I am old enough to remember when a computer was something owned by a corporation or a university and filled a huge, specially constructed room. I did my college thesis using one of those “mainframes” to tabulate punch cards that contained data, which I inputted through a giant typewriter.
Then came the Apple II, a 1 MHz computer that had 4k of RAM, recorded data onto an audiocassette tape – later replaced by a 51/4 inch floppy disk drive. When it went on sale in 1977, it cost $1298. With some trepidation about potentially undermining its mainframe sales to big business, IBM hurried to catch up with Apple, introducing its first personal computer in 1981. The Apple II was followed by the Macintosh in 1984. Quickly the personal computer found its way into the homes and offices of hundreds of millions of Americans, and later, through the iPhone, into their pockets.
Much will be said over the next few days about how Steve Jobs revolutionized the entertainment business. And he did, indeed.
But consider the impact his vision of a personal computer has made in placing the power of technology into the hands of the People. I wrote Proposition 103 on a Mac. I printed out campaign leaflets out an Apple LaserWriter, a $4000 printer that let you change the type style and made what I wrote look like it was printed by a professional press.
Today, as Americans assemble to protest our economic plight and the politicians’ fealty to powerful corporate interests, they access unfiltered information and communicate freely with each other through the internet and social networks that could not exist but for the democratization of computer technology pioneered by Steve Jobs.