I was recently called a “Mac troll” by a friend. It happened after I posted this link to my “Geeks” circle on Google+. I don’t know if he’s aware that he’s in my geek circle. He should be proud.

If it wasn’t enough that we survived an earthquake and a massive hurricane called Irene this weekend, Steve Jobs announced his resignation as CEO of Apple. The world really is coming to an end.

Me and Steve/Apple

I grew up when personal computers were not yet called PCs. Chris and Tony Franzetti in my neighborhood had a TRS-80, and I was amazed at how they could type endless lines of  code into it and produce a digitized drawing of a seal. Such was the usefulness of computers in the early 80s for the average teenager. We never had a computer in my house.

I was active on the yearbook and newspaper staffs at Pulaski Academy, and we had a monstrous typesetter that Mark Dalrymple alone knew how to coax wet, chemical-smelling strips of beautiful headlines and type out of. We’d hang the productions from a clothesline to dry before cutting them and pasting them into place. Then we’d take them to a printer.

When I went to college in 1986, I didn’t own a typewriter. When papers were due, I’d go to the computer lab or, more likely (because so many of us were unfamiliar with computers), I borrowed a typewriter from someone on the hall in my dorm. It was a glorious day when Mark Christie became my roommate in 3rd floor Daniel South. He owned a typewriter with automatic correction!

In 1986ish, Ouachita Baptist University’s journalism department purchased a slew of Mac Pluses, and Dr. Downs, the department head, challenged us to produce a “camera-ready” yearbook. What does that mean, we wondered? So began my love affair with Apple and the Macintosh.

My junior year, Mitch Bettis and I started a company called AdVantage Advertising in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. We got a small business loan from Elk Horn Bank and bought a Laserprinter and some Mac Pluses. We were early surfers of the desktop publishing wave. We had a blast before selling the company, and each of us moved on to grad schools.

My first personal Mac was a Mac LC. It looked like a grey pizza box. Little did I know that we were living in the era of Apple’s Dark Ages. Steve Jobs had left after a power struggle with CEO John Sculley in 1985. Sculley unimaginatively led Apple to produce dozens of bland, generic beige boxes. The only saving grace was the System 7 operating system within each. Steve returned to the company in 1997, and so began the meteoric rise of Apple with the release in 1998 of the first iMacs – a colorful line of bubbly computers.

Steve’s leadership transformed Apple. It went toe to toe with Microsoft, and Mac users weathered the taunts, abuse, ridicule about Macs not “being a real computer.” I remember the days when I began in campus ministry. A few years after I began, the Arkansas Baptist State Convention allowed me to get a Powerbook G3 (333, Lombard series). It was glorious, and it continued to run circles around all the homemade computers that PC students (PC now referred to anything with Windows installed on it and was known as a “Piece of Crap.”) would slave over. They’d spend hours piecing together the innards and then more hours troubleshooting their creations. All the while, the Mac just worked.

Since then, I’ve been through iBooks, Macbooks, a PowerMac G5, a 17″ Powerbook G4, 12″ Powerbook G4, iMacs G4, G5, and Core 2 Duos (Carolyn’s computer now is a iMac 2.0ghz) and the baby I’m now using – a 15″ MacBook Pro Intel Core 2 Duo 2.66ghz. On top of that, I’ve bought and sold, literally dozens of iPods (off of Ebay to raise money for Christmases).

When I resigned from campus ministry in 2003 to start a church on faith and obedience, I turned to graphic design to help put cereal in the cupboard. My first purchase was that PowerMac G5 I referred to earlier (and you can watch the video below.)

Then in June 2007, Apple entered a new era. The iPhone was announced. I wrote a blog entry in December 2006 called “Apple positioning to revolutionize the cellular industry” and received an enormous amount of ribbing and condescension from PC users (surprise!) and even a friend in Monticello who owned a cell phone store. He predicted that the iPhone would be a bust.

I’ve loved riding this fanboy wave. But the iPhone was beyond my reach. It retailed at $599 for the 8gb version. I prepared myself to not be an early adopter… Imagine my sheer delight when Carolyn presented me with an iPhone in the parking lot of Mazzio’s in Monticello, Arkansas! Mom and Dad had lovingly ponied up the money to purchase one for me. Then Carolyn and Sam had stood in line at the local AT&T store to get one. (Read the exuberant post  and watch the video here.) Since then, I’ve bought and sold a few iPhones on Ebay to make enough money to not have to pay out of pocket for the subsequent iPhone 3, 3GS and iPhone 4. I’ve also owned the first iPad and now use the iPad 2 (and bought and sold a couple of others during the popularity wave).

