Wineka: I didn't know Steve Jobs, but he knew me

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 6, 2011

SALISBURY — Close to 25 years ago, my wife and I went to a store in Hickory to purchase our first home computer.
With her father’s help, Lindsay had done all the homework, and we bought a Apple Macintosh SE. We paid more than $3,000 for that little, off-white box, which had a screen as big as one of those kitchen televisions you place on the counter next to the stove.
A young guy at the store gave us a quick tutorial on how to use it. I giggled like a school girl when he introduced me to the little appendage with a clicker in the middle that he called a “mouse.”
How weird it was, moving that mouse around on the desk top and watching an arrow dart back and forth on the screen in front of me. I thought I would never be able to control it.
Other than our house and cars, that Macintosh SE was our most expensive purchase ever. We carefully transported it home and set it up (with a printer) in the dining room, gradually learning to navigate what at first was an intimidating new world.
But we soon found comfort in the whirr-whirr of the SE’s hard drive and the sound of things printing. My father-in-law supplied us with many disks of various programs and games to insert into the front slot of the computer, but I relied on the Macintosh SE mostly for word processing.
I even wrote a manuscript on that trusty computer, which had a huge keyboard — wider than the SE itself. I don’t remember the computer ever crashing, until sometime in the early 1990s the hard drive just wore out. We eventually “graduated” to one of those behemoth home computers made by Hewlett-Packard, or some company like that.
I think back to the Macintosh SE because of the death Wednesday of Steve Jobs, who by all accounts will be remembered as an Einstein or Edison of my generation.
I never connected our first computer to Steve Jobs. I just appreciated the genius behind it, wondering who in the world was smart enough to provide such magic in a little box.
Some years back, we held a yard sale at our house. One of the items we put out for sale was the old SE. No one was interested, which suited me. The more I looked at it, the more I saw it as a treasure worth keeping.
Our kids, who were born around the time we bought the Macintosh SE, might someday decorate their homes with old computers like this — the way we like to collect and display old Underwood and Royal typewriters as antiques.
I write these musings to you on a iBook G4 that I’ve been using for work some five or six years. It’s a durable machine, given how I’ve treated it.
I take it home every night. I bounce it around on trips. I pound on it every day. Yet it keeps turning on, keeps connecting me to people, places and information.
I’m old school now, because I still use a mouse, though I’ve quit giggling like a school girl. My sons are using iPads, iPhones (pending) and iPods. My wife relies on a MacBook Pro at home.
I remain amazed, that one man or one company could have imbedded itself so much in my family’s life and psyche.
I didn’t know Steve Jobs, of course, but he seems to have known me.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263, or