I learned about the passing of Steve Jobs this Wednesday as I was in San Francisco for Oracle OpenWorld. I was munching on a cream puff from Beard Papa's on my way back to the hotel when the message popped up on my iPhone.
Image credit: Jonathan Mak (麥朗)
I was thunderstruck by the news and observed a moment of silence and remembering. While I only ever had the opportunity to meet Steve in person once at a talk he gave during his time at NeXT, he and the company he built have made a huge impact on my life in numerous ways.
It all started in the early eighties when I went to high school in Linz, Austria, and discovered my love for computers and learned how to program on the TRS-80 we had in school, on a Commodore PET that one of my friends owned, and an Apple II that was built into some laboratory equipment in my dad's organic chemistry lab at the JKU university.
In 1983 I bought my first computer, an Apple IIe, and two years later I bought my first Mac. It was through these two machines that I got deeper and deeper into programming, became a serious computer geek, and learned everything from BASIC to UCSD Pascal and assembly language for the 6502 and 68000 microprocessors. And I started working while still going to high school and wrote software for small businesses in the area to help finance the purchase of various computer upgrades, modems, printers, and other gadgets.
After high school I went on to study semiconductor and solid state physics at JKU university and continued to work part-time. During that time I worked as a teacher at a local computer camp for kids that offered sailing and programming instructions (on Apple II and Macintosh computers) over the summer, and I started working for Apple's Austrian subsidiary in Vienna, doing training for their reseller channel as well as participating in the founding of AMDA, the Austrian Macintosh Developer Association.
It was through that Apple connection in Vienna that I got the opportunity of a lifetime in 1988 when I was admitted into the summer-intern program at Apple's main campus in Cupertino. For three summers and one February break I contributed to various projects at Apple ranging from a modification of the Calculator desk accessory to support international number formats, modifying the internal disk image program that was then used to transfer operating system images from the Cupertino campus to the Fremont factory, to writing the 'KCHR' editor and numerous other modules for ResEdit. I made many great friends during those years and, in fact, just had dinner again with some of them last week in San Francisco.
What I had learned at Apple in those years profoundly influenced my life and kindled a love for elegant and powerful developer tools that continues to live on in what I do at Altova today. Ultimately, these three summers in California also played a significant role in my decision to relocate to the US in 2001 with my entire family and to become US citizens in early 2009.
My life would truly have been very different without the influences of Apple, it's products, and it's visionary founder.
Thank you, Steve.
Photo credit: Nora Falk