Apple, 40 Years & 25 Personal Experiences

Today is the 40th anniversary of Apple and of the 40 years, I’ve been engaged with Apple’s vision, concepts, and products for 33 of them. It seems like a good day to reflect on what Apple has meant to me and how the company has intersected with my life and thinking.

I wasn’t an Apple ][ user. My friends and some of the public schools had the little beige box in //+ and //e forms and my neighbor had a //c, but I wasn’t part of that early era. I used a TI99/4a in school and a Timex/Sinclair 1000, Commodore 64, and an 8086 Leading Edge Model D clone at home. I remember being briefly enamored of the Apple /// at Team Electronics in the West Acres shopping center in Fargo, but other than that the evolution of the // series didn’t interest me. I was a Lisa fan.

In 1983, I saw the Apple Lisa for the first time and it connected with me. It pushed all of the annoying command line stuff to the background and focused on getting tasks I was interested in done. I’m a visual guy who optimistically believes that there can always be a better way and the Lisa reinforced that. It wasn’t until college when I finally owned an Apple product — the venerable Macintosh Plus. Loyola University New Orleans in 1987 was a decidedly Macintosh campus, so it was natural to have that machine as a student. Little did I know that from those humble beginnings as a student user of a Macintosh, the seeds of my career would be sown.

Reflecting on those 33 years, Apple had a profound influence on my life and career and I’ve personally used over 50 different Apple systems and technologies. Here are the highlights and milestones:

  1. 1983: Encountered the Apple Lisa at a personal computing show in Fargo, ND.
  2. 1984: Saw the Apple Macintosh Super Bowl ad live on TV. I became interested in media and television.
  3. 1985: Visited the high school AV office and accidentally erased the system disk of the office Macinosh 128.
  4. 1986: Started using the Macintosh Plus after hours at my Dad’s place of work to do graphics for my science fair project as the DOS machines didn’t cut it for what I wanted to do.
  5. 1987: Became the proud owner of an Apple Macintosh Plus through the back-to-school program at Loyola University New Orleans. I treated my Macintosh Plus as a portable computer (and I have the back problems today to show for it), which shaped my thinking around always-available computing.
  6. 1989: Became the proud owner of a Macintosh SE/30, which is by far my favorite Macintosh of all time. Portability and power didn’t always have to be a trade-off.
  7. 1988: Poached by Loyola’s Academic Computing Services from my work-study job in the English Department to help set up the network of campus-wide computer labs using AppleShare 3.0, LocalTalk and a Satellite Startup Disk for every student. I learned about networking, user support, and providing user-friendly services to students and faculty.
  8. 1990: Became one of a handful of people in New Orleans who could setup, administer, and deploy complex Macintosh-based networks. I started working as a Macintosh consultant for retail stores, architectural firms and ad agencies. I was hired as an Art Director and the Macintosh Systems Administrator at Pertuit & Partners Communication Design in New Orleans. Learned how to blend technology and creativity from my creative mentor, Hugh Ricks.
  9. 1991: Was introduced to QuickTime by Apple’s Peter Hoddie at a small Seybold digital media conference in LA, and became completely won over by the potential of digital video. Worked with the Avid/1 non-linear editing system for the first time. Upgraded the SE/30 to a PowerBook 170.
  10. 1992: Left advertising and freelanced as a Macintosh technology and digital media consultant. Worked in laser disc-based interactive systems and in healthcare at the Ocshner Clinic and Hospital in New Orleans. Later in the year, joined the University of Chicago as a Computer Graphics & Multimedia Specialist (as part of my interview, I managed to get the TrueVision Targa video card and the DiaQuest animation controller cards to work together in the Macintosh Quadra 950). Realized the information potential of the World Wide Web after surfing for the first time using NCSA Mosaic on a Macintosh.
  11. 1993: Established the Macintosh-based Visualization Studio at the University of Chicago. Helped Alexander Seropian and Jason Jones of Bungie develop a pitch package of Macintosh-based software products for FOX, and was introduced to network-based 3D Macintosh gaming. Joined the Apple Developer Program and the Apple Multimedia Program (which later fed into the New Media Consortium). The PowerBook 170 was stolen and replaced with a PowerBook Duo 210 (my second favorite Macintosh of all time). Became fascinated by the potential and power of handheld computing and personal technology.
  12. 1994: Worked closely with Apple and participated in its hardware beta program. Pre-evaluated the Power Macintosh family of computers and purchased an Apple Newton MessagePad 120. Became a Newton developer and was introduced to digital photography with the QuickTake 100. Crashed a ranked supercomputer for the first time (SGI PowerChallenge XL R8000). Wrote a letter to Steve Jobs praising NeXT and its blend of software and hardware, and lamented the commoditization of and decline of Apple and the Macintosh.
  13. 1995: Conducted the first public Internet video conference to Antartica using CUSeeMe videoconferencing on a Macintosh. Started working in Internet virtual reality with VRML and QuickTime VR. Discovered the prototype Apple LaserWriter (S/N “January 1985” — I kid you not) in an office down the hall from mine at the University of Chicago. Conducted QuickTime streaming experiments over the Internet.
  14. 1996: Actively developed learning software using HyperCard and other media-centric tools available on the Macintosh. Applied (and turned down the offer) to become an Apple Higher Education Solutions Engineer.
  15. 1997: Added the support of Macintosh-based computer labs into my scope of work. Upgraded my Newton MessagePad to a MessagePad 2000 and started exploring handheld computing more deeply as a workplace productivity tool.
  16. 1998: Assumed the responsibility for public computing (and an entire fleet of Macintoshes) at the University of Chicago and became Director of Instructional Technology.
  17. 1999: Visited the Apple campus for the first time as part of an executive briefing, and met with Apple’s CFO for dinner. Working with my staff, reimagined student computer labs as interactive collaboration spaces and introduced more flexible hardware that was largely centered around Macintosh flat-panel systems and laptops. Purchased a grape iMac G3 for home.
  18. 2001: Purchased the first iPod at one of the first Apple Stores at Woodfield Mall outside of Chicago.
  19. 2003: Realigned public computing at UChicago around technologies out-of-reach of average students and as such, invested in labs of Power Macintosh G5 systems.
  20. 2004: Rekindled my interest in video production and music. Invested in Logic and Final Cut Pro and FireWired-based media production gear at home. Secretly advised Duke University on its iPod in Education project.
  21. 2005: Presented “Interviews” at a short film festival in Chicago. It was the first public-viewed work that I produced on a Macintosh, bringing the Avid/1 experience full circle.
  22. 2008: My new MacBook Air travels around a regional jet on the way to Raliegh, NC, as people are fascinated with the weight and design of the machine, which led me to think about the mystique of design. Released my first album on iTunes, “Before Time” by Thirty Second Complex.
  23. 2010: Purchased the original iPad and as such, tied together my portable and personal technology interest from back in my PowerBook 170 days.
  24. 2014: Started seriously working with HD video captured on my iPhone at quality levels beyond broadcast grade from two decades ago.
  25. 2016: Now working on an iPad Pro with a Pencil. Technology has moved to the background and my needs are in the foreground. I am living the technological realization of a philosophy that extends back to my first encounter with the Apple Lisa in 1983.