Hard News by Russell Brown


Thanks, Steve. For everything.

I'm supposed to be prepping for my event tonight, but Steve Jobs has died and I'm stopped in my tracks.

I first used a Mac in 1986, when I was crashing on the floor of my buddy Chris's tiny bedsit in London. Chris would go to work and I taught myself to use this new kind of computer while he was out.

It was, as Chris said, "different". I'd used a computer before -- a crummy CP/M machine on which I typed and formatted the words for every issue of Rip It Up -- but nothing that seemed as amenable, as obvious, as right as that little Mac Plus.

It wasn't until 1991 that a Mac -- an SE -- become part of my creative work. Fiona and I used that little thing to write and shape the copy for each issue of Planet magazine, a project of which I am still inordinately proud, and which helped shape everything I have done professionally since.

I took it home (it's still on the shelf behind me), and it was the first computer I used to connect to the internet from my home. It was the computer on which I looked up the words "Asperger Syndrome" when we got that news.

When the SE began to die, I managed to get a deal on an LC 575, one of the best computers Apple ever made. I eventually sold it to Chris Bourke, who used it to write his Crowded House book, and "upgraded" to a Performa 580, one of the worst computers Apple ever made. Those were dark days.

There have been seven since -- five desktops and two portables, plus the iPods, the phone and the iPad. I have written millions of words on them, maintained this website, worked with video, audio and ideas on them.

In 1996, I got a proper job at IDG and became the sole Mac holdout in the office, at the terrible price of having to use Lotus Notes 4.x for Mac.

As Apple stumbled and fell in the mid-90s, I almost got used to the idea that I'd eventually have to use some variant of Windows NT. Or something. I continued to hope that each slightly desperate feint by Apple's management would arrest the decline.

And then Steve came back. I explained what happened next in the 1999 Macworld Expo New York story I wrote for Unlimited.

I understand the alarms about Apple's size and some of its practices, but I think my attitude to that is always tempered by having gone through the bad years. It still seems a miracle the company is around.

Am I a fanboy? Hell yes. A Mac has been my tool of trade for a very long time, and it has always seemed to match my creative rhythm. I loved using it and on a good day, I freakin' loved using it. I never, ever had that feeling on any other computer. I tolerated other computers.

But it wasn't just the product. It was Steve. I identified with the way he thought different, the way he dropped out, his aesthetics, the fact that he said taking LSD was one of the "two or three most important experiences of my life". I loved the fact that after being thrown out of the company by a bunch of suits, he returned, seized the reins and threw the bums out -- then reimagined the company and made it bigger and more successful than they ever could have dreamed.

I was not talked into this by any kind of marketing campaign, although naturally I liked the "Think Different" pitch. Like many other creative people, the Mac is simply a place I feel at home.

So thanks so much for that, Steve. Thanks, you glorious, brilliant asshole.

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