Thank you, Steve Jobs

My backyard lawn has become the bane of my homeownership.

As new homeowners we weren’t real educated on how to properly maintain a lawn and by the end of the first summer in the home last year it was looking pretty bare. In the spring of this year, we seeded, fertilized and watered, but the excessive heat this summer, coupled with tons of kids relentlessly playing in the backyard because of my wife’s home-based preschool, eventually brought the lawn to the same condition.

We read up on what we needed to do. I aerated the lawn last Saturday, covered it with seed, fertilizer, and hay, and we’ve been watering the lawn every day since then.

And so, there I was manually hosing down the backyard when I heard Tweetbot update noise emanating from my pocket. I whipped out my iPhone and at the top of my stream was an update that made my heart sink.

Apple says former CEO and founder Steve Jobs has died.

I stood there, motionless, glaring at the tiny screen. It took a minute before I realized I hadn’t moved, watering the same spot that whole time.

I knew it was coming. Everyone knew. My parents are both nurses, and after the WWDC in June when Steve gave what would become his final keynote, my dad commented on how poor his appearance was.

“It looks like he’s dying,” dad said.

When he stepped down as CEO in August, it seemed pretty clear the gig was up. As I commented today on Hacker News, “Steve Jobs needed Apple as much as Apple needed Steve Jobs.”

John Lennon, Elvis, Martin Luther King, Jr., John F. Kennedy – these were ghosts of history. I had heard of them, knew of their impact, but I was never personally impacted by their presence in a tangible way.

No so with Steve.


I was in the room when a kickball hit the Apple //e.

It was a freak occurance; the kickball managed to make it through the open window and hit the monitor, which then fell, hard, to the linoleum tile floor with a thud. I was sure it was broken. I didn’t even use it then – it was pretty much a teacher only device in that classroom – but the school district in my small town had made some investment in Apple’s computers, which began my love affair with that wonderfully thick beige hardware.

Someone came to check out the computer and much to my surprise, it worked perfectly.

I’ll never forget how amazed I was that it actually turned back on. I was nine years old and knew this thing was special.


Just two years later, computing got a lot more hands on. In middle school we were allowed to go to the library and learn to use the computer. Green text, black screen, blinking cursor.

It was awesome.

In the early days of end user computing, there were few rules in play regarding the copyrighting of software, or at least the strict enforcement of it. I remember pecking away on the keyboard, typing a sentence or two at a time and then printing it on a dot matrix printer.

Kids these days have no idea how much printers used to really suck.

One of the coolest things I discovered, which our school librarian of all things educated us on, was the copying of data from one floppy disc to another. Back then it was called copying, but today they call it pirating. The librarian told me and a few other guys we could purchase blank floppies for $.25 each.

School-sanctioned pirating. Giddy up.

I only copied a few things, but one was my favorite game of all called Montezuma’s Revenge. Holy crap I loved that game. I kept that floppy disc with me for a long time. It stayed in the little white sleeve in my backback until I could get a chance to get back to the library and play some more. What fun it was.


The music teacher in middle school was really getting into digital music. He had an Ensoniq keyboard, and was all into this thing called “midi,” which I never fully understood.

But I understood the Newton. It was a handheld device that you could put notes on, store names and had basic handwriting recognition software built in that would (try to) convert handwriting to text. It’s hard to understand if you’ve grown up with touchscreen devices, but this thing was mind-blowing.

I loved the glowing green screen of the Newton and how its design almost begged you to interact with it. There was even this detail given like that of its counterpart the Macintosh where a little tiny trash can would look full with garbage until you “emptied” it, thus deleting the data you had in there.


I was far removed from any type of computer education in high school. There was a computer class, but it was on PCs. I wasn’t interested. It’s funny to think of that now, because apparently I was establishing myself as part of the Apple camp to the point that I wasn’t even willing to touch a Windows-based computer.

Instead I learned to type in what would come to be the last class that offered typewriting, of all things, on actual electric typewriters.

Next up was college. My mom and I went to campus, checked things out, and I liked most of what I saw. There was only one thing missing: the Macintosh. I went from building to building to see if I could find an Apple anywhere on campus.

I didn’t.

Everywhere I went, Windows was showing just how strong it had become. It was 1994. Steve Jobs wasn’t at Apple and Microsoft was kicking tail.

I was discouraged.

Performa 575

But my parents, who knew I was frustrated, gave me a new hope. They spent a large chunk of cash on an Apple Performa 575.

