Me and Mr. Jobs: He changed my world–thrice
Steve Jobs remade my world. And he did it thrice.
The first was with the Macintosh computer and the desktop publishing revolution it helped start. The second was with the iPhone and the third was with the iPad.
All three devices serve as extensions of myself throughout the day, whether at work, at play and everything in between.
My MacBook Pro, for example, comes in handy for heavy-duty content creation like preparing presentations—and writing this very article.
The iPad is for what netizens call “content consumption,” for reading the digital editions of the Inquirer on our iPad app (https://bit.ly/inq-digital-ios) as well as international papers and magazines that I follow.
The iPhone is for e-mail, phone calls (yes, I still do these) and social media such as Twitter (since I handle the Inquirer’s Twitter account @inquirerdotnet).
Before the Mac, the iPhone and the iPad, the concept of “publishing” using these devices would have been laughable. Publishing then meant having those big, growling typesetting machines and sharp-eyed typesetters who know their descenders from their ascenders and the proper leading grids for them.
Before Jobs put such portable yet powerful tools at our fingertips, the route from typewriter to printed page was long, sweaty, and mechanical, a steampunk’s dream, a leitmotif of the Industrial Age.
PC as palette
The Mac replaced physical pasteboards with the virtual. They replaced lead typefaces kept in ink-stained drawers with electronic menus offering an A-to-Z of fonts. Page layouts rich in graphics and photos became possible without painstaking labor. Proofs roll off sharp, crisp and warm from the laser printer within seconds.
More importantly, the Mac unlocked the personal computer’s potential as palette for the creative mind. It replaced the mysterious command line (using the keyboard) with the graphical user interface (using the mouse), knowing that no artist likes to wrestle with his own tools. This user-friendliness ultimately turned mere users into fanatic loyalists.
I know because I became a Mac loyalist when I started using it to produce the magazine PEN&INK in the late 1990s. I had gotten tired of constant color corrections and font changes while using a Windows PC. At first, though, using Macs for me was just a way of finding a constant in a complicated equation.
But I soon realized what my Mac-head friends had long been telling me. Macs just work: They enable you to spend more time creating and less time wrestling with your tools.
And if Macs made desktop publishing possible, the iPod and iPhone made mobile publishing possible anytime, anywhere.
It’s fair to say that the Nokia Communicator and the Blackberry preceded the iPhone and they had and would continue to have their own coterie of devotees (I remain a Blackberry user). It’s also fair to say that MP3 players existed before the iPod.
However, it was the iPod that made MP3 players the successor to the Walkman, and it was the iPhone that turned the smartphone from a nerd badge of courage into a fashion techno-objet d’art. It was a smartphone you didn’t have to be smart to use—yet it made you look smart.
The iPhone made the smartphone suddenly seem indispensable, a talisman of gorgeous industrial design desired for the sheer beauty of it, never mind if other phones had better hardware or features. The sheer smoothness of the user experience rendered technical specifications moot. It was indeed a thing of beauty and a joy forever (or at least until the next hip gadget would come along).
Jobs’ company Apple had already rendered computing largely wireless by popularizing Wi-Fi, but the iPhone further untethered the experience and embedded it even deeper in our lives. Thanks to its influence, mobile phones morphed into video cameras, books, game machines, navigation tools, digital recorders. In many cases, such phones became one’s other self, a repository of his or her deepest thoughts—at the same time a megaphone to the world.
For media practitioners, especially the new breed of “mojos” or mobile journalists, the iPhone makes for a new kind of reporting. “All I need right now to cover a story or event is my iPhone. That’s how Steve Jobs changed the way I work,” newsman Carlos Conde declared on Twitter.
I have sent more SMS or text alerts for the Inquirer’s 4467 breaking SMS alerts service (ON INQ BREAKING to 4467 if you want alerts on your phone) from the iPhone than I care to count—and from some of the oddest places. It’s amazing how much editing you can get done on an iPhone screen; its portability far outweighs minor hassles like temporary eyestrain.
The third change Jobs made in my life was perhaps the most revolutionary. Prior to the iPad, tablet computers were thick, chunky machines largely relegated to the back-end of logistics firms. No one thought of them as an everyday appliance straight from a techies’ dream.
The iPad created a class of consumer device where none had existed. The device and the others that followed it married the Web’s interactive experience with the relaxed, lean-back attitude of traditional long-form reading.
Suddenly, print magazines and newspapers got a new lease on life. People started reading more than ever before, on more devices than ever before—and paying for it. The iPad has led me to rediscover the joys of reading text longer than a tweet (and not getting distracted by the constant buzzing of Twitter and Facebook).
The International Herald Tribune, The Guardian, the San Francisco Chronicle, my childhood favorites Fortune and BusinessWeek as well as Time and Newsweek—all made their way back into my reading list along with the Inquirer, Cebu Daily News and the over 20 publications on the Inquirer’s Digital Edition (https://bit.ly/Inquirer-digital).
For his monument
Mac, iPhone, iPad—they made up the digital trifecta that Steve Jobs delivered. His impact lies not just in the devices themselves but in the changes they wrought on all the other gadgets that followed.
Each time you use a mouse to move an icon on your desktop, you pay homage to the graphical user interface that Macs helped pioneer. You have only to look at the slab-like shapes of today’s mobile phones and the app store clones most mobile phone makers are launching to see the iPhone’s influence.
And each time you fire up a tablet to play a game or read a book, newspaper or magazine, you have Steve Jobs’ vision to thank for the experience.
As the epitaph on Sir Christopher Wren’s tomb in St. Paul’s Cathedral in London reads, “si monumentum requiris, circumspice”. If you seek his monument, look around you.