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In 1982, 27-year-old Steve Jobs walked into a meeting of the Washington Area Computer Users group to talk about the Apple II, a “personal computer” he and Steve Wozniak created in a a garage a few years earlier as part of their new computer company.
I owned an Atari 800 in those day, a rival computer based on the same processor. As I listened to Jobs speak, I realized this brash, long-haired young man from California was a visionary.
The Apple II, like the Atari, was more game box than computer in those days but Jobs talked of a future when computers would be expand beyond accounting, beyond games and into creative work, including photography, video and even movies.
At a reception after his presentation, I asked Jobs if personal computers really had a future.
“If they don’t then I’ll have to go out and have a real job.”
For a while, it looked like Jobs would have to go out and get a real job and Apple would become just another afterthought in a personal computer world dominated by Bill Gates and the Microsoft juggernaut. Apples had more style but Gates and Microsoft were better at marketing and Apple floundered. The Apple board even ousted Jobs in a coup engineered by former Pepsico executive John Scully.
Jobs went on to start other companies and got involved in Pixar, which revolutionized animation and the movie industry.
Scully’s lack of creativity threatened to drive the Apple into obscurity and Jobs came back to rescue Apple and turn it into a a revolutionary force in the computer industry.
I bought a Macintosh when it was first introduced in 1984 and have used Apples ever since — first for photography and later for video and graphic design. As a House of Representatives chief of staff, I installed Macs in our offices.
Shortly after the Mac’s introduction, I interviewed Jobs for a magazine article. He thanked me by recommending that MacWorld magazine interview me for an article the use of Macs on Capitol Hill.
Most professional photographers use Mac and Photoshop for manage their images. Most major Hollywood files are edited on Macs, using Final Cut Pro. Many newspapers use Macs to edit and produce their daily editions. Many magazines are edited and produced on Adobe In-Design and Macs.
Steve Jobs died Wednesday after years of battling pancreatic cancer and problems from a liver transplant. He was 56.
I’ll always remember that 27-year old man with the intense stare, strong handshake and grand visions of the future.
Some at the Washington meeting in 1982 thought he was nuts.
But we need more nuts like Steve Jobs.