On Christmas Day 1979, my dad gave me a gift that changed me forever. It was an Apple II+. He said it “was for the family.” But we both knew who it was really for.
I was only 12 years old at the time, but I had already spent countless hours hanging out with my dad in the computer lab at his company.
When other kids were reading baseball box scores, I was pouring over reams of code churned out by VAX machines and PDP-11s.
Bathed in their cool hum and glowing screens, I would lose all sense of time.
But I loved it.
I loved that I had the freedom to explore and tinker with future – at least that’s the way it felt.
What was unfamiliar or unknown to most of my friends was a sanctuary to me. And that made me feel special.
And, until the Apple arrived, I thought access to such technology was something only computer scientists or engineers could attain – those who had risen to the high priesthood.
But the Apple computer that came to life on our kitchen table that Christmas afternoon changed that and much more.
It would announce itself with a little beep and then present a blinking cursor that seemed perpetually hungry for your command.
Since there was precious little software available, I began to code my own games. I started out with BASIC and quickly learned assembly – the language of the Apple’s microprocessor.
If I wanted to do something on that computer, I had to figure out how to make it do it myself. I had to figure out how to do it with less than 48K of memory. I had to hack.
But the Apple was designed to hack. It encouraged it by going so far as to include a complete printout of the entire operating system. The circuit board could be easily accessed by peeling off the cover revealing its intricate inner workings.
Even by the standards of the day, the Apple II+ was a simple and not unusually powerful machine. But it let me do things I couldn’t do even in a room filled with millions of dollars of hardware.
It was an embodiment of the ideals of Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak that technology should be accessible, simple and magical.
It gave me a glimpse of the future I wanted to be a part of.
Thank you, Steve.