Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Steve Jobs and His Times (A Re-post of an Old Article, with Changes)

Steve Jobs - A Life in Reflection

Dear Son,

Since the last week I have been wading through Steve Jobs' biography by Jeffrey S. Young and William L. Simon and enjoying the flow of events and the rich details contained therein. So, here's my take on his life and his days, as we were contemporaries, well, sort of. The book provides a ringside view of the most momentous developments in computer history. I am much more involved because I was there to witness most of the events mentioned in the book: the transformation from Microsoft's operating systems (OS) to Windows and the evolution of computers from clunky boxes to the sleek ones you see today. So here's a gleaning of a few thought for you son and your contemporaries.

Let's get the scenario right. Here's what used to happen when I switched on a computer in the 1980s when I started working for the first time on computers. Windows hadn't made its advent (which you and others of your age take for granted) and what we got on switching on the computer was this (remember, there were no mouses or mice in those days, so everything was typed):


The underscore (_) after the C:\ used to blink and we had to type the following:

*.* (star dot star)

That would display all the directories in the computer. Then I would search for a directory I had created that contained my file. I would press "ENTER" and the directory would open. Then I would select the file and press "ENTER." This would open the file in the accompanying program.

The display wouldn't be the colourful pixellated ones we have these days (as you are wont to see on your computer these days) it was sheer black with the characters in white. Above the text would be a set of short cuts including:

^S - Save
^N - New
^D - Delete

So on and so forth.... Remember, all these happened before you all were born. Hopefully, you were a mere happy thought in your parents' minds.

Remember, if you forgot to save, the data you had typed would vanish leading to panic and frustration. Also when you closed a file it wouldn't ask you to save it before exiting. So, next time you open the file, you cross your fingers, then cross your eyes, and hope the changes were saved.

The mouse or mice came later in the nineties. The windows came also at the same time. Before that there were no windows to look at and move your mouse or mice across.

I and Steve Jobs and people of my generation lived through these times, son. Computer were clunky things, not the sleek laptops with colour screens which we see these days. Whatever his failing Steve Jobs took his companies through the momentous changes in computer technology, animation technology, and a lot more.

Yeah, music technology. Because those days we didn't have computers, ipods, mp3 players, and the like, son. Now that you are a computer scientist who has all these gizmos, let me tell you about those days. All we had were clunky cassette tapes and gramophone records. All I had was a cassette player with a mono speaker that issued Beatles and The Doors songs with a squeak. And when the cassette jammed we had to eject it, put a pencil through the wheel which was causing all the trouble and wind it to the end of the tape and try again on the other side of the tape. Yes, the tape had two sides.

Today what you take for granted, son, seem like great revolutions to us oldies. You take all this as given while we didn't have all these luxuries. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and the lot were the men who plodded through these technical cataclysmic changes and made their companies into some of the behemoths of electronics technology.

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