How Steve Jobs Changed My Life

 Hooked Up!   My work station where the Commentaries are created

How I joined the Blogosphere

Although I wasn’t a Luddite, I was not one of those who immediately recognized the marvelous power of the personal computer.  And in any case they seemed impossible to operate without special training. This belief was shaped from my limited attempts to operate the computer we had in the crib, which was incomprehensible.

 It was an IBM, which in my mind was synonymous with computers having grown up with Univac, the big IBM main frame computer. The personal computer we had operated on a very complex program, yet while I stumbled my kids were operating it with ease because they were taught how to use the program in school.  While they were merrily typing away, I used to sit at my writing table scribbling with a ball point pen; then hiring a typist to type the manuscripts for my articles – which regularly appeared in the most prestiegous publications in the English language: the Village voice, Manchester Guardian and Sunday Times of London among them.

Several things happened that led me to the personal computer.  It began with a speech I delivered to an auditorium full of computer scientist at Bell Corps.  I decided to be a wise guy and get a laugh at their expense, as well as make a point about folks developing a fetish for technological gadgetry to the point that things we used to do very well before the technology now seemed impossible without digital toys.

So I gleefully told the scientist that I had a word processor that could write, make quick corrections, was compact enough to carry in your breast pocket and had a renewable power source.  Then I dramatically reached into my pocket and produced a lead pencil!  It got a big laugh, and to further beat the technocrats down I announced that Shakespeare had written 35 plays with a goose quill!

When the lecture on Jazz was over and Wynton and Ellis Marsalis performance concluded, one of the scientist, Larry Dillon, came over to me and said “I bet if Shakespeare was writing on my Mac he would have written 100 plays!”  Then a few weeks later he showed up on my birthday with a complete Mac set - computer and laser printer.  “This is my contribution to American culture” he announced.

 I was overwhelmed with gratitude but still continued to write with my ballpoint pen until I was talking with writer Elsa Boyd who had written an instructional book titled “Word Processing for Dummies.”  She told me I didn’t have to know how to type and that my machine was “user Friendly.”Well, I began to write on my Mac and it changed my life.

One of those computer scientists also worked on “The Information Super Highway,” which became the Internet as we know it.  The  Personal Computer and the Internet has provided me a worldwide audience…and a great incentive to write.  I am especially inspired when I think of the ordeal Fredrik Douglass went through to get his commentaries before the public.

 He had to own a press to begin with; then he had to set the type, choose different fonts, ink them down, churn out those broadsheets by hand, and send them by mail to distributers.  Thanks to Steve Jobs – a California counter-cultural free thinking quasi-hippie/tinkerer/businessman / genius -  I can sit right here at my desk and create a document with pictures and text, then publish it on the Internet so that my readers can read it all over the world instantaneously!   Every time I sit down to write I feel like the Greek philosopher Archimedes: “Give me a lever and a place to sit…and I will move the earth.”  The personal computer, a gift from the fertile imagination of Steve Jobs - is my lever!!!

The College Dropout Who Changed the World!

Steve Jobs

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Platythell Benjamin

Harlem New York

October 2011

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