Let me tell you a story.
In 1992 I was at art college creating large collages of photocopied geometric shapes. At my end of year assessment the tutor remarked, rather disparagingly I might add, “Why don’t you just do that on a computer?”. The truth was, besides him missing the point, I didn’t like computers, I was a little scared of them even. Computers were no longer consoles for playing Jet Pack; no, now they were complex DOS systems for desktop publishing and more. Oh I once slithered into the computer room and managed to print a colourful but squiggly mess, but I soon lost interest and returned to the photocopier and a pot of glue.
My rather busy desktop background for a time…
Just about a year and a bit later my mates and I were visiting the flat of some friends of friends. One of them was a lecturer in media studies and somehow got round to introducing us to their little beige box in the corner of the study. It was a Macintosh IIsi I seem to remember and I typed my first ever piece of simple hypertext on that little box.
It occurs to me now that I have a lot to thank that friend of a friend for. She not only introduced me to my first Apple Macintosh, but she was also responsible for sowing the seed of what was to be my future career path. So it is only fair to give that friend a name, and it is Helen; the last I heard of her she was living somewhere in Derbyshire. So thank you Helen wherever you are.
Following that I enrolled myself on a graphics and multimedia course at a small London college. The course was run by a forward thinking department head called Nick, who seemed rather out of place in a school with an old-school graphics mentality. More than once I heard a disgruntled and embittered cut-and-paste tutor exclaim “I don’t believe in computers”. Unfortunately for him the world was moving on and the room full of Quadras and LCs was beginning to see more action.
An early attempt at my own logo, with a little influence from the Designers Republic I feel, though far from that kind of quality
Then my friend and flatmate got run over.
Luckily for him, he survived and the insurance money went toward one of the first Power PCs. When a bunch of us started our own business we invested in a clone, remember them? With a video editing clone and a graphically powerful Power PC, the scene was set for a career in graphic design. Move forward another couple of years and I landed my first job in a design business as a Mac Artworker. With a small wage packet in my account each month I got a loan from the bank and invested in a blue and white G3, an Epson printer, a scanner and a ridiculously heavy Lacie electron blue monitor, complete with hood.
A magazine illustration – the eagle eyed among you might spot the Mac clone that is visible in the screen
15 years later and a couple more Mac computers along the way, I remain a graphic designer, my life, like so many others, centring around an Apple home hub. It’s crazy to think that the iPad I am now typing this post on contains more power than most of the huge desktops I have used over the years. Bizarre to think that what began life as a revolution in DTP has become a revolution in how we perceive ourselves, our relationships and our environment – for both better and worse. In my life the Apple products generate employment, regulate the day, stream the news, provide the entertainment, keep me in touch with distant friends and family. In evolutionary terms I’m posthuman and postindustrial, my notion of what it means to be connected, my notion of home, has changed beyond recognition to someone maybe 10 or 20 years ago.
An early company advert – obviously we became obsessed by Photoshop filters, as many of us do/did
What that original introduction had that my previous experiment with a PC at art college didn’t have was System 7. Here was a computer with a personality, here was a computer I could relate to. The user interface was so intuitive that I took to it like a fish to water, and I would spend as much time playing with control panels and extensions as I would doing the design work that paid the bills. To this day I get as much of a thrill from problem solving system issues as I do from using the actual application software. The user interface is something Apple has always excelled at and its latest incarnation, Lion, as well as its current crowning glory, the iPad, are testament to that dedication to making technology easy and accessible.
A later, more sombre, company logo
So despite their atrocious customer service record, in my experience at least, and despite the negative consequences that technology has brought me, ie. not seeing enough daylight, too much game playing, too much relying on Wikipedia or Google for serious information, I can only thank the masterminds at Apple and the late Steve Jobs for their hard work. Apple products certainly changed my life, gave it it some direction even, and they’ll be distracting me until the day that I, too, die.
But I’m not going to be sycophantic, if you can hear me Mr Jobs, I still want my money back for the white iMac that mysteriously went bang after just a couple of years – I never did get a satisfactory answer about that and I still went out and bought a nice shiny new one! Loyalty must have it’s reward in heaven, surely?