When I wake up every morning and turn on the lights, somewhere in the back of my mind I know that Thomas Edison’s invention of the light bulb is what makes it possible for me to see the dark circles under my eyes in the bathroom mirror. Seldom, if ever, do I pause to give credit to the Wizard of Menlo Park.
Likewise, when I sit down to eat supper every night and the phone rings, just as I have said "Amen" and picked up the first forkful of food, I know subconsciously that Alexander Graham Bell was a major contributor to the interruption of my evening meal, but I don't cuss him for it. At least not usually.
I could give other examples of the contributions inventors have made to our daily lives, but I don't know who invented the television or the electric toothbrush or the Wii and I am too lazy to find out. I do realize, however, that those people, whoever they are, helped change our lives -- in most part for the better.
I also realize that few people have had a more major impact in my everyday life over the last two decades than the late Steve Jobs. In fact, he is in large part responsible for the fact that you are able to read my musings today. I wrote my first book, "Need Two," on a borrowed Macintosh LCII computer. If not for the simplicity and intuitiveness of that marvelous machine I would still be recording my thoughts on a yellow legal pad with a ball point pen. Typewriters and I never did get along, you see. I never could line up the paper or set the margins and there is not enough White-Out in the world to accommodate all the mistakes I make.
I realize that Apple didn't make the first personal computer, but they made the first one that I could figure out how to operate. Steve Jobs used his genius to allow a technologically impaired person like me to interface with the modern world.
We were an Apple family long before Apple was cool. The first computer I owned was a blueberry "flavored" iMac and it didn't come with a tower or an abundance of wires to connect. I wrote two books on that computer and it was on that computer that Mavis taught my kids to type. They also made a hundred trips across the Oregon Trail on that iMac and followed Carmen San Diego all over the world. I know that Steve Jobs didn't write the software for their journeys, but if the computer hadn't been foolproof, this fool wouldn't have bought it in the first place.
My first laptop was an iBook. It came directly from Apple to my front porch. It didn't come with a booklet. Instead there was an instructional card inserted with the packaging that had two illustrations and no words. One picture showed a power cord being plugged into an outlet. The other showed the off-on switch being turned on. That was it. Plug it in and turn it on. That iBook helped me become a columnist and I carried it all over the country.
Jobs is also responsible for the iPod. I have a couple thousand songs on mine and listen to it on my daily walks, and even though one reader recently chastised me for listening to music while I walk instead of immersing myself in nature, I still appreciate being able to hear Alan Jackson sing "Blessed Assurance" when I am on the homeward leg of each 4-mile journey.
And let's not forget the iPhone. I didn't want an iPhone. I didn't even want a cellphone to begin with, but found it harder and harder to get along in the modern world without one. All I needed a phone for, or so I thought, was the occasional conversation -- to check in with the kids or to find out what we needed at the store. My family gave me an iPhone anyway -- and it has seldom been out of my hand since.
I can check my email on my iPhone and send text messages and get directions and update my Facebook status and find out the weather forecast for Key West. If I had any money I could make airplane reservations for Key West. Plus, I can play Angry Birds on my iPhone and even make a phone call if I need to. I could type a column on it if I absolutely had to. In fact, I started to type this one, but my thumb got tired after the first sentence.
Maybe I will get an iPad for Christmas.
Steve Jobs had a major impact on my life, and now he is gone at the age of 56. Thanks again, Steve, for helping a 20th century man navigate the 21st century.
Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.