The Steve I Knew

Some kids idolize sports stars. Others hold a position of honor in their lives for musicians. As I child I only had two heroes: The Two Steves. Two mythical men who started a company that changed my life.

You see, I was a nerdy child. I don't mean that in a nostalgic, 80s kind of way. I mean that I was overly-imaginative, socially awkward, and utterly devoid of athletic ability. Worse than that was an undiagnosed learning disability that left me with poor short term memory, low mechanical dexterity and very few ways to put into action my profound ability for abstract reasoning. I suffered in school, academically and socially. I had few if any friends, and generally felt like a failure.

Until one day in the second grade some boxes arrived. In those boxes were Apple II computers. They were set up hastily in a ramshackle room. None of the teachers knew what to do with them, so they just sort of put kids in the room a few at a time to see what happened. I fell in love. Here was a device that you could make words without handwriting. You just pressed a key and magically a letter appeared on the screen.

Unlike TV, this machine would do what you told it. By changing disks, the computer would play whatever you wanted whenever you wanted it to. It didn't take long to figure out that if you pressed a couple of keys, the computer would stop it's program in in many cases let you view the magic behind the curtain.

I became an elementary school hacker and programmer. By middle school, I was handling support for teachers on campus and making radical architectural changes to the way systems worked.

I also met the Macintosh. In a room full of Apple IIs was a strange little black and white toaster. I thought it must be primitive, because the other Apple computers were in color. But it was strange. You didn't have to type commands to make the computer work. You just moved a mouse. There was no friction between thought and action. It was magic of the most powerful kind.

I fell in love and asked for a subscription to MacUser magazine for Christmas. I begged my parents constantly for a computer at home. I made persuasive arguments for why it had to be a Mac, that an IBM PC, DOS and Windows were tools of a bygone era.

All the while, I held in my mind that there were two men of Mythology, Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs. Never in my wildest dreams did I believe I would ever meet them. None my friends met Michael Jordan. No one ever though they would meet a move star or rock star. It just doesn't happen.

But then I met this guy named David Brightbill through a mutual friend. He owned an actual Apple Authorized Reseller and Service Provider. He offered me a job. I would get paid to work with Macs! He knew actual employees of Apple! Through this job I began to cultivate relationships with people at Apple. Dave even sent me all the way across the country to San Francisco where I got to where an Apple shirt and work in the Apple booth. I even got to shake hands with Steve Himself.

An amazing thing happened. Steve remembered me. When I would see him around Apple conferences, or occasionally the Apple campus he would greet me by name. At one point he even called to offer me a job in the company I admired most in the world, the company he founded. I even had dinner with him a couple of times. I remember eating at a Japanese place in San Francisco where he ordered a Mango Lassi. He got it.

I didn't take the job, but Steve always returned my emails. Can you imagine what it's like to be personally known by your hero? This guy created an entire industry that provides my livelihood. He created machines that were my lifeline as a child. He gave me business advice. He told me he respected my stance that my family was the most important thing in my life.

And now, just a week after my grandmother died from cancer, Steve is gone too.

If he was anyone else, I would call him an acquaintance. He is not anyone else. He's Steve Jobs and he will always be my hero.