Monday, October 10, 2011

Steve Jobs' Word Processing: "What came out of this computer was not further from the human heart; it was closer."

The beginning of pervasive word processing was "a truly minuscule reason..for which to celebrate and mourn Steve Jobs" -  See more excerpts from Gish Jen's article "My Muse Was an Apple Computer," below.  

Something, not just someone, important has gone.
Of course, Steve Jobs didn't invent word processing, but it wouldn't already be the same part of our lives without him. 

I was surprised by my own sadness when I read the news of Steve Jobs' death last Thursday.  Like many of you, I had met him a few times and been at several of his demos.  Like most of you, I understood that the reports of his health problems and his "retirement" meant he would soon die.  So I didn't expect to have such strong feelings about his passing.  But every conversation for the rest of that day was dimmed.  

Each of the many efforts to describe Steve Jobs' unique contributions seems incomplete.  He was one of the few who earned the "genius" label - a term over-used even by his own company.  He accomplished so much, had such an unarguably powerful impact on our world, and did it in ways that won't stay within any other description.

Novelist Gish Jen's very personal comments caught something about Steve Jobs better than most:
"I was open to the Apple II, the fall of 1980. The screen was black and the type green, and there were only 40 characters per line. But you could insert things; you did not have to retype an entire page if you had a new line of dialogue. And, equally exciting: you could delete things.
".. you knew the computer didn’t care.. But it was waiting for you to type something. It was not inert and passive, like the page. It was listening. It was your ally. It was your audience. And with it — on it — whatever — you could try things. You were not wasting paper; you were not making a racket...But for the on-off switch, you would never have called the computer a machine...."What came out of this computer was not further from the human heart; it was closer. It was looser, freer, more spontaneous — more democratic, too. ..Mrs. Tolstoy could also write, if she liked. She could get her thoughts down and send them out with an ease she could never have dreamed of before.
"As for whether the Apple computers changed not only who wrote, but what they wrote, I can’t speak for others. I can only say that these computers coaxed out of me an expansiveness the typewriter never did. .. I was not a person who would have looked at a ream of paper and thought, 'Sure, that is mine to fill up.' But I turned out to be a person who could keep moving a cursor until I’d filled one ream, then another. It is a truly minuscule reason, in the scheme of things, for which to celebrate and mourn Steve Jobs. Still, I add my small reason to the infinity of others."- "My Muse Was an Apple Computer," Gish Jen, New York Times, October 7, 2011, Cambridge, Mass.  

Photo of "T-shirt for the Wikipedia campaign. ..Art Direction II Assignment Professor: Holly Shields Art Directors: Mike E. Perez, Mark Decker, Jacob Brubaker," 29 April 2008, 17:11, Uploaded by Adrignola, Author Mike E. Perez from Dallas, Texas, USA
By Mike E. Perez from Dallas, Texas, USA (Wikipedia - T-shirt  Uploaded by Adrignola) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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