i remember when i was a freshman at penn state in 2002, going to the computer lab in findlay commons to write a paper for class. i went there frequently because i couldn’t get much done in my dorm room with all the distractions of everyday college life, but never had i had a problem jumping on one of the many windows machines set up in the lab except for that one particular day.
midterms were going on, everyone was studying, and the lab was packed with people, so i looked over at the two rows of empty imacs and thought to myself, “why the hell not?”
when i grabbed that mouse and first logged in to OS X, it was like i was using something that was years ahead of its time. oh, of course it was odd at first â€” the feel of the keyboard, the click of the mouse, the simplicity of it all â€” but as i used it to write that paper i began to fall in love.
with a computer.
after that day, whenever i was in a lab, i’d always choose the apple machines unless i was working on a project for class which required something windows-specific. god, how i hated those days. the year after, my brother â€” a graphic design student at the time â€” would get his first powerbook, a titanium g4. there was a special kind of awesome in the air on the day he unboxed it; a feeling that you honestly were touching the future.
i secretly envied his new computer whilst i continued to do the geek things i did on my dell â€” running my own apache web server, checking visitors logs, creating web sites in macromedia flash, playing battlefield 1942 â€” and running away to one of the computer labs to use an imac whenever i could just to get my fix of apple. and as time went on, an interesting thing began to happen: the rows of macintosh computers were suddenly being filled, and empty seats began to appear around the dells running windows.
i finallyÂ after a few years (and some begging and pleading with mom and dad) got my own powerbook, an aluminum g4, and an ipod photo. hot shit! this was the big time, people!Â and it was at that point when my perspective on things really began to change.
i used to love the windows platform because i loved the control i had. i could customize anything i wanted to customize, install web servers, log readers, hack registry items â€” i could do just about anything i could think of doing. but just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should. that’s the greatest impact steve jobs had on me. he showed me what design really means.
suddenly, the web sites i was creating got a lot more simple. i took out the needless animations, simplified my color palettes, switched to web standards, and thought first and foremost ‘what can i remove from this to make it better?’ while classmates were still talking about â€” and having problems with â€” their windows machines and how the latest hack they applied fouled up the hack they implemented the week prior, i was using a stock setup on an apple laptop with no bells or whistles. and not because i didn’t have them, but because i didn’t want them.
my computer was perfect the way it was.
i learned that simplicity can be beautiful and that it’s more about the user experience than it is about the development experience. [honestly, it's fun as shit to play around with animations and 3D objects and pushing the technology to the max, but at the end of the day it's not about you, it's about the user.] that’s a lesson that i apply to my life still to this day.
and what an apple-filled life it has become.
i’m writing this right now on a 13-inch macbook, listening to music streaming to my stereo via an airport express, riding on wi-fi waves from my time capsule router/wireless storage device while getting updates from twitter on my iphone 4. and while my digital apple life all seems so commonplace now, i am still amazed sometimes when laying on the couch swiping through blog posts, videos, and more my ipad. because every now and then, i have flashbacks to that day â€” freshman year, 2002, in a penn state computer lab â€” logging into an imac for the first time.
because every now and then, i look down at my hands and truly feel like i’m holding the future.