) I needed some case protection for the iPad when I stuff it into my backpack and (2) I planned to run our Autumn Gem tour presentation using the iPad during one of our remaining (and future) screenings.

Probably the biggest question regarding the iPad is why buy it in the first place? Do you need an iPad when you have a laptop and a phone? What is this third class of mobile devices that Steve Jobs… err… Apple is trying to sell us? How is the iPad better than a netbook? I’m going to end up answering this question in a somewhat roundabout way. In the coming weeks, there’ll no doubt be plenty of bloggers and writers coming up with interactive charts and scorecards comparing the iPad with various devices. Instead, what I will talk about is how I view the iPad through the prism of being involved with mobile computing for the past seventeen years.

And, seeing that I was in Newton, Massachusetts the other night for a screening, it’s only appropriate that I mention Apple’s first handheld computer, the Newton, at this point.

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iPad Case and Newton MessagePad Keyboard Case

I’m still collecting my thoughts on the new Apple iPad, but I wanted to share with you a side-by-side comparison shot of the iPad Case and the Newton MessagePad Keyboard Case from 1996. Back when laptops were 6-7 pounds, bringing around a 2-3 pound Newton, external keyboard, and Ricochet wireless modem was perfect for checking email and writing short documents.

MessagePad and iPad cases

While on tour with Autumn Gem, Rae and I having been traveling with two MacBook Pro laptops. It certainly gets heavy lugging around 15 pounds of computers, adapters, and cables around. We’ll still need to bring one MacBook Pro with us on our next tour, but I can see the iPad replacing the other one. With the iPad-VGA adapter, we’ll even be able to run our presentation and film straight from the iPad! While the output is not HD, it’s more than adequate in the venues we’ve been screening Autumn Gem in. The iPad really is a great device for creative professionals who want to showcase their work: photos, videos, illustrations, you name it.

Here’s a photo of me from the Apple Special Event introducing the iPad. More thoughts to come soon!

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Newtons and iPhones at Stanford

News that Stanford will be conducting a class on iPhone Development, taught by my friend Adam Nash brings back good memories of my time on the Farm.

I smiled when I read the press release from Stanford announcing the Stanford iApps Project.

A suite of five software applications developed by students is now being tested on campus. Two of them, for managing course registration and bills, are intended for students. The other three will allow access to Stanford’s searchable campus map, get team scores and schedules, and check listings in the university’s online directory, StanfordWho.

One of my first apps for the Apple Newton MessagePad was Stanford Map, a scrolling map of the university. I remember riding around campus and getting stopped by someone who wanted to get directions to a particular building. With my Newton in hand, I was able to show exactly where he needed to go. Bear in mind, this was 14 years ago!

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