Thursday, October 6, 2011

My Humble Steve Jobs Blog Post

Like just about everyone I know, I have strong emotions about Steve Jobs. There will be plenty of epitaphs that will be much more interesting, or well written, or relevant than mine. But here goes nonetheless.

My first practical Apple experience was, as many of us in the 80's, via graphic arts. I was running production for a Pacific Color, Inc., a professional photo lab in Seattle. In the days before large screens and digital projectors if you needed to do a presentation you used view graphs or slides, all optically created on movable-stage cameras. That changed when the original Macintosh gave graphic power to to masses. At PCI we invested in a system that would allow folks to make their own slides. The Autographix and Dicomed imaging systems we installed were the first of their kind, but everything was still monotone, including the authoring tools in software like Aldus Persuasion. If you were around in those days, you'll remember that with Persuasion you received a sleeve of 20 slides with colors and ID's to choose your for your text. At PCI we created and imaged all of these inserts for Aldus (Seattle-based and early Apple supporter before being purchased by Adobe)and produced most all of the final customer output for the Pacific Northwest.

I soon moved on and joined Bill Gates' little start-up, Continuum Productions, later renamed Corbis. I quickly had a five million dollar global budget to expand the footprint of the scanning operations, much of it spent on totally tricked out Apple Quadra 950's, the ultimate state of the art at the time for graphic applications, partially due to ColorSync 1.0. Keep in mind, in the early and mid 90's Microsoft and Apple were not friendly and one of my favorite "Bill stories" is when, soon after the release of Windows 95, Bill was touring my Bellevue WA lab and said "I guess we'll be changing all of these Macs to PC's now that Windows is color managed." I got to inform him that W95 had faux color management at best and we had no plans to replace our Apple hardware. I would have hated to be the W95 product manager when Bill made it back to Redmond.

Fast forward to September 1997 and the Seybold Conference in San Francisco, then the largest of its kind in the world and a must-go event for those associated with publishing and graphic arts. Steve was still interim CEO of Apple at this point, returning to try and save them after some disastrous months. When Bill Gates appeared on the big screen behind Steve at the keynote the crowd booed lustily, the beginning of the real fan boy mentality for Apple in my opinion. But Steve knew he needed Microsoft to survive and Bill could have snuffed Apple out if he would have decided to stop producing software for the Mac. Microsoft invested in Apple and the rest is history.

During this time I got my first dose of what it was like being close to Steve (or, at least, close to those close to him) as Corbis became the flavor of the month around Apple as we tried to find ways to work more closely together. The pull of his personality was palpable, even second hand.

My next experience with Apple was in 2002. I began working for the company that produced the photo books for iPhoto and I was constantly amazed that Steve himself was so involved in even the smallest details of the product, down to the paper weight and color profiles. I have to say having Apple as a customer was not much fun and intense is an understatement of what it was like. But being part of the Apple extended network is something I'm very proud of.

Being a Seattle guy, I was always a bit conflicted in the Apple vs Microsoft wars. Over the years I moved pretty freely between platforms, finally settling for good on the Apple ecosystem when I joined Blurb. As a mobile professional, iPhone, iPad and MacBookPro has changed the way I do business so completely that I can't imagine how I could succeed without these tools. So this becomes Steve's legacy for me. The freedom to live where I like, do a job I absolutely love with an extended family of graphic arts pros and operations folks, making strikingly beautiful artifacts.

Can you imagine how many disparate stories like mine that are being written today?

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