Website Design, Strategy, Social Networking, SEO, Susan Pomeroy, Ph.D.

How Steve Jobs Changed My Life

by Susan Pomeroy

Macintosh computer, stars screensaver

You should go into computers,” my father told me, time and again. “Computers are where the future is,” he’d insist.

I’d roll my eyes. Computers were big clunky things that used mysterious, plodding languages with names like Fortran. They did mathematical computations, or created my college course list via punch-cards. They were run by nerds who could barely speak intelligibly. Computers? ANYTHING but computers. please. The world was wide and in ferment. I wanted to be an English major, an artist, a writer, maybe an anthropologist—to learn to think with nuance and subtlety and color. Give me anything but an ugly, plodding, clunky computer.

Fast forward several years. I’m in a geography graduate program at UC Berkeley. In the small windowless room where typewriters are available for grad students to use, there’s one HP desktop computer. Tom, a fellow student, is busy at all hours on it, typing up his dissertation.

I’m a slow, messy typist and I too want the benefits of being able to correct my work as I type. I’m willing to learn whatever arcane system I need in order to jettison the white-out bottles, the correction tape, and the blotchy, error-filled papers I laboriously churn out. But there’s only one computer, and it’s too difficult to get enough time on a regular basis to understand and memorize the codes and commands I need to know to make it format text readably.

Fast forward one year. I still haven’t quite got the HP computer down. One Saturday morning I’m the first person to arrive at this little office we call the “library”… and there, as I open the door, facing me in the dark, are four tiny lighted screens. Each screen looks as if it’s heading at warp speed into interstellar space (thanks to what I later learn is a screensaver called “Stars”).

It’s difficult to express now, but the sheer wonder of that moment was overwhelming. When I flipped on the light, I saw four Macintosh computers, narrow beige boxes that sat on each desk, along with a chunky plastic keyboard and a box-like device I soon learned was called a mouse.

These Macintoshes displayed exactly one-half of one typed page at a time, in black and white. I wrote my M.A. thesis on one of these Macs, paging up and down and back and fourth in what now would be an incredibly maddening way… but was an immeasurable improvement over the typewriter. I even selected which typeface to print it in, right there on the Mac.

Soon I was taking the department’s first-ever computer course from our new forward-thinking computer wizard, Don Bain, who taught us Excel and Word and MacDraw and Hypercard. I learned Freehand, and computer cartography. I got a part-time job in the computer lab and taught some of the Macintosh how-tos myself.

By the time I was starting my own dissertation, I used my Mac knowledge to get a part-time job in a corporate graphic design department. There I learned Photoshop, Pagemaker, Quark and Director—and design skills. The company I worked for was an early adopter of the World Wide Web, and soon I talked myself into the job of running the company website.

I also completely changed my dissertation, from doing research in Mexico to writing on virtual reality and the geography of cyberspace.

I did all this because of the Mac: because of a visual interface that did not force anyone to rely on learning or remembering commands, numbers, letters or codes, where what you saw was what you got, and which could be used easily, creatively, powerfully, and with pleasure.

Because of those four little Macs, I acquired a new set of skills, a new dissertation, and even a new career. I became not a professor, but a designer. I still work on a Mac every day.

Turns out my father was right. Computers were the way to go, after all.

Thanks, Steve Jobs.

 

Thanks Steve Jobs Macintosh

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