Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Steve Jobs, Computers, and the Navy

Upon hearing of the death of Steve Jobs, I immediately began thinking of the impact he had on my life.  And, since my life was heavily influenced by the Navy, I also began to think about the impact that he had on that organization.  Oh, his impact was not direct, but it was sure and positive.

I was never an Apple guy.  My first computer was actually a Radio Shack Color Computer 2 on which I learned to program in BASIC.  The next computer was a 286 with MSDOS on which I learned how to use a word processor.  MSDOS, of course, was essentially an offshoot (some would say stolen) from the first disk operating system used by Apple.  However, the fact that I began to use a desktop personal computer at all was directly the result of innovation brought to the world by Steve Jobs.

In a day when "real" computers were huge mainframes, he made it possible to even think about a computer the size of which could be put on a desk.  When I was a student in 1983 at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, I wrote my thesis on a mainframe computer using dot codes to start paragraphs and chapters.  Within a year, I had a PC on the desk on my ship using word processors with variable typeface fonts brought to us by Steve Jobs. Within a decade, even old Admirals were using desktop computers for email.

Now, while it is difficult to find an Apple Computer anywhere in the Department of Defense, desktop personal computers running software that is a direct offshoot of the Macintosh systems is testament enough to the impact of Steve Jobs.  Yes, Steve Jobs impacted my life and impacted how the Navy did business.  But, that is how it is with true genius - his influence permeates much more than we think...more than he thought...more than we might realize.

Steve Jobs, I'm glad we knew ye.