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October 2011The monthly newsletter by Felgall Pty Ltd

My Word

Steve Jobs

Over ten years of these monthly newsletters and this is the first where I am writing about a person rather than about computers. The reason for this is because Steve Jobs is one of a small group of people who had a huge influence on how computers have developed since they became small enough for individuals to own them. I think that it is therefore worthwhile to write down how I view the influence that he had in the development of the computers we have today.

Prior to the mid 1970s only big companies could own computers and they were huge beasts requiring special environments. When home 'computers' were first developed in the mid 1970s they consisted of just a few circuit boards that you had to put together yourself and they couldn't really do very much. The very first home computer that didn't have to be assembled from component parts by the person who bought it was called the Apple computer and it was developed by Steve Wozniac and marketed by Steve Jobs who together started Apple computers.

The various iterations of the Apple ][ computer that followed the original Apple computer set the standard for home computers in the late 1970s. While others produced competing home computers (each incompatible with all the others to at least some extent) none was as good as the ones produced by the two Steve's. Well at least that's my opinion based on the what I could find out through magazines and trying out the various computers in the stores.

To the best of my knowledge the first of the Apple ][ computers to arrive in Australia were brought in by the Physics department of the University of NSW. I know that they had several Apple ][ computers (both the originals that used integer BASIC and the later versions that supported floppy drives and Apple BASIC) because I was one of the students to help with testing out the new course that they introduced the following year. That would make me one of perhaps a dozen people who actually managed to spend significant time using Apple computers in Australia prior to Rudy Hess opening the first of the Computerland stores to sell Apple computers to the Australian public.

Apple computers dominated the home computer market (well perhaps dominated isn't quite the right word but they were by far the most popular of the several dozen alternatives) until IBM entered the market with their PC. IBM made two mistakes though that Apple didn't make. IBM used off the shelf parts for everything in the PC except for one custom chip and they outsourced producing the software to work the computer - the operating system - to a small company called Microsoft who had up until then been best known for producing the versions of the BASIC programming language that most computers ran. IBM disappeared from the home computer market long ago after Compaq managed to replicate the functionality of that one custom chip and so produce the first IBM compatible computers and after Microsoft decided that they were making so much money selling operating systems for these compatible computers that they didn't need to prop up IBM's home computers any more by giving IBM the operating system. Apple computers maintained a small market share throughout even though both Steve Wozniac and Steve Jobs left the company.

Steve Jobs formed another computer company after he left Apple and while that company wasn't as successful as the first, it was eventually purchased by Apple leading to Steve Jobs returning to the company he is best known for. During his time away from Apple, Steve Jobs also branched out into other areas - expanding the use of computers into fields that they hadn't been seriously used in before. He purchased the animation department of one of George Lucas's companies, renamed it Pixar and started producing animated movies with a far more realistic appearance than had ever been produced before, subsequently selling it to Disney for thousands of times what he bought it for.

After returning to Apple he introduced computing power on a range of non-computer devices - starting with the iPhone and then following that up with other devices such as the iPod and iPad. Somehow along the way he was also successful in negotiating an agreement with another company called Apple that produced some extremely well known music to allow his Apple to create iTunes to distribute music via the internet. Just how much Apple US paid Apple UK to be allowed to do this is probably only known to those involved in the negotiations. As the more recently created of the two companies Apple US could not have expanded into the world wide music market without reaching some sort of agreement with Apple UK.

Steve Jobs death earlier this month leaves a huge hole behind. People like him don't appear every day. Perhaps the most relevant of the people who Steve Jobs can be reasonably compared with in terms of what they achieved would be Thomas Edison. Edison and Jobs have a lot in common. They both developed new products in a range of different fields and both did it by gathering together the people with the necessary know how to get the job done.

Steve Jobs deserves to be remembered as one of the greats. What he did with his life has affected many millions of people world wide and will affect billions more in the future. Requiescat in Pace Steve.

On Site

Just about got my new web site to the point where it at least looks relatively complete so I will now be able to give more of my time to this site once more. There are now so many mySQL articles that I have separated them into their own section. Also, just because my new JavaScript site now has more pages on JavaScript than this one does doesn't mean that all the new JavaScript pages will be going there - new scripts will now be added to the Ask Felgall site.

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