To say I was elated would understate what this meant to me. It wasn’t technically mine, but they really didn’t touch it. I did, though. I learned about something called email from a company called AOL. I used the encyclopedia from a CD-ROM. I began my college career as a music major, and wrote sheet music for class using that Mac. I got really, really hooked on a beautiful game called Myst.

That machine was a huge chunk of my life until I switched majors three years into college. I decided that I liked playing music, but didn’t want to teach it. I almost got into radio, but a required news writing course led me into journalism instead.

That led me to walk through the doors of the student publication The Chart, and I instantly knew I was home.

There were Macs everywhere.

Since that Apple Performa 575, I’ve not been without an Apple computer in my life.

The Store

In 2004, Apple opened a store on the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Mo. I was one of the employees that opened that store. The experience was great: the people were fun, the environment was a well-oiled machine and the products were spectacular.

Country Club Plaza Store Opening

In this image from, the back of my (then slightly balding) head can be seen to the left of the guy with the blue ballcap on the left of the image.

From day one, it was clear Apple knew what it was doing in the retail market. All the computers worked like they would at your home. I had been to plenty of computer stores where the displays were crippled. Apple realized that flaw, and made it so every computer worked without the typical paranoid restrictions.

You could actually try before you buy and ask questions from people who truly loved the products they were selling.

I only lasted six months. I ended up quitting because I liked being a fan of Apple and using Apple’s stuff, but working there took a lot of that away. I wanted my kid-like love back (and the commute was getting to me, plus it was a part-time job after my full-time job was done during the day).

It was the right choice for me to make. But oh, how I would have loved to have been there when the iPhone came out.


When I decided to learn about the web, I would read HTML books in my car during my lunch break while working for The Ottawa Herald, then come home and work on my Mac to apply what I had read.

Eventually, that led me to a full-time gig, and I’ve kept freelancing and building side projects on my Mac ever since.

The Macintosh and Apple’s other products have been with me through a lot of major events. I recorded music with friends with my iBook, which also served as disc jokey at my wedding reception. I’ve edited home movies and pictures of my wife and kids, enlightened myself with audiobooks on my iPod on long commutes, took some of the first pictures and video of my youngest with my iPhone, and my wife and I each have businesses and projects we run on the Mac.

Apple is part of my existence. It’s part of my history.

One more thing …

As anyone who knows me is aware, I started riding motorcycles last year and have fallen in love with it.
So imagine my surprise when I stumbled across this picture of a young Steve Jobs, riding a motorcycle. It’s easily one of my top favorite pictures of him.
Steve Jobs on a BMW Motorcycle

Thanks, Steve

The man who co-founded the company that made such an impact on my life is dead. For that, I’m incredibly sad.

And I’m also eternally grateful for his gifts.

It almost seems silly to become so attached to these machines. But these machines are more than bits, bytes, plastic and silicon. These machines have helped catalog my progress. These machines have helped me create. These machines have helped me learn. These machines have helped me love.

I think that’s what Steve Jobs was after all along. He help bring a spiritual quality to an industry that could be as soulless as we’d let it. But Steve Jobs wouldn’t have it. He had ideas. He had vision. He had passion.

And like the seeds in my backyard, he watered those ideas to help lead a company of incredible people to bring incredible products to the world and in turn, change lives.

So with that, I celebrate the life of Steve Jobs.

“I’ve looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself, ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I’m about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘no’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.”

– Steve Jobs, 2005 Standford Commencement Address

Sent from my MacBook Pro

6 thoughts on “Thank you, Steve Jobs

  1. Sue Haley

    Eric, this is an unbelievably great piece! I loved reading it, and I am going to send the link to a couple of folks I know who work at Apple in Cupertino. I know it will mean a lot to them as well as the rest of Apple and Steve’s family.

    You have a gift for writing, I hope you use it to help you follow your dreams and passions, and to bring more joy to your life, your home, your family, and the world at large.

    Sue 🙂

    1. ericjgruber Post author

      Sue, thanks so much.

      I was writing this piece and thought, ‘Man, is this thing ever going to end?’ I guess when you have something weave into your life so heavily, it’s difficult to sum it up in a few words.

  2. Tracey

    What a beautiful piece. You may have been exceptionally talented at music but you were clearly born to write.

    I stood in line for Leopard at the Country Club Plaza store. On Wednesday night I headed to the Leawood store at 10pm. Silly, I know but for some reason I just needed to be there. The store associates were still there cleaning up and just seeing all the pristine devices laid out filled me with sadness and gratitude.


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