Thursday, October 06, 2011

Me and Steve Jobs

No, I never met the man, but like so many of us he changed my life, several times in fact.

I've always been an Apple user (with a timeout in the mid-80s when the Mac became the Mac II and I couldn't come close to affording it, going with a Commodore Amiga instead).

True stories: 1) in the very late 70s I heard and fell in love with the Fairlight sampling synthesizer, as used on records (records!) by Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush. But I couldn't afford a $30,000 Australian computer/keyboard. The closest I could get was a keyboard/computer card combo for the Apple II called the Alpha Syntauri. It was a strange and clumsy system, and it didn't sound that good (it was 8-bit and sample length was limited to about 1 second), but it taught me so much about computers and sound. In fact, it forced me to learn about both in the GEEKIEST WAY POSSIBLE, and had me doing things like walking around making recordings of strange noises and then isolating single waveforms from a short samples, or building sounds additively by combining sine or more complex waves. And most of the time I'd just get something that sounded like a short in my audio cable. Fourier transforms anyone? Perhaps you'd like to play with a light-pen?

But ... having this machine allowed me to get my very first full time paying job in music, when I was hired to play keyboards(!) in Michigan's premier 60s cover band (my boss, Steve King, being almost as tech-obsessed as I was). And that job gave me the experience and $$ to record my first album. The rest is history (however obscure, it still happened in the past).

2) In the late 80s I realized I needed my nights free to work on and perform my own music, so I quit my cover band and pursued the profession of my fathers, that is, being a lawyer. But I thought I'd try such a seemingly-boring profession out before committing, so I got a paralegal certificate (this was when paralegals were a very new thing) and got a job as a legel secretary in a firm in Birmingham, Michigan. We were a group of legal secs that contracted work for various area lawyers. We used PCs running DOS; Windows 3.0 had just come out and I was very excited, I could actually fool programs like WordPerfect into running in a multitasking, graphical environment. But anyway ... I happened to impress one of the lawyers we did work for, and he was ramping up his Workers Comp practice and needed someone to work full time. So I went to work for Vern Leopold. Vern liked his computers (although he knew little about them) and decided to get the best, so he bought Macintoshes. He is still the only lawyer I've ever seen who maintained a Mac-based office. And those things were beautiful, elegant machines. I spent hours playing with the colors (up to 60K!) and writing form generation programs using Filemaker Pro. I finally realized that working with these wonderful machines was going to be my career, and since 1994 I've only done computer work.

So as you can see, without the work and integrity of Steve Jobs my life would have gone in a very different direction, at least twice. Tonight, I spent a couple of hours recording original music on my current Macbook Pro using the most elegant hardware and OS available, MacOSX, and now I'm writing this blog post on that machine.

Goodbye Steve. All my respect and admiration are yours, forever.


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