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This Blog used to be about the question: What is Science?
Now, it asks: What is Happiness?

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Apple falls far from the Valley...

Thursday 6th October 2011 and thanks to Mikhail Peppas for the title...
An Icon has died. It is the end of an era that started on the
Californian West Coast and is now in your pocket and if not, either in
your dreams or somehow has a direct effect on your life. I am talking
about Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple inc. who died yesterday at
the age of 56. That I am also 56 makes it even more poignant, as we
find ourselves in a time when so sadly many of our peers are leaving
the planet.
As a reminder of our close yet distant journey together, I will be
showing the classic film, Pirates of Silicon Valley, at our home in
Nairobi this evening and hopefully on other occasions , shared with
friends. The movie is a docudrama looking at how the rivalry between
Steve Jobs and Bill Gates created the energy that spurned the personal
computer age.
One of my fondest memories that define who I am and what I love doing
most is from the day I first heard about the Apple computer. I was a
young electronics student at the then Natal Technikon in Durban, South
Africa and our electronics lecturer, one Mr Whittle, showed us the
circuit diagram of the new Apple computer he had just purchased at
Deon's in Johannesburg. I was rivetted and wanted immediately to try
and make one from the circuit. But the next day this idea was
supplanted when I heard, at Tech, that the son of a friend had an
Apple at home and I could go and try it out. My friend, Thomas
Potgieter and I ran all the way from town to Ridge Road, some 4kms
away, and when I arrived there my life changed forever. The first
software that we looked at was called FSIM. It was a very basic flight
simulator program with an aeroplane made of a simple cross that you
could control from the keyboard. I was blown away and knew that I HAD
to have one of these.
Some thirty years later and I am still empassioned by the technical
and creative magic of what the original FSIM software has become.
These days it provides a fully immersive real world experience of all
aspects of flight and is used in various forms in real world flight
training. It is so accurate and realistic that the FAA (US Aviation
authority) has certified X_Plane, a modern day derivative, as a valid
way to build up hours for real life pilots. But more so it has fuelled
in me a deep hunger to travel the world and see in real life some of
the marvellous places that I have visited in my virtual world of
aviation. It is this blurring between the real and the dreamlike
virtual that has, more than anything else, defined the new world of
social media and digital identities. The world at our fingers is now

I did get my own Apple 2 eventually, but it was the much cheaper
Taiwanese copy, the CV777. This was my first and nervous foray into
buying online (though it was ordered then by mail). It reliably served
me until it was integrated into the broader community in my great
robbery of 2007. I wonder if those skelms have any idea of the history
that lurks in those rows of silicon chips?

Even if you have never had an Apple, the mouse and graphic interface
you use on your PC is thanks to Steve Jobs.
It is said that you use a PC but have a relationship with your Apple.
For me, it is always a relationship with my computers, no matter what
they are. But this is entirely because I learnt to love these plastic
and silicon beasts through the Apple Story.
And it is that story that I will celebrate tonight as I raise a glass
of the finest to a true hero of our generation.
As they mention in the NYT obituary: While the revolutionaries were
rioting on the campuses of the West Coast in the 70s, two young
friends were busy changing the world in a garage, just down the road.

budgie 6th October 2011

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