Everyone here has the sense that right now is one of those moments when we are influencing the future. – Steve Jobs
In the early eighties, small town India like my hometown had not seen computers. The closest that you came to one was when you went to book a train ticket. It was behind the glass at the booking counter. It was most often ‘operated’ by bored government workers in lab coats over polyester shirts with a handkerchief dabbed in talc around their neck (to save the collar from fraying). Or by women (in lab coats again) nibbling on fried snacks from their press-molded stainless steel ‘eversilver’ tiffin boxes peering into large CRT monitors with pink floral plastic dust covers and tassles.
I have to describe these machines to you. They were behemoth gray boxes with a blue pixel screen. The CPU looked like a part of a Russian tank and the monitor was made of discarded plastic buckets. The keyboard had their tab keys jammed often and the lady operator was screaming for help in a fit, kicking her snacks off her table while the cursor did a wild jig across form fields on that minuscule window. I was waiting in the queue.
I wondered how they can make us more productive.
A little later when my father bought an AppleIIc for a publisher friend of his from Singapore (the farthest notion of a foreign land for a Tamil boy) I learned that computers can look good too. My dad had meticulously unpacked and assembled it with great care. The machine, if I can call it, looked like the wonders that gypsies brought to Macondo in a Marquez novel. Call it love at first sight. I was a convert, a hopelessly smitten self-confessed fanboy.
At college, they taught me BASIC on an Apple. I met a Macintosh at the design school (and it actually said ‘Hello’). Not that we were allowed to use it freely. We used to set type in Aldus Pagemaker, take prints and paste it on our artworks with rubber cement. That was quite a progress from hot metal where we have to set type laterally inverted or phototypesetting where we had to calculate the hypotenuse of misery on the blue screen to get a small piece of photo paper with three lines of type exposed on it. We loved the Macs.
Then came the candy colored eMac at home, a Powerbook G4, an early iPod, more MacBooks, an iPhone and a strong affinity for a brand that thought of people who used their product. An affinity to the fabulous user interface, the mouse and the man behind it all — Steve Jobs. This infatuation faded as I grew older, wiser and read more about him.
But as I specialised in UX, I realised how the whole ethos of the Apple brand is about being humanist. It is about removing the inhibitions, fear and other barricades between people and technology so that it becomes a part of our everyday lifestyle.
Now there is a story about how Apple was ‘inspired’ by the Xerox Graphical User Interface. Apparently, there was a pivotal visit by Jobs to Xerox Parc at Palo Alto and that influenced the future of technology. Watch this 10-min video.