It occurs to me that some “young people” and even some of our older guys and gals might not know or might not remember what a huge impact Steve Jobs had on everyday life, especially for small business people.
As amazing as the iPod is and as incredibly useful as the iPad is, I think his earlier products had a more massive impact on society than even his later ones.
For example, when I lived in New York City in 1984 I had a little business teaching speed reading to college students and professional people. I was in my 20s and I don’t mind admitting I was stretched pretty thin.
My main – make that my sole – means of effective advertising was posting flyers up and down both sides of Broadway. The response rate on those flyers literally determined whether I ate and was able to pay my rent on time or not, therefore I did a lot of testing.
Guess what it cost to typeset a single one-sided 8 1/2 x 11 flyer in those days?
$100 – which in 1984 was a lot of money.
The first Macintosh, the 128K, changed that overnight. You could actually lay out flyers in different types and with different typefaces by yourself and then, if you had a laser printer, you could print them out too.
This was life-changing for me.
I didn’t have anywhere near enough money to afford to buy either a Macintosh or a laser printer, but in those looser, friendlier times, I could take the subway up to Columbia University and pretend to be an undergrad, get in the “computer lab”, and knock my flyers out before anyone was the wiser.
In time, I was actually able to buy my own Mac – amazing – though I still had to make the trip to Columbia to print stuff out. (Thank you Columbia University.)
I did have enough money to buy an ImageWriter (I think that’s what it was called) which was a very mechanical sounding dot matrix printer, though it ran like a racehorse.
I don’t think I ever wore it out. I did outgrow it though and eventually was finally able to buy a laser printer, which happened many years later. I think I paid $2000 for it.
My business then was simple. I’d lay out flyers on my Mac, get the master printed up at Columbia, and then get it printed by the thousands. I’d post the posters myself and then wait for the phone to ring. (Pre-Internet days folks.) Thankfully it always did ring and I was always able to fill my classes.
The Mac help me again. After somebody called and I described the course to them, I take their name and mailing address and send them a brochure which was actually a sales letter. I’d print out the sales letter right on the spot on my ImageWriter.
Understand that previous to this the only other way to accomplish this was to type the letter by hand or send a xerox copy. With my own printer, I was able to personalize the letter so it looked like I sat down and actually wrote it to them. Amazing.
The Mac help me in yet another way. I forget the name of the program but there was a program at the time that let you easily enter names and mailing addresses into a database and then print them out on labels. Another miracle.
Every month when I had a new class, I simply printed out the labels of anyone who ever inquired, put in the letter for the new class in envelopes and mailed it.
With this simple system I was able to buy my freedom from the 9 to 5 workaday world.
How can you put a price on something like that? Steve Jobs and Apple made it possible.
But that’s not all…
A few years later, I upgraded the 128K to a 512K and that machine became the foundation of one of the first digital audio for film studios in New York City. Don’t ask me how he did it, but my brilliant friend Bill Markle somehow rigged together a mixing board, an Otari tape recorder, a Sony U-Matic 3/4″ video deck, and the Mac and use that to create the soundtracks for countless small productions.
From this humble beginning, Bill went on to create the soundtracks for some pretty famous movies including “Like Water for Chocolate” and the Academy award-winning documentary “When We were Kings”, the film about the life of the boxer Mohammed Ali.
I’m sure there are thousands of stories like this, maybe even millions.
The whole concept of “desktop publishing” was enabled by Apple and the vision of Steve Jobs. Suddenly, businesses of all kinds could produce their own marketing materials and anyone who had the will could become a publisher. This was literally as important a breakthrough as Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press.
But that’s not all…
Amazingly, and not many people realize this, Tim Berners-Lee wrote the original code for the World Wide Web on a NEXT machine and, of course, Steve Jobs was behind that machine as well. Therefore, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Jobs was present at the two great revolutions of self-publishing, first on paper and ink and second on the Internet. The iPod and the iTunes Store put the icing on an already substantial cake.
Note that Steve Jobs received no government subsidies, wasn’t anybody’s friend in Washington, and didn’t need bailouts to do any of these things. Yet it’s very possible he created more jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities than anyone in the last 30 years.
Here’s a video of the talk Steve Jobs gave at a college graduation in 2005.
I guarantee the 15 minutes. it will take to watch it will be worth your time.