Dad, and technology

I really want to thank everybody for the kind words about Dad.

One of my favourite things to do was to show him everybody who’d commented on a Facebook post or Twitter thread or blog mentioning him, and explain who they all were – look, here are some old high school friends, here are some people from work, here are your neighbours, here are people from Argonotes, here is – wait, I don’t know who this is, is that some friend of yours? – etc etc – and Dad was always fascinated by that.

I’m sad that I won’t be able to do that this time, but I know he’s smiling at how many people are being kind and thoughtful. Which is what he was all about.

Dad studying tech
Nick, patiently trying to explain something to his grandfather

Dad bought an Apple ][ for our family long ago, before almost anybody had even heard of a home computer, and my sister reminded me that when I saw it under the Christmas tree, I grabbed it and took off to set it up before she even knew what it was that had been unwrapped.


Another Christmas, Dad gave me Odyssey, the autobiography of John Sculley (former Apple CEO) just as I was giving him the exact same book.

And here I am finishing up my 29th year at Apple. Dad was always pleased about that even if he was a little unclear what it is I do here (and to tell you the truth, I’m sometimes a little unclear about it too.)

I overheard him telling somebody once that “Stephen is in charge of education sales for Apple”, which is, um, overstating it slightly. But he was proud of whatever it was.

He bought some stock in Apple, right after I started here. His financial advisor was somewhat aghast – why would you do that? They’re struggling. But he had faith, and I think those, I dunno, ten shares he bought worked out nicely, and he always enjoyed reminding his advisor that the advisor had been completely wrong in this case.

Rapidman 800 Calculatoe

He always took great interest in technology – Dad bought the first calculator anybody had ever seen, the Rapidman 800 in 1971, and I took it to wood shop class. The teacher was so impressed, he helped me build a beautiful stand for it in return for me letting him play with dad’s calculator. I think that was long enough ago that it didn’t even occur to anybody that you could spell words by turning it upside down. You’d just multiply 4 by 7 and be amazed.

Then after our family got the Apple ][, Dad became the first person I knew to buy an airline ticket online! He had signed up for an account on “The Source”, an early nationwide dialup BBS system (later acquired by Compuserve) and had somehow found a travel agent in there selling tickets, and he experimented a bit and, apparently, actually purchased a return ticket from Toronto to Paris, or something. Of course he had no intention of travelling to Paris, he was just trying out the user interface of this thing – and we had to persuade him that yes, we think that was an actual thing, we think you actually DID buy a plane ticket there, you better call them back and cancel it.

Years later, in 1996, Steve Jobs demoed buying a plane ticket on the Internet, and immediately called United Airlines to cancel it, and everybody went, “oooooh, cool, that’s the future”, but I remembered Dad had done it fifteen years earlier.

He went through a brief spell where – being an engineer – he wanted to understand how computers worked, how you wrote programs for them, what was actually going on inside these boxes. That phase didn’t last. He wisely decided he would just enjoy using the computer, without worrying about how it worked. He’d leave that latter part to others. Good move.

Dad loved Facebook too. He couldn’t use it much in his later years, but Facebook memories still pop up for me – just yesterday, Facebook reminded me of a conversation Dad and I had had 12 years ago where he’d installed Skype, but didn’t “get it.” Me neither, Dad.

Thank you again for all the kind words. My brother and sister are taking great comfort in it all, and I know we’ll have many more stories to share.

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