If you’re still reading, you’re either fascinated with how I came to be an Apple fanboy, or you’re a fanboy or girl yourself. I’d love to hear your stories.

When Steve resigned this week (For all true Apple lovers, he’s not Mr. Jobs. He’s Steve. We’re on a first name basis with him.), my heart dropped just a little. At the same moment, it soared. For those of us who’ve walked this technological path of discovery with Apple, we’re proud of that. We’ve been through it all. I can remember smug looks from Dell users when I pulled my trusty Powerbook out of a case in a coffee shop. I’ve heard, “Can you actually get any work done on that?” I’ve been there. In the last 5-6 years, however, the tide has completely turned, and it’s a sense of camaraderie that one feels when you notice several Macbooks, iPads or the like scattered in a conference or classroom.

Here are some observations about Apple and some thanks to Steve:

  • Apple is both a hardware, firmware and software experience. That is a huge differentiation from what any other company has been able to do. Apple pays as much attention to design and curves as it does to system functionality as it does to its software. It’s a seamless experience that allows every Apple product to “just work.”
  • I have never had a problem with computer viruses in the 25 years I’ve used Mac products.
  • All the other tech companies and OS offerings today (Google, Android, WebOS, etc.) have failed to produce the cohesive package that Apple can offer. For the most part (and there are declining exceptions) they are licensing operating systems and putting them in hardware wrappers made by other companies. It’s hard to control quality and the user experience that way.
  • Mac products retain an incredible resale value. That’s how I’ve been able to stay on top of the new release curve and become an early adopter of new products. Many times, I’ve actually made money on a Mac that I bought from Ebay and then resold for just a little more.
  • I am not saying that Macs are flawless. I have had issues. However, Apple customer service is simply amazing. However, with all the Macs I’ve owned and resold, I can tell you that the times I’ve had to call (and a few times cajole) 1-800-SOS-APPLE, that they’ve come through on every occasion that they should. Even a few occasions where I admitted they had absolutely no responsibility to help me, they’ve come through and helped me out. That creates a loyal customer. Period. I sometimes wonder whether Android fans or Googlers will remain fans when they discover that Google/Android can’t help them with their hardware?
  • Apple products, including their computers, are just fun to use. The video was created in 2003, on the PowerMac G5 whose arrival I was celebrating…

I could go on, but I suspect there are some readers whose stomachs are turning. I’m sorry. If this makes you uncomfortable, go defrag your hard drive or maybe replace your motherboard.

And to Steve… thanks. Truly. I have an immense amount of respect for you. You’ve been able to lead the world in technology, besting the big boys time and time again. Your company has singlehandedly revolutionized our personal technology experience. You took on the music industry and put tunes in our pockets. You changed the cellular industry. I imagine in the next year that your vision will also transform and reshape the video industry – dethroning cable and satellite companies and putting our TV and movies into the common users hands when we want it,affordably, and in a package that has the “wow” factor.

From a bruised Apple fanboy to one the visionaries who started it all, it’s been an amazing ride. I’m already plotting how to get a newer Macbook Pro and the iPhone 5 (although I haven’t yet upgraded to Lion). I still love the line you used to get John Sculley aboard at Apple from Pepsi: “Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life or come with me and change the world?” Although John didn’t work out vision-wise, Apple did grow under his leadership. And you have changed the world with your products, vision and leadership.

This week, in spite of an earthquake and a hurricane, all i’s have been on you, Steve. As you make this transition, my sincere prayers are with you – for your strength, health and healing. Also, because none of us truly knows our remaining days, I am praying for you to become a joyful follower of Jesus Christ. If I had an opportunity to sit down with you tonight, I’d challenge you like you challenged John so many years ago, “Do you want to sell glass and circuits for the rest of your life, or join me in following the One who has changed the world?”

In the end, when it comes down to it, we all have earthly loves. One of mine is all things Apple. But that love pales in comparison the love and gratitude I’ve found in following the Creator of the first apple. Mankind’s misuse of that apple didn’t turn out so well. I hope that my use of Apples in these days always points to and glorifies the grace and love of Jesus Christ.

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