Wednesday, October 12, 2011

An ode to Steve Jobs - I love you, love you not

Dear Steve, I loved you and loved everything you made. There will never be another visionary like you. May you rest in peace. But I am not divided into camps like gadget-fans seem to be nowadays. I have an enormous debt to MS and what they did for me by their non-elitist approach to computing. You might be critical of their approach but to me and a few million others like me, PC clones and Windows were truly life changing in ways you cannot even imagine. 

Steve Jobs is no more and the world is poorer for it.

I would not go into how he changed the world many times over - Google his name and you'll Internet full of it. I write about Apple and Steve from the perspective of a child growing up in a third world nation.

The first time I saw a computer was in school. It was housed in a closed forbidding room and we had to take off our shoes before entering it. Our teacher was more strict about the no shoes rule than the nearby temple. Not sure who or why came up with that rule, but we were hardly in the position to question it. Allowed only to spend about 15 mins per week, our fascination knew no bounds. There was no question of buying one - our bloody school could afford just a few! There was no "personal" in PCs yet.

Naturally I planned to persuade my dad to buy me one as soon as he could. I got one eventually - a masterpiece with 10MB HDD, 512KB of RAM, and a bootleg copy of DOS. Sometimes it made more noise than my car does today. It cost my dad a bomb - more than a few months worth of salary. I stuck with it for a long time - upgrading the hardware, and the software. I wasn't really a nerd, and was never very comfortable with DOS. Windows 3.1 was a dream come true. Plus the fact a pirated copy did not cost a dime.

All this while, we just used to hear fables about a different kind of computer made by a company called Apple. Read about how you had to leave Apple; breathless reviews of NeXT and exploits of Pixar. And yes, closely followed your return and world domination.

The love was not instantaneous. Apple price-list made me dizzy - 3000 dollars could be small fortune in India of '90s. I first saw one at an advertising agency, and was suitably impressed. But of course, buying one was out of question. My first purchase was in Singapore. Even for an avowed Nokia fan, iPhone 3G was a marvel. Not been able to use any other phone since then. In fact a company provided BB seems almost like a punishment. There have been several other purchases since, and I'm sure there will be more in future.

No doubt, Steve could make products that were unlike anything else. No doubt he made technology cool. He made it easy to use. He made ordinary people comfortable with gadgets.

But for me personally, it will never match up with what MS did for me, unwittingly or by design, and for million others like me. Supporting cheap assembled computers, making affordable software that ran on any machine, especially their office suite. Thank god MS won that battle, otherwise Apple's quest for perfection would have pushed back the computer revolution by another decade.

Apple has been critical of their approach, and scoff at their less-than-pristine product, but the fact is that this very approach has spread computer revolution all over the world and gave people like me a chance to be a part of the digital revolution. THAT was life changing. A Mac might be Rolls Royce to Model T of PC, but it was the latter that brought in the car revolution.

I love Apple but my eternal gratitude will always be with Microsoft. 

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