The Apple aesthete in exile, then triumphant

In the Spring of 1996 I was a new hire at Xerox, and had been flown from home to attend a 3-day customer service & problem-solving training at the vast Xerox Document University (XDU) complex in Leesburg, Virginia. No shit, this place existed. It was HUGE. The armed forces frequently leased buildings and rooms from it.

The GREAT documentary about the start of the Silicon Valley technology industry, Triumph of the Nerds, was on PBS and I was watching it in a wing of a floor of the XDU dorm I was staying in.

Triumph of the Nerds had JUST SHOWN a segment on how the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (Xerox PARC) had developed the graphical user interface, Ethernet, laser printers, and the mouse. The Xerox brass sniffed they were all useless. They made the inventors at Xerox PARC show the punks at Apple all of this stuff.

Xerox could have been HP, Microsoft, Apple, and Adobe all in one, but the Execs pissed it all away.

But my fellow co-trainee knuckleheads at XDU didn't give a shit. The NBA playoffs were on (who the fuck cares?) and they saw no irony or thrill at watching how their employer was stupid and could have run the world, as we were all being trained by that same company on how to do things. I was outvoted, and found another tv in another dorm wing to resume watching Triumph of the Nerds.

I am proud to say I have never purchased a Windows machine. Mac-only since my dual disk drive Mac SE in 1987 (no hard drive until 1990!).

I have three sheets of these stickers.But the 90s were an UGLY time to be an Apple fan. Their product line an unholy mess of keeping Quadras, Performas, and several clone makers all distinct from each other. Still, we held strong even past when it made little sense to do so. Buy a Windows 386? Get the fuck out! I'll hold strong with my Quadra 610 and its CD-ROM, thank you very much. I can play Myst on this. It's magical (and cost a relative fortune)!

But Steve Jobs, Apple's prodigal co-founder whose pride and bad management style got him booted in the mid 80s, came on screen and got this terrific dig into Microsoft and it was a great thing to see. I squirmed and cheered in the caverns of XDU. He was a fellow Reedie (and like me, left before graduating) so he was already a character I admired. In the moment below, even knowing in great detail he was an asshole, he championed aesthetics. In later years, he partially regretted making this statement, but not entirely:

His personal life didn't get pulled together until he got booted from Apple, but he managed it, grew up, and within a year of rejoining Apple he got the iMac and iBook and wireless internet in mass production. He hired a kindred spirit in designer Jonathan Ive. He learned to delegate, while still keeping his keen aesthetic eye and compulsion to be a prick in pursuit of the greater good.

To your insanely great work, Steve. You will be missed, and you've made countless people happy, do better work, and more connected to each other. Cheers.