October 6, 2011
Steve Jobs died Wednesday at age 56. The whole world recognizes the loss of a man who changed the world. Jobs will join the pantheon of inventive giants such as Edison, Ford and Bell who revolutionized the way we function in our daily lives. Steve Jobs was my contemporary and I owe so much to his inventive and practical genius. My career was based on learning and required that I be at the top of my form in communication skills. He impacted my career heavily by influencing the way I approached leadership in large, successful schools.
I remember a day in 1975 when one of my graduate courses at the University of Georgia met temporarily at a building on campus known as the Graduate Studies Research Center. As undergraduates, we had been in awe of the building because we knew it housed the latest in computer technology, whatever that really meant. In fact, it housed several computers that required a massive amount of dedicated floor space. This was the infancy of making computers accessible to the work environment via key-punch computing. To put this in perspective, few of us owned calculators in that year.
The professor of the dreaded Statistics course aimed to familiarize us with writing commands and keypunching these onto cards for our simple computer tasks. It was too mighty an objective. Entire years of study went into keypunch skills and program writing in that era. Needless to say, I was limited in my ability to perform even the simplest of the assignments. We spent many classes and outside class time at the GSRC building. Somehow, I passed the class! The mystique of computers grew, rather than diminished for me.
The eighties found me working as an assistant principal with a computer workstation. Mary and I did not yet have a “home computer.” We found that our administrative jobs in education were requiring us to work with programs for creating student schedules in the schools. These could be so frustrating that we never wanted to see a computer at home. With time and with children, we recognized that a personal computer was the key to learning, though. We knew that we must commit to that future. This was also the time of Atari and Pac-Man when computers were insinuating themselves into all facets of daily living. A pocket calculator was commonplace and of little financial consequence. This was a huge change from ten years before, when few could have afforded the expensive Texas Instruments handheld calculator.
The nineties found us using personal computers for word-processing. I remember thinking that my secretary was not going to have anything to do, as I was creating my own documents. Following increased skills at document creation and filing, we became adept at using the Internet and utilizing e-mail. I remember that creating an on-line faculty and staff handbook was such a radical idea when I proposed and implemented it for my school that we offered mini staff development classes for colleagues. We used e-mail to foster easy communication for a very large faculty and staff. Our teachers used e-mail for class newsletters well before most in our system. All in all, my embrace of technology saved a lot of trees, if nothing else!
When I retired as a school principal, I recognized that my life-long learning was not about to stop. I finally joined the ranks of the Apple disciples and stood in line for an iPad2 in March 2011. With e-books, e- magazines, chat groups, on-line research and streaming entertainment, there is little excuse for having nothing to do!
One of the most telling comments on just how far technology has come in meeting the desires and needs of all of our citizens is the impact of FaceBook on senior citizens. I would not have believed that my parents would become so involved with viewing FaceBook posts of family news and photographs. Family reunions have diminished in frequency because of the ability of far-flung family members to stay “connected.”
It is intriguing to look back on the exponential changes that have occurred in my world since that day in 1975 at the Graduate Studies Research Center. A genius like Steve Jobs impacted our lives because he was able to affect practical change in the computer revolution. The practical change touched all of our lives and changed society forever.
As I mentioned earlier in a FaceBook post, “Steve Jobs, meet Thomas Edison.”