Replacing an iMac


We bought Maggie’s iMac more than five years ago. I’ve been trying to get her to agree to an upgrade. I’d like to install Lion on it and modernize her workflow but she’s resisted.

I understand.

That computer goes pretty far in explaining why I feel so personally about the passing of Steve Jobs. He gave me memories I wouldn’t otherwise have. Here is an edited excerpt of a piece I wrote on February 21, 2008. It was the eve of the second anniversary of my daughter Elena’s death.

I know. I’ve never talked about that here on my business blog but today someone tweeted, “I’m glad you’re happy to be a father and a husband, but leading your business-facing bio that way sounds dumb.”

The tweet wasn’t directed at me at all. It was written by someone I’ve never heard of and retweeted by someone I’ve never met and had meant to unfollow. Good that I didn’t. The tweet helped me realize I hadn’t written enough here on my business facing blog on how happy I am to be a father and a husband.

In any case, I have lightly edited the story and brought the time frame up to date.

Two weeks.

That’s the mean time between someone writing that Macs are either overpriced or under-featured on some mailing list I’m on. The posters usually write that they could get a Linux box or a Windows laptop for a whole lot less than they could get Mac laptop. Once they’ve dismissed using a Mac as their work machine they then go on to explain why they wouldn’t pay extra to buy a Mac for their family either.

It doesn’t matter that Apple now builds many computers with form-factors many people want at price points there competitors can’t match. Ingrained beliefs will always trump facts.

Developers complained about the one button mouse long after the issue had been resolved. The OS handled a multiple button mouse – just buy one and plug it in. The machines continued to ship with a single button mouse and that seemed to be the right decision. I watched my youngest daughter struggle with the two button mouse while my eldest daughter loved it. So each of them had their own mice for using the iMac downstairs. My mom never got the hang of the two button mouse. She would click the “wrong” button and get unfamiliar options and wonder what the machine had done wrong. For her, the one button mouse was perfect. So I looked and saw a great compromise – build a machine that can handle as many buttons as you throw at it but ship a one button mouse standard.

Years ago I wrote about the genius of the Apple store. My eldest daughter was always directed when we went there. She knew what she wanted. She never really liked to go there just to go. My youngest daughter loved to play with the latest gadgets. She loved to sit in the childrens’ area they used to have and play games. She got to know some of the geniuses and they her. That’s before our Apple store was jam packed every minute that it is open.

Here’s another story. For this we need to go back five years and nine months.

That’s when I unwrapped the new iMac and set it up for my wife and daughters. I set up logins – one for me and one for each of them. I started to show them something and Maggie, then nine, said “I know already.”

She opened up Photo booth and started taking pictures of her and her sister Elena posing. “How could you know about Photo booth”, I asked, “you’ve never seen it before. You’ve never had a machine with a camera on it before.”

“Dad,” Maggie rolled her eyes, “it’s a Mac. It’s just obvious.”

And it was. Over those next two months Maggie made movies starring herself, her sister, and their friends. Whenever someone would come over, Maggie would take them in the computer room and have them do something for the camera that she could put into a movie.

And that is the only way that we have movies of Elena’s last two months of life. Two years ago today, Elena lost a tooth. Kim and I figured we’d take her picture in the morning. But she woke up with a little fever and so we never got around to it. The tooth fairy had placed a dollar under Elena’s pillow – for her it was the most perfect dollar ever.

Later, much later, Kim said “we never even got a picture of her with the missing tooth”.

Maggie said, “Oh I did mom.” And there in iPhoto was the most perfect picture of Elena wearing a big floppy hat and a big smile with a gap where her tooth had been.

I’m sure when you’re an Apple engineer heads down in a room grinding out code you can lose sight of the people you are building these products for. You could. I’m just glad you don’t. I’m grateful to every Apple engineer who took the time to make this machine powerful enough or me to use every day and easy enough for my daughters to do everything they can dream of doing.

Why do I use a Mac? I can’t imagine that I would have these memories of the last two months of Elena’s life if we used anything else. That may not convince you either. But tomorrow is the second anniversary of my little girl’s death and I will have movies to watch and pictures to look at. So hard to believe.

Five and a half years.

How long ago is that? She died a year and a quarter before the first iPhone released. It was halfway between Tiger and Leopard. It was – well – a lifetime ago.

Now Steve Jobs is gone. I never met him and yet his death is clearly a personal loss.

When you focus your efforts on making other people’s lives better — sometimes you do.