Steve Jobs, My Grandmother, and Entrepreneurship
Just over a year ago, Steve Jobs lost his life to cancer and left a gaping hole not just in my heart, but in those of millions of people around the world. Thirty years ago, Steve Jobs and my grandma changed my life.
I was an engineering major at San Jose State when I first saw an Apple computer. At the time, I was enrolled in a FORTRAN computer programming class that required middle-of-the-night trips to the computer lab just to get to an open punch-card machine. Then I stood in line to hand over my rubber-banded stack of cards to a “computer operator.” The DEC computer filled half the sterile room with a loud droning hum and intermittent card-shuffling sounds. Punching in lines of code at 2 am and waiting 20 minutes to find out if I was right or wrong? Seriously?
It was clear: I had chosen the wrong major.
And then the Macintosh came to the college bookstore. It was putty-colored magic and I wanted it more than anything, but it was far more expensive than I could afford.
At our annual New Year’s Day family gathering, I was talking about this newfangled personal computer to my mother and grandmother. My mother shook her head to let me know a purchase was out of the question, but my grandmother heard my passion and got out her checkbook. She said, “I can give you money after I die, or I can give it to you now when you need it. Go buy your computer.” I nearly cried. I was an Early Adopter.
The simplicity and intuitiveness of Apple products sparked creativity in ways I never dreamed, and became an indispensable tool for my career in marketing. I was giddy for every Jobs press conference, like an impatient kid on Christmas, in awe of his showmanship and breathtaking surprises.
Over the years I’ve owned every major model of the Mac: the luggable models, the jewel-toned space pods, the orange clam-shell laptop, the white desk-lamp model, all the way up to my trusty MacBook Air and iPad today.
At one point several years ago, I bought a Dell laptop with Windows. It lasted four days before I shipped it back. I vowed I would never, ever use a Windows PC again. My company remains a Mac-only shop.
We’re a fanatical Apple family. Even my husband, a lifelong PC guy, has been converted. He’s quite protective about his tools of the trade: MacBook Pro, iPad and iPhone 5. My three children had no choice, of course, and created their first homework projects on a Mac.
Over the years, not only have I run my business on Mac, I’ve also created priceless family treasures using iPhoto and iMovie. I restored and shared old photos with my father-in-law, whose memory was addled by Alzheimer’s disease, and later created an iMovie video tribute to his life. I’ve created 100th birthday memento books, kid calendars for a grandmother 3,000 miles away, and documented countless family adventures.
So when Steve Jobs died one year ago, I mourned for everything he brought to life for me. The beauty, the power, the freedom, the magic. I suppose this is what it felt like for my parents when John Lennon died. It was far too soon for this much brilliance to flicker out.
Rest in peace, Steve. I am incredibly grateful to you -- and my grandma -- for bringing joy, creativity and independence to my life and others around the world.
RENE SHIMADA SIEGEL | Columnist | Founder, High Tech Connect
Rene Shimada Siegel is founder and president of High Tech Connect, a unique consulting partner for expert marketing and communications. After a successful career in Silicon Valley, she founded her company 15 years ago while juggling three kids under the age of